Every year, nearly 800 bandsmen come together to celebrate the beating retreat, marking the end of the four day Republic Day celebrations. Beating retreat is one of the oldest Army traditions being followed till date. It has been mentioned in the oldest scriptures such as Mahabharata when troops disengaged from battles at sunset to mark the end of the day. Therefore, the bugler’s sound and the custom of standing still has been retained to this day.
Beating retreat is conducted at the Raisina Hills and at an adjacent square, Vijay Chowk, flanked by the North and South blocks of the Central Secretariat and the Rashtrapati Bhavan towards the end of Rajpath. The evening of 29 January is organized by Section D of the Ministry of Defence and is performed by the bands of the three wings of the military namely, the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force.
Every year some new elements are added to bring an Indian flavour to a primarily british legacy. The ceremony began in the early 1950s when Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were visiting India for the first time after independence. At that time, the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru summoned Maj. G.A. Roberts, an officer in The Grenadiers, asking him to do something spectacularly creative and eventful for Elizabeth's visit. Thus, it became a common practiced tradition from here.
This year’s beating retreat began with the arrival of the President of India, who is the chief guest at this ceremony. He arrives at the ceremony being escorted by the President's Bodyguard. When the President arrived, a fanfare was sounded by the trumpeters to give national salute. The ceremony was also blessed with the arrival of the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the defense minister and many other top military officials.
The special highlight of this year’s beating retreat was the entry band masses with the “ Swarnim Vijay” theme. As we all know 2021 officially marks 50 years of India’s victory over Pakistan in the war of 1971. The Indo-Pak war has been one of the most important wars that ever took place leading to the creation of Bangladesh.
The ceremony concluded with the singing of the National anthem by the masses and unfurling of the national flag. It is important to note that the popular tune of “ Sare Jahan se Acha” was played by the bands just like every year.