Vande Mataram again excluded from Beating Retreat

New Delhi: The grand Beating Retreat ceremony by the bands of all the three Armed Forces on January 29 to end the Republic Day ceremonies in Delhi will not have Vande Mataram, a Sanskrit poem written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in 1870.

When the rehearsal of the Beating Retreat was held on Friday. it became clear Vande Mataram won't replace Mahatma Gandhi's favourite Christian hymn of 'Abide with me' being played as part of the Retreat ceremony at the Vijay Chowk since the 1950s.

The Modi government was pressing for inclusion of Vande Mataram that has acquired political incendiary Hindutva overtones and progressively include more indigenous tines for the three services' splendidly attired buglers and trumpeters alongside pipe, five and brass bands to at the Retreat with digital wizardry.

"Abide with me" was written by Henry Francis Lyle, a vicar in England, in early 19th century and it was composed in 1861 by William Henry Monk, an English organist and church musicians. Apart from Mahatma Gandhi, the hymn was also a favourite of England's King George V and is sung at the annual Anzac Day services in Australia and New Zealand and at the associated military remembrance day celebrations in Canada and the UK. It was sung first at Lyle's own funeral.

The sanguine hymn rejoices in God's steadfastness: Even as earth's joys grow dim and its glories pass away. It exhorts God's presence every passing hour through cloud and sunshine to assist the helpless "shine through gloom and point to the skies.

Its tone and sentiments remain universal, except for the BJP and the RSS as they see a fundamental flaw if it is having a Christian origin to drop it to keep with their enduring nationalism. They also assert that "Abide with me" is part of India's post-colonial history, crafted largely by the Congress in which the RSS and fellow Hindu antinationalists were not even a footnote.

No surprise, irrespective of the Mahatma's partiality to the hymn, its rendering at the showcase Retreat ceremony has been objected by the RSS since 2015 and rumours were rife it would be dropped this time until the Army issued an official notification that Vande Mataram would not replace the "Abide with me" hymn.

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Free Press Journal