During our last visit to Pakistan we went to see the lowering of the flags or as it is known internationally the “Beating Retreat” ceremony at Wagah Border.
Wagah is a densely populated village in Pakistan through which the controversial “Radcliff Line” was drawn in 1947. The village lies approximately 0.3 miles west of the Border Line. In Pakistan the border crossing is called Wagah whereas in India it is called Atari, named after the village Atari which lies approx. 0.3 east of the Atari Border.
Wagah Border is around 15 miles from the city of Lahore and it takes anywhere between 40-60 minutes to reach depending on the traffic that day. The ceremony begins before sunset and lasts around 45 minutes. Try to reach there early to find good seats and enjoy the festive mood with patriotic songs and dhol (drums) being played and people dancing and having fun. It is a daily military practice which is jointly done between the Indian Border Security Forces and Pakistan Rangers since 1959. It attracts a lot of spectacles including foreigners.
The ceremony begins with a thundering parade by the soldiers from both sides. It looks as if it has been carefully choreographed with impressive high kicks, thumps, foot stamps and an amazing exhibition of speed marching which seems like a live display of patriotism on both sides. The Pakistan Rangers look crisp in black shalwar kameez uniform and high pugrees (turbans). The crowd seems to be equally involved shouting patriotic slogans and clapping as loud as they can to boost the morale of the Rangers.
As the sun sets, the iron gates are opened and the flags of the two countries are lowered simultaneously. They are then folded and the ceremony ends with a short and sharp handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again. The sea of loud claps can be heard from a distance.
If you are visiting Pakistan then do put watching this ceremony on your “what to see” list. Colorful and heart-racing, it is one event you do not want to miss. Here are some pictures of the ceremony for you to enjoy.