Interesting Facts about the India-Pakistan Border Ritual | My India
The complex love-hate relationship between India and Pakistan has Beating the Retreat Ceremony at Wagah – view from the Indian side. The heavily choreographed flag-lowering ceremony — macho and camp in India and Pakistan have waged three wars, launched a tit-for-tat nuclear arms mirrors the fraught relationship between the countries themselves. India and Pakistan have a difficult and complex relationship with each other. Beating the retreat ceremony in India Pakistan border. (Photo: Bismillah Geelani).
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Over the years, disputes over religion and the divided Kashmir region have led to violence and bloodshed, with one of the most recent skirmishes leaving nine civilians dead. Despite this tense relationship, both countries come together every sundown to produce a zealous, passionate ceremony that marks the nightly closing of the border.
View image of A tranquil view of Amritsar Credit: Hundreds of Indian nationals were already gathered. Just outside an official-looking cement bunker, waiting spectators were sectioned off into two lines; one for men and one for women. In a country as chaotic as India, the lines were unexpectedly orderly. I waved goodbye to my husband and joined a long row of crouched women resplendent in brightly coloured saris.
After an inspection of our passports and a brief frisking, we were ushered down a long paved path that led to the official border, where the ceremony would take place.
View image of Excited spectators gather at the ceremony site Credit: Grandstands and sidewalks lined both sides of the street and there appeared to be a hierarchy to the seating assignments. Special Indian guests and VIPs were placed in the stands closest to the border gate, followed by the cement bleachers exclusively set aside for foreigners. Indian men, women and children sat along the sidewalks and in the large grandstands behind us.
Seating on the Pakistani side was separated by sex, with many of the women clapping to music, waving green-and-white Pakistani flags and excitedly chatting with one another. A quick pan to the left revealed the stoic faces of the male Pakistani spectators, none looking overly thrilled to be there.
View image of Indian and Pakistani guards face off Credit: It was hard to remember that we were literally toeing the line between two countries that have a tumultuous and violent relationship. View image of Indian border guards at the border closing ceremony Credit: Tawny Clark The ceremony began with a bang. Or, rather, a yell. The participating Indian border guards appeared in their official khaki uniforms, draped in prestigious medals and donning sky-high red-fanned hats that resembled the plumage of a macaw.
A stone-faced guard stepped up to the microphone, inhaled deeply and then let out a long bellowing yell that was echoed from the other side.
Ice cream and bottled water were for sale, as if at a cricket match. The crowd reflected the panoply of modern India: A Pakistani Ranger raises his arms during the flag ceremony at the Indo-Pakistani border post of Wagah.
A white-clad master of ceremonies took the microphone and ordered the children back to their seats.
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The show was about to begin. Two uniformed Indian soldiers in sunglasses and rifles slung across their chests suddenly appeared at the far end of the road. They twirled their sculpted mustaches and preened for a moment with their hands on their hips, then goose-stepped forward before coming to an abrupt stop before the open gate.
The crowds went crazy. A dozen Indian soldiers were next, marching so forcefully that scarlet fantails crowning their heads seemed like they would tumble to the ground, followed by two high-stepping female soldiers — an unsubtle dig at the gender segregation on the other side.
Interesting Facts about the India-Pakistan Border Ritual
It went on like this for 20 minutes, each set of Indian soldiers seemingly taller and more imposing than the last. Each marched back to his side as the gates swung shut with a clang — not to be reopened until the morning.
The closing of the gates, officially known as "Beating Retreat," is almost entirely symbolic, modeled on a British military ceremony that calls patrolling units back to their bases.