Wagah-Attari Border Ceremony – gesture of love or hate?

By FD.Sheikh
Fri, 04, 21

Wagah is a village in Lahore division that demarcates the Redcliff line dividing the territory of British India between Pakistan and India.....


Wagah is a village in Lahore division that demarcates the Redcliff line dividing the territory of British India between Pakistan and India. Wagah is located on GT Road that passes between Lahore (Pakistan) and Amritsar (India), and the border between Pakistan and India is named Wagah Border after the village. In 1947, migrants from British India entered Pakistan through this border. Today, this border also serves as terminal for transportation of goods and portal for diplomats, high officials, dignitaries, etc.

A lowering of flags ceremony that is known as Wagah-Attari Border Ceremony or Beating Retreat Ceremony is witnessed daily at Wagah Border near the border crossing gates in the evening, just before sunset. The site where the ceremony occurs has a purposefully built construction before the entrance that is called “Bab-e-Azadi” (The door of independence). As one enters “Bab-e-Azadi”, the door of independence, a stadium like area welcomes the visitors. Hundreds of people rejuvenate their patriotism and love for their respective countries, Pakistan and India, daily in the ceremony that features enthusiastic manoeuvres performed by Pakistan Rangers and Border Security Forces of India. The parade is enthusiastically applauded by the visitors who sing the national anthem and chant slogans of “Pakistan Zindabad” (Long Live the Land of Pure / Victory to Pakistan) at Wagah and “Jay Hind” (Victory to India / Long Live India) across the Wagah border line by the natives of both countries.

During the parade, tall soldiers from both sides with thick moustaches on their faces aim to raise their legs as high as they can in “goose march” style. The most patriotic sight is witnessed when the forces of both sides, while marching, reach their respective iron gates simultaneously and open them vigorously. This is followed by the lowering of flags from both sides. This truly gives goosebumps to patriotic hearts out there. Brusque handshakes between the duty soldiers from both side along with closing of gates and folding of flags concludes the parade of the day.

After the parade, the heart-warming sight of visitors taking pictures with the soldiers is a special treat. Visitors of both sides delightedly shake hands with soldiers of their respective countries and take pictures to make the memories eternal. The ones who are successful in capturing the pictures near the iron gates of borders along with soldiers return home proud of their achievement. People are also seen offering various gifts to their soldiers to appreciate their part in defending their homeland. International tourists are also seen thoroughly enjoying the ceremony at both sides.

The Wagha Attari Border Ceremony of lowering of flags or Beating Retreat Ceremony, which started in 1959, is conducted daily, with the aim of fostering cooperation and brotherhood between the two nations. While the ceremony aims to be a symbol of cooperation and brotherhood, at the same time it displays a source of national pride from both sides. In this regard, in March 2017, India erected a 360-foot long flagpole at Attari. Later, on 14 August 2017, Pakistan raised a 400-foot long flagpole at its side. Both flags hoisted high in the skies depict the pride of their nations. The flagpole of Pakistan is the longest flagpole in south Asia and eight longest in the world.

Promoting peace through the ceremony

The Wagah-Attari Border Ceremony is meant to be a symbol of cooperation and brotherhood between India and Pakistan. However, those who have attended the ceremony would agree with me that instead of national pride, a spirit of rivalry pervades the atmosphere. Different videos and reports that are uploaded on social media show that to a great extent that this ceremony portrays aggression and rivalry between the two countries. This should be a point of concern for both countries. It would be much better if the ceremony could spread the message of peace, love and cooperation between the two neighbouring countries. With mutual collaboration, there might be an inclusion of display of some cultural activities on both sides in the ceremony that would attract more visitors and international tourists as well. This may further assist in easing the tense atmosphere and improve the relationships between the two nations. This will help nurturing the seeds of brotherhood in true sense, especially in the young people visiting the border. These little acts of amity may result in developing mutual trust between the two rival nations. Let us spread the message of love instead of hatred with these kinds of ceremonies. After all, it is peace we all yearn for – across the borders. Happy living!