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Wagah Border

History of Amritsar

The Wagah border closing 'lowering of the flags' ceremony or The Beating Retreat ceremony is a daily military practice that the security forces of India (Border Security Force) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have jointly followed since 1959.

This ceremony takes place every evening before sunset at the Wagah border, which as part of the Grand Trunk Road was the only road link between these two countries before the opening of the Aman Setu in Kashmir in 1999. The ceremony starts with a blustering parade by the soldiers from both the sides, and ends up in the perfectly coordinated lowering of the two nations' flags. It is called the beating retreat border ceremony on the international level. One Jawan (infantryman) stands at attention on each side of the gate. As the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags are lowered simultaneously. The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again. The spectacle of the ceremony attracts many visitors from both sides of the border, as well as international tourists.

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 at the Wagah Border 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 theatre transforms into pin drop silence. The spectators at Wagah Border 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 splendour. 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.

The soldiers drill with pounding long strides on the grounds as the two iron gates are shut with a final handshake. The ceremony invokes nostalgia among the visitors and offers something that one cannot afford to miss as a short excursion from Amritsar.

Every evening, as it nears the sundown, hundreds of tourists flock this historical place to see the majestic changing of guards accompanied by the hoisting and retreat of the respective national flags. The border security forces of India and Pakistan undergoes the elaborate process jointly through an interesting ceremony.