In the light of the setting sun, men in regalia made music with military precision as they marched down the Raisina Hill on Friday to mark the closure of the Republic Day celebrations.

Under a clear sky and in a patriotic ambience, captivated audiences sat and watched Beating Retreat, the ceremony that dates back to the time when sounding retreat pulled to a halt the day’s fighting.

Led by President Pratibha Patil, also the Supreme Commander of the three Forces, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, the audience sat through a ceremony that elicits a common response of nationalism and pride.

As men on foot and on horse back marched to the beats of drums and pipes, the air was filled with the rendition of different tunes.

Thirty-five bands from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force took part in the ceremony that began with the arrival of the President marked by fanfare by the buglers.

The first march of the massed band was the popular Sam Bahadur followed by the adroit performance of the pipes and drums which had the audiences tapping the feet with their Surya, Sky Boat Song, Pipers Cave, Highland Laddie and The Marquis of Huntly, among others.

The Naval and Air Force Bands, striking in their appearance and confident in their bearing, charged the atmosphere with their repertoire that included Ocean’s Splendour, Bharatiya Navsena, Sky Hawks, Nocturnal Cry, Swatantra Bharat ki Shan and Subroto.

Their tempo set the pace and had the audience applauding several times. Out in the open the acoustical performance was an experience unmatched.

The military bands with their Hanste Lushai, Gangotri, Abhinandan, Dhola-Re-Dhola were as spectacular to the eye as they were an aural treat.

Next it was the massed bands again enthralling the audiences that included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Vice- President Hamid Ansari and his wife, Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi and a host of dignitaries. Their presentation of soothing melodies like the composition Gulmarg, the Drummers’ Call and the popular Abide with Me were mesmerising.

Their quick march to the tunes of Saare Jahan Se Acha brought the curtains down on the ceremony.