'Abide With Me', Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn, dropped from R-Day beating retreat once again

According to the Indian Express, the official list of the 26 tunes to be played in the Beating Retreat ceremony does not mention ‘Abide With Me’.

FPJ Bureau | Updated on: Saturday, January 22, 2022, 11:38 PM IST

File photo of the Beating Retreat rehearsal ceremony at Vijay Chowk in New Delhi | Photo: Twitter/@MIBIndia
File photo of the Beating Retreat rehearsal ceremony at Vijay Chowk in New Delhi | Photo: Twitter/@MIBIndia

A day after relocating the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate to the national war memorial, the government has decided to drop 'Abide with Me', the Christian hymn that marks the conclusion of the Beating Retreat ceremony on January 29 -- at the end of Republic Day festivities.

Instead, the patriotic song, ‘Mere Watan Ke Logon’, penned in Hindi by Kavi Pradeep, composed by C Ramchanadra and sung by Lata Mangeshkar – commemorating soldiers who died during the war with China in 1962 -- will replace the iconic tune. This is believed to be an effort at ‘Indianisation’ of colonial traditions that are still a part of the Indian Army.

Incidentally, the Beating Retreat ceremony, which comprises 26 ‘official’ tunes, is also a colonial heritage -- a centuries-old military relic that, in war, marked the end of fighting for the day, with soldiers sheathing arms and withdrawing from the battlefield. But even as Beating Retreat has been retained, 'Abide with Me', also a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, has been discarded.

‘Abide with me’ is a prayer to God to remain with the speaker through life and in death. It was written by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte in 1847 when he was dying of tuberculosis. According to News 18, ‘Mere Watan Ke Logon’ has been adapted in a way that the bells would continue to chime as they did while rendering the solemn Christian hymn.

According to an earlier News 18 report, the Army’s Additional Directorate General of Ceremonial Welfare in July last year had invited bids for a new audio score, complete with Hindi lyrics, to be played by military bands at the end of “solemn national ceremonial events” such as the Beating Retreat ceremony.

Some of the other tunes that were considered included Saare Jahan Se Accha, De Siva Bar Mohe (a devotional hymn composed by Guru Gobind Singh) and Ae Maalik Tere Bande Hum, the channel’s news portal said, quoting unnamed sources.

In India, the ceremony is performed at Vijay Chowk in Delhi in the evening of January 29 every year.

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Published on: Saturday, January 22, 2022, 11:38 PM IST