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  4. Explained: Why controversy over Gandhi's 'favourite' hymn being dropped from Beating Retreat is misplaced

Explained: Why controversy over Gandhi's 'favourite' hymn being dropped from Beating Retreat is misplaced

India is not alone in continuously evolving its decade-old tradition of the Beating Retreat ceremony, UK's Beating Retreat Ceremony in 2001 included the theme music for "Star Wars" film. In 2006, the UK had included tunes from “The Gladiator” in its ceremony.

Paras Bisht Edited by: Paras Bisht @ParasBisht15
New Delhi Updated on: January 26, 2022 7:12 IST
abide with me, ae mere watan ke logon, republic day, beating the retreat ceremony, Beating Retreat c
Image Source : PTI (FILE)

Why controversy over Mahatma Gandhi's hymn being dropped from Beating Retreat ceremony is completely misplaced

Highlights

  • Gandhi's favourite hymn "Abide With Me" has been dropped from this year's Beating Retreat ceremony
  • Innovation has always been part of the Beating Retreat ceremony's evolution
  • This year's Beating Retreat ceremony will conclude with 'Sare Jahan Se Acha'

One of Mahatma Gandhi's favourite hymns "Abide With Me" has been dropped from this year's Beating Retreat ceremony on January 29. "Abide With Me", written by Scottish Anglican poet and hymnologist Henry Francis Lyte in 1847, has been part of the Beating Retreat ceremony since 1950. The Centre had in 2020 also planned to drop "Abide With Me" from the Beating Retreat ceremony but had later retained it after a huge uproar. For this year's ceremony, the hymn has been replaced by the popular patriotic song 'Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon', which was written by Kavi Pradeep to commemorate the supreme sacrifice made by the Indian soldiers during the 1962 Indo-China war. 

How people have reacted to the move

There has been a mixed response to the decision. Some people have welcomed the move as the iconic tune and lyrics for 'Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon' has a far wider connect with the people of India. It is contextually far more appropriate to celebrate the valour and gallantry of the Armed Forces of India as compared to "Abide with Me" and the song also evokes a strong sense of patriotism with all Indians. 

Meanwhile, the Congress and other Opposition parties attacked the government over the dropping of the Christian hymn 'Abide With Me' from this year's Beating Retreat ceremony, alleging that it was another attempt to erase Mahatma Gandhi's legacy. However, dropping some tunes and including some others has been a process that has continuously happened for years in successive governments at the Centre. 

Innovation has always been part of the Beating Retreat ceremony's evolution

A closer look reveals that innovation has always been part of the Beating Retreat ceremony's evolution. Take for example, in 2012, the Indian instrument Shehnai was used for the first time, two years later, Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram and Jahan Daal Daal Par Sone Ki Chidiya were played in January 2014. Therefore, it must be clearly understood that ‘Beating The Retreat’ is not a purely military ceremony such as Army Day, Navy Day or Air Force Day. In fact, it's a national ceremony involving the people, and therefore, playing tunes that resonate with the culture of India.

UK had included tunes from “The Gladiator” and "Star Wars" film in its ceremony

India is not alone in continuously evolving its decade-old tradition of the ceremony, the United Kingdom's Beating Retreat Ceremony in 2001 included the theme music for "Star Wars" film. It also included "Slaves Chorus from 'Nabucco'" which was composed for an Opera by Verdi. In 2006, the UK had included tunes from “The Gladiator” in its ceremony. Many countries played even pop music in their ceremonies, but India has not done that. 

India has included tunes that combine well with the sensibilities of the occasion. In January 2014, there are two tunes included, called “Kilt is my 

Delight” and “The Marquis of Huntly”. A kilt is a sort of skirt worn traditionally in Scotland. “The Marquis of Huntly” is a kind of music for Scottish country dancing. It is understandable an English or Scottish soldier takes pride in these tunes and enjoys them. One wonders what their relevance to independent India and its Republic Day is. 

Change in the concluding performance is in tune with India and its people

Phasing out of tunes handed down from a colonial past and including tunes that have a wider and deeper connect with the people of India is an exercise that is an ongoing one. Given that we are an independent country with our own rich culture and heritage, such steps should even be welcomed. It is for this reason, that in the 75th year of our Independence, this change in the concluding performance of the Beating Retreat 2022 is absolutely in tune with India and its people. 

This year's Beating Retreat ceremony will conclude with 'Sare Jahan Se Acha'. The 26 tunes that will be played at this year's ceremony include 'Hey Kanchha', 'Channa Bilauri', 'Jai Janam Bhumi', 'Nritya Sarita', 'Vijay Josh', 'Kesaria Banna', 'Veer Siachen', 'Hathroi', 'Vijay Ghosh', 'Ladaakoo', 'Swadeshi', 'Amar Chattan', 'Golden Arrows' and 'Swarn Jayanti'. 'Veer Sainik', 'Fanfare by Buglers, 'INS India', 'Yashasvee', 'Jai Bharati', 'Kerala', 'Siki A Mole', 'Hind Ki Sena', 'Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja', 'Drummers Call' besides 'Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon' are also part of the tunes that will be played on the evening of January 29, the brochure noted. The ceremony will see the participation of 44 buglers, 16 trumpeters and 75 drummers. 

Also Read | R-Day 2022: Gandhi's favourite 'Abide With Me' hymn dropped from Beating Retreat ceremony

Also Read | Republic Day parade to have 25 tableaux, 16 marching contingents, 17 military bands

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