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Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn ‘Abide with me’ dropped from Beating Retreat tunes

Members of the Indian military band rest before rehearsals for the Beating Retreat ceremony in New Delhi on January 21, 2022.

Members of the Indian military band rest before rehearsals for the Beating Retreat ceremony in New Delhi on January 21, 2022.

The traditional Christian hymn ‘Abide with me’, a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, has been dropped from the list of tunes for this year’s Beating Retreat ceremony. The tune had been played at the annual ceremony every year since 1950.

‘Abide with me’ is played by the Massed Bands at the end of the ceremony and this year there are three tunes without it instead of the four tunes played last year including the Hymn.

The three tunes to be played by Massed Bands this year are ‘Kadam kadam badhaye ja’, ‘Drummers call’ and ‘Ae mere watan ke logon’. In contrast, the four tunes last year were ‘Bharat ke jawan’ (new composition last year), Kadam kadam badhaye ja’, ‘Drummers call’ and ‘Abide with me’

In 2020 too, the tune was initially dropped from the list but was subsequently restored in the final list after protests from a cross section of the public on social media. In addition, ‘Vande Mataram’ was played for the first time in 2020.

Beating Retreat is a centuries old military tradition going back to the days when troops disengaged from battle at sunset. As soon as the buglers sounded the ‘retreat’, troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield.

“It is for this reason that the custom of standing still during sounding of the ‘retreat’ has been retained to this day. Colours and Standards are cased and flags lowered at ‘retreat’,” a Defence Ministry brochure on Beating Retreat explained.

‘Abide with Me’ was written in the 19th century by Scottish poet Henry Francis Lyte and composed by William Henry Monk. Beating Retreat is performed every year on the evening of January 29 at Vijay Chowk in the national capital and marks the end of the Republic Day celebrations.

There are 24 buglers, 44 trumpeters and 75 drummers are participating this year. About 30-35 tunes are played at the ceremony every year some of which are changed but ‘Abide by me’ has always been there.

New additions

This year’s Beating Retreat will see two new attractions, drone show and laser show, coinciding with the 75th year of independence.

A ‘Drone Show’ of 10 minutes involving around 1,000 swarm drones has been conceptualised, designed, produced and choreographed by a startup ‘Botlab Dynamics’, supported by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and Department of Science & Technology, officials said.

In addition, a laser projection show to commemorate 75 years of independence would be showcased on the walls of North and South Block for 3 to 4 minutes before the end of the ceremony.

On Friday, the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate was closed after the flame was merged with the flame at the National War Memorial while Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that a granite statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose would be set up under a canopy at India Gate.


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Printable version | May 20, 2022 2:08:57 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/mahatma-gandhis-favourite-hymn-abide-with-me-dropped-from-beating-the-retreat-tunes/article38307898.ece