Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite ‘Abide with Me’ dropped from Beating Retreat ceremony

Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite ‘Abide with Me’ dropped from Beating Retreat ceremony

NEW DELHI: Mahatma Gandhi ’s favourite hymn ‘Abide with Me’ has been dropped from the enthralling Beating Retreat ceremony on January 29 this year, in yet another controversial move after the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate was “merged” with the National War Memorial on Friday.
`Abide with Me’, the haunting Christian hymn composed by poet Henry Francis Lyte in 1847 and usually sung to William Henry Monk’s melody `Eventide’, has been part of the Beating Retreat ceremony since 1950.
It was retained in 2020 and 2021 at the last moment after a major outcry over the government’s move to discard it from the musical spectacle, which is performed by massed military bands at Vijay Chowk on the majestic Rajpath to signal the end of the Republic Day celebrations every year.
“The beautiful `Abide with Me’ was part of the sombre ceremony without any religious connotations for decades. Its poignancy, even as the sun set behind Raisina Hill with Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament, North and South Blocks being lit up, reminded us of our fallen comrades. Sad to see it be discarded this year,” said a senior officer.
On being contacted by TOI, a defence ministry official said, “`Abide with Me’ has been replaced with the popular `Ae Mere Watan ke Logon’ during the ongoing `Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ to commemorate 75 years of Independence.”
Written by Kavi Pradeep and composed by C Ramchandra, `Ae Mere Watan ke Logon’ was hauntingly sung by Lata Mangeshkar for the first time during the Republic Day celebrations in 1963 to honour the 3,250 soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the 1962 war with China.
Officials say western tunes are being replaced by “swadeshi tunes” composed by Indian composers over the last few years, with the patriotic `Sare Jahan se Acha’ also replacing the older tradition of playing `Abide with Me’ at the end of ceremony.
In earlier years, apart from Indian tunes, the military bands played western tunes like the evergreen `Colonel Bogey’, written in 1914, and `Sons of the Brave’, composed in 1898, which were borrowed from the British. They have all been gradually discarded.
`Drummers Call’, in fact, will be the only western tune in the ceremony this year, which will also see a drone and laser show. The 24 Indian tunes include “Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja”, “Veer Sainik”, “Hey Kanchha”, “Swarn Jayanti” and “Golden Arrows”, among others.
While Indian tunes have by and large been welcomed, the introduction of Indian musical instruments like sitars and tablas into the ceremony in recent years has caused some outrage among purists.
Beating Retreat is a centuries-old military ceremony of bugles, pipes and drums, with the buglers sounding the retreat in ancient and medieval times as a signal to halt fighting, recall patrolling units and lower flags at sunset.
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