Countries India North Punjab

The Stage of electrifying Patriotism – Wagah

I feel my heart beat faster with every step I take on this last stretch of the road. No vehicles are allowed on this half-kilometer or so of the road leading to a security-check area and then to the border-gate. I had been dreaming of being here since quite some time now and now that I am here, I am finding it tough to control my excitement, quite literally. The sticky and humid August afternoon suddenly doesn’t feel bothersome any-more. Pushing myself through the sea of people I somehow make it to the security gate. I can still feel my heart throbbing under my dripping-wet Tee but I don’t care. My eyes are fixated at what lay beyond.

So Near yet so far - Wagah Border, Punjab
So Near yet so far – Wagah Border, Punjab

Beating Re-Treat at India Pakistan Border – Wagah

I am at the border-gate between India and Pakistan, at what was once the village of Wagah. Half of it now lies in Pakistan while the other half is in India. Nowhere else at any International border, happens anything of this sort and at this scale that I have ever heard of. Started in the year 1959, the beating re-treat ceremony is a daily military exercise which both the countries’ security forces, the Border Security Force (BSF) on the Indian side and the Pakistan Rangers on the Pakistani side conduct in a very well-synchronized way.

Well-synchronized Flag Lowering at the Wagah Border
Well-synchronized Flag Lowering at the Wagah Border

The view from this gallery teeming with people is not that great but I am happy that I have managed to somehow cram myself here. A lot of people haven’t even been this lucky to manage even this. Even though not un-interrupted, I get quite a decent view of the happenings below. People, young and old alike, dancing to the tunes of Hindi patriotic songs. Some of them running with the Indian flag in their hands, up-to-the gate and then back. Patriotism seems to have over-taken everyone here. I too tried to express my patriotism that seemed to have reached an all-time high, thanks to the guy with the mike down below, at the BSF post. With his cheers of Bharat Mata ki Jai and Hindustan Zindabad is making the crowd go crazy.

People Running & Dancing with the Tri-Color wagah border punjab
People Running & Dancing with the Tri-Color

Sadly though, I hardly have enough space to move my hands and legs freely, let alone dance. The area below where the actual parade was going to take place looked much better and everyone seemed to have their own space. With songs, dances and the occasional bouts of patriotism in the form of slogans & cheers the place seemed to be pretty much a mela (fair).

The crowd on both sides of the Border-gate, Wagah
The crowd on both sides of the Border-Gate, Wagah

The Indian side and the Pakistani side – Wagah Border Ceremony

As the skies above the lush green fields of Punjab started turning golden and a cool breeze blew from the West, the place seemed to become even livelier. The trumpets started blaring, the calls of the guards became louder and so did the cheering of the crowd. The border guards started thumping their boots on the ground as hard as they could and then in an aggressive march, headed towards the border-gate. A very aggressive march-past here, a thump of the boots there followed by the exchange one last formal salute & a rude handshake between the jawans of the BSF & the Ranger, the parade came to an end with the quick closing of the gate preceded by the lowering of the national flags on both sides. A rather abrupt end to an otherwise happening evening I would say.

View of the Pakistani side of the Border Gate, Wagah
View of the Pakistani side of the Border Gate, Wagah

As I walked back towards the parking, one among the hundreds swarming their way out, I could not help but imagine how the people of this border village Wagah, were once one. It’s hard to fathom, at least for me, what it would have been like to sleep as one and wake-up the next morning separated!

Have you been to the Wagah border? Do you want to?

14 thoughts on “The Stage of electrifying Patriotism – Wagah”

  1. Rajiv, you are a lucky man. You managed to climb up somewhere and see the parade. I wasn’t so lucky when i went there few years back.
    People (package tours) come 4-5 hrs early and take best seats.

  2. Have you read Train to Pakistan by Khuswant Singh and Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Le Pierre? Both books were very useful for me in gaining insights about Partition. I think the books are no longer in publication but I was lucky to have bought them when I was in Rajasthan 5 years ago. I would love to cross over from Wagah to Lahore on foot just for the experience of it. I know of 2 Malaysian cyclists had done that 🙂

    1. I have read Khushwant Singh’s book long back but not the one by Dominique Le Pierre. The first one is still available in the market, not sure about the other one though.

      Exploing Pakistan – non-Indians are so lucky to be able to do that. I for one, really wish to go to the northern areas at – least but … neither Pakistanis nor Indians are allowed in each other’s northern-areas (read: restricted areas 🙁

  3. Could feel the goosebumps Rajiv as I read this…loved these lines…” It’s hard to fathom, at-least for me, what it would have been like to sleep as one and wake-up the next morning separated!”
    …remember visiting Kashmir way back in the late eighties, stayed in the Army camp with the Pak border a few yards away, it was a mixed feeling of exhilaration and disappointment of countries with man made boundaries…

    1. You stayed in the Army camp with the Pak border a few yards away .. wow !!

      I can just imagine the excitement!! I am sure back in those days, it would have been quite different in those than what the situation is in the current times.

      The feeling and excitement when you are witnessing the beating-retreat ceremony at the Wagah border is not possible to put to words. You must pay a visit, soon.

      Thanks for stopping by Sunita 🙂 .


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