Wahga border: Arena for gladiators

May 25, 2014

Wahga border: Arena for gladiators

There are hundreds of border-crossings around the world, but the Wagah border crossing between Pakistan and India stands apart. It is an entry point between Lahore and Amritsar. Flag hoisting and furling ceremonies take place at every border crossing around the world, but such fervent and glamorous flag hoisting and furling ceremonies might not take place anywhere else. The vigour and thrill observed here does not make it seem like an ordinary daily event.

At Wagah the ceremony starts with the assembly of guards on the watch tower. A bugle by a sentry at the watch tower ensues a chain of movements. After the bugle is blown the rangers descend from the tower and march towards the dividing gate with grace and agility. As the sentries of the two rival countries come face to face each side tries to outshine the rival forces with their parading manoeuvres, agility and thrust.

This ceremonious parade displays true skills of the guards with immaculate coordination in their movement, simultaneous steps starting from all four corners and coming back to the point from where they started -- in fact a perfect demonstration of trigonometry. Perfect standing postures, stiff necks with great pride, in fact armed forces at their best! The thumping of feet shakes the ground which further mesmerises the spectators. The roaring crowd making soldiers even more vigorous.

This dividing point in fact has become a gathering point for thousands of Indian and Pakistani citizens who gather at their sides of the border to raise the morale of their soldiers and demonstrate the greatness of their nation to the rival crowd. To prove it, the small groups sometimes dance to the tunes of the music and patriotic songs played on heavy duty’ speakers.

Men, women and specially children wave flags to show off their loyalty to the nation that makes the event even more colourful. The cheer leaders and the drummers dressed in green and white create hype amongst the spectators. One can watch and hear the deafening uproar of the spectators getting louder and louder with the enticement of the cheer leaders.

Chanting of slogans, dancing and singing of national songs make the ceremony more exciting.

At one point of the parade the sentries come face to face -- this is the time to intimidate the rival through gestures and body posture. Each side’s sentry comes exactly in the middle of the dividing gate and puffs up his body and gives a stern look at the rival. The uproar compels the spectator to wonder if it is a parade or an arena with gladiators and if each side’s gladiator is winning.

Over the period this border crossing point has become the biggest tourist attraction for both Lahore and Amritsar. To accommodate the spectators arena style seating structures have been set up on both sides of the border-crossing where thousands of people watch the parade.

Looking at the history and the culture, one can see that both of these countries are rigidly divided, yet culturally inseparable. This border ritual brings together people from both sides to come closer for sharing some moments of happiness and excitement at the dividing point -- who knows if the credit for such an excitement goes to Lahories or equally Zinda Dilan (live hearted) Amritsaries at the other side of the fence.

Read also: Wahga border: The disgraceful ceremony

Wahga border: Arena for gladiators