Amid soulful classical renditions and foot-tapping numbers rending the air as the Raisina Hill dazzled in a kaleidoscope of colours, the Beating Retreat ceremony was held here yesterday, which marked the culmination of Republic Day celebrations. Held at the majestic Vijay Chowk, the event included a tribute piece for late Marshal of Indian Air Force Arjan Singh. The function began with President Ram Nath Kovind arriving at the venue, his first appearance at the Beating Retreat ceremony as the Head of State, with his ceremonial motorcade. Incidentally, his predecessor, Pranab Mukherjee, had ridden the ceremonial buggy down the Raisina Hill last year for the event. Several performances by Army, Air Force and Naval bands, among other troupes, thrilled the audience with patriotic fervour, as they cheered loudly against the backdrop of a delightful twilight. But, one piece by the Air Force Band was rather special and it lifted the spirits of the crowd high in the air — ‘The Great Marshal’.
The lilting music, produced with percussion instruments, which included African drums was arranged specially for the Air Force Marshal, who died last September at the age of 98. With flawless performance by the bandsmen, ‘The Great Marshal’ won the hearts of the audience. Several paramilitary bands, pipes and drums bands from regimental centres and battalions also enthralled the crowd, with a clear sky and relatively warm weather adding to the cheerful atmosphere. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat, Air Force Chief B S Dhanoa and Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba were present on the occasion. Dressed in brown kurta, white pyjama with a printed shawl thrown over a bundi, the Prime Minister was seen tapping his feet and knuckles during the course of the performances.
After the event, he even reciprocated to the enthusiastic crowd, as he ventured out into a stand, leaving behind his VVIP security cover, and shook hands with people, young and old. Some of the instrumental pieces that cast a spell on the audience were — ‘Manohar’ by Tri-Services Military Band with accompaniment of Indian instruments, ‘Kingdom Of Heaven’ by Army Band, and ‘Abide With Me’ by Massed Bands. As the bugle was sounded for the retreat, the Raisina Hill complex lit up in a riot of colours, the illumination powered by LEDs rather than the traditional incandescent bulbs. The neighbouring buildings, like Rail Bhawan and Udyog Bhawan, however, still carried the traditional lighting. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Health Minister J P Nadda were also present at the event.