After three days of Republic Day parade, a moving ceremony known as “Beating Retreat” is held at the Vijay Chowk in New Delhi. This ceremony revives an ancient war custom according to which troops used to stop fighting at sunset. Bugles announcing the sunset would sound in the battlefield. As soon as soldiers heard these bugles they would stand still in the battlefield and war would be stopped for the day.
This ceremony held on the 29th of January every year, marks the formal end of the Republic Day celebrations. The ceremony opens with a parade by selected contingents of the armed forces set to scintillating performances by the various armed forces bands. The parade climaxes with all the bands playing in unison. As the bands fall silent, a lone trumpeter picks up the moving tune ‘Siki a mole’. After this performance the hymn ‘Abide with me’ is played by the Massed Bands. This hymn, said to be Mahatma Gandhi‘s favourite, is a permanent feature of the ceremony.
At exactly 6 pm, the buglers sound the retreat and the National Flag is lowered to the National Anthem bringing the Republic Day celebrations to a formal end. One by one, the camels and the riders who stand stone-like throughout against the backdrop of the sky, move away from the background.
Just after this comes the most visually appealing part of the show. With the click of a button, a thousand bulbs light up the Rashtrapati Bhavan and adjoining buildings. Surely a fitting end to the annual celebrations of the Indian republic!