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Beating Retreat ceremony 2016: As enjoyable as ever
The Vijay Chowk on January 29, 2016 looks so different in the glow of setting sun. The dramatis personae have undergone a wholesale change. The lovely square between the North Block, the South Block, the Sansad Bhawan and of course, the Rashtrapati Bhawan up and beyond the Raisina Hill slope has many men in uniform who look so different. The band music is pleasing to the ears as the environment is pleasing to the eye but it is not the same as it used to be until last year.

What is the change?

The government of PM Narendra Modi has brought in a change for the better. He has placed a no-nonsense man named Manohar Parrikar in the Raksha Mantri's saddle and the wind of change has started blowing from all directions. Leaving aside his penchant for booking the guilty men who had been having a rollicking time under the previous regime of a permissive party, even the domain of martial music have started singing a different tune with a healthy dose of Hindustan Sangeet. The Indian musical instruments like Mridang, Tabla, sitar and santoor are in evidence.

There is a healthy blend of music that has taken away the exclusive character of Beating Retreat having only Military Music. Indeed the fusion of Shastriya Sangeet with Military Band Martial Music has made the august occasion sweeter, prettier and more pleasing to both eyes and ears.

Of the 21 performances, as many as 18 have been composed by the Bhartiya Sangeetkars. Ten Bhartiya compositions are being played for the first time or after a gap of over six years.

The Indian Army bands played new tunes like Dal Dal Pe Sone Ki Chidiya, Swarnim Desh, Dhruv and Blessings of God. The combined band of the Navy and the Air Force played Skylord, Brave Warriors, Stride, the Western Seas, Rejoice in Raisina and Fidos. Among the First Timers this year is "Gagan Dhamama Bajio', a quick march with lilting moving music to keep pace with the marching boots on the ground. TUM TUM comprising a set of four small drums did make an appearance for the second time despite being paraded as a first timer. I hope that my memory as an electronic media commentator serves me right otherwise I shall stand corrected.

It is interesting to note that this year the Beating Retreat has had 14 Military Bands, 17 Pipes and Frums, 85 buglers and 14 trumpeters. Besides the ones listed here as many as four Military Bands of the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force.

The principal conductor of the Beating Retreat ceremony this year was Squadron Leader G Jayachandran. The Army Bands were under the musical leadership of Subedar Major (Musician) Ramesh Singh. Master Chief Petty Officer Ramesh Chand took musical care of the Navy and Air Force Musicians.

Well before bidding adieu to our dear readers, I would like to mention that the Beating Retreat is now only a special ceremony for special occasions. It is far removed from its illustrious past when the dogfight between the warring forces came to a dead stop at the Sunset. To ensure cessation of fighting at sunset, all warriors used to come to attention and stood still. The arrow on the bow was not discharged, the hand raised with the sword was frozen in the raised position without striking a blow.

As history narrates in the Mahabharat war, the Pandavas visited the Kauravas in the latter's camp and vice-versa. Both the belligerent sides paid obeisance to Bhishma Pitamah together and after paying glowing tributes to his skill of archery, asked him how to neutralise him in battlefield. The warriors who thirsted for each other's blood in battle embraced and patted the adversary like brothers.

The ancient significance of Beating Retreat has vanished with the times but the ceremony remains as enchanting as ever in the 21st century too.

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