Retreat Ceremony at Wagah Border

Retreat Ceremony

Wagah is a village situated near a road border crossing, goods transport terminal and a railway station between Pakistan and India, and lies on the Grand Trunk Road between the cities of Amritsar(Punjab, India) and Lahore(Punjab, Pakistan) located at distance of 28km from the city of Amritsar.

In 1947, when India divided into two countries India and Pakistan, led a white line that defines the Wahgah Border between these two countries. India and Pakistan are separated by two heavy gates about 2 meters apart on either side. Today, the eastern half of the village remains in India while the western half is in Pakistan. The Wahgah Border is also referred to as the ‘Berlin Wall of Asia’. The Indian ‘Border Security Force’ soldiers are dressed in khaki, and the Pakistani ‘Sutlej Rangers’ soldiers are dressed in black.

The closing ceremony at Wahgah Border is a daily martial custom that the security forces of india and Pakistan have mutually followed since 1959. This ceremony, also known as ‘Lowering of flags’ ceremony, takes place every evening before sunset. The closing ceremony start with plating patriotic songs and remembering the brave soldiers of the country who were laid down their lives for country. The peoples cheers on calling out ‘ Jai Hind’ and ‘Vande Mataram’. The specialty of the ceremony is the extremely fast pace at which the soldiers walk, with their feet rising almost to their foreheads. This highly skillful ceremony is impressive and one of its kind in India!

The ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony starts with a stiff-marching parade by the soldiers from both the sides. One infantryman stands at attention on each side of the gate. Soon after, the heavy gates are flung open; the two soldiers approach each other, exchange fierce looks, give out mimicked threats, and show anger. They shake hands and begin to lower the Indian and Pakistani flags fixed on high poles at the gates, simultaneously. At this point the noise in the open-air theater transforms into pin drop silence. The spectators remain extremely hushed in awe of the ceremony. The only sound being that of the pounding of boots of the soldiers on both the sides as they match steps and try to outdo each other as a part of the ceremonial splendor. The flags are neatly folded and carried back into the respective camps. There is a final brisk handshake between the soldiers from either side, after which no glance is exchanged. This is followed by the slammed closing of both the gates and blowing of trumpet to mark the end of the grand ceremony.

On the Indian side of the Border there is a huge gate with an encryption ‘Swarn Jayanti Dwar’, from where a panoramic view of the Wahgah landscape can be enjoyed. This high decibel flag-lowering performance at Border is a true spectacle and attracts many visitors from both sides of the border, as well as foreigners. It definitely is a must see when in Amritsar. the best time to visit the city of Amritsar is during the months of October to March, as the weather is cool and pleasant. Summers here are extremely hot and can be avoided for any outside visit.

The Wahgah Border post remains open daily from 10:00 am till the flag down ceremony in the evening. For the Retreat ceremony, it is advisable to arrive well before sunset to grab a proper seat in the open air theater. Depending upon the time of sunset, the flag down ceremony normally starts around 4:30 pm in winters and 5:30 pm in summers.

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