The four-day long Republic day celebrations came to an end after the bands of the armed forces and paramilitary staged their ‘beating the retreat’ ceremony at Vijay Chowk on Sunday.
From the moment President Pranab Mukherjee arrived in a horse drawn carriage to when bagpipe yielding, moon walking and drumming military bands took centre stage, to when Prime Minister Narendra Modi created a furore by walking into the arena to greet and wave at people; the retreat, a military tradition, never had a dull moment.
For five-year-old Apoorva, the highlight of the day was when the President came down in a horse drawn carriage, and was surrounded by horse riding military personnel, much like some of her favourite fairytales. Her brother, six-year-old Kanishk, however, was a fan of the bands.
After the arrival of the dignitaries, the hoisting of the national flag and the playing of the national anthem, the festivities of the day were kicked off by a fanfare by buglers, who announced the entry of massed bands.
Bagpipe-playing bands from the regimental centres and battalions, ‘tri-service’ band, who had personnels from the Air Force, Army and the Navy, and played fusion pieces which involved Indian instruments like the Sitar and tabla along with the traditional marching band instruments, and personnel from Delhi police, Border Security Forces (BSF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) came in next.
This was followed by the Air force military band, which got the viewers emotional with their rendition of the ‘Victory Dhun,’ which ended with tunes from ‘Saare Jahan se Acha.’
The Naval military band impressed most in the crowds, with their choreography. Navy personnels were seen channelling their inner Michael Jacksons, and even rendered a ‘slow moonwalk.’
“They were the best. They were so good, that I even recorded them, so that I could share it with friends later,” said Jyoti Kochhar, a visitor at the event.
The Army military band was the next favourite, who got the audiences pumped up with their ‘Drummers Call.’ “The army band was definitely my favourite. Their drummers call piece was so upbeat, and inspiring; I could keep listening to them,” said Sarika.
However, the loudest rounds of applause and cheers were reserved for when Modi chose to take a lap of the arena and wave and greet people. The crowd that had been well disciplined and civil until then, all rose to their feets, and climbed chairs and clamoured to the edges for a closer and better view.
The beating retreat is supposed to mark the official end of Republic Day festivities in the country, draws on ancient military tradition when soldiers would disengage from battle at sunset when the bugles blew. Soldiers at the sound of the ‘retreat’ would withdraw from the battlegrounds.