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Celebrating Independence Day at the Wagah Border

The village of Wagah is located on the Pakistan-India border, and is the venue of the ‘Beating Retreat’, the border closing ceremony performed by the Pakistani and Indian border guards.


The Beating Retreat culminates with a handshake

The ceremonial parade… Instituted in 1959, the Beating Retreat (also known as the ‘Lowering of the Flags’ ceremony) is held every evening. The guards on both sides put on a dramatic and carefully choreographed show involving rigorous stomping and bellowing. The ceremony culminates at sunset with a ‘peaceful’ handshake, the lowering of the flags and finally, the closing of the border gates. The cries of the crowds on both sides can be heard chanting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and ‘Jai Hind’ simultaneously.

Getting to the border and beyond… The Wagah Border is a 30-minute drive from Lahore and the best way to get there for the Beating Retreat is to use private transport. Travelling across the border is also quite convenient and affordable (it costs Rs 2,000 inclusive of two meals) aboard the Lahore-Delhi Bus Service which operates thrice a week. The bus makes four stops en route from Lahore to Delhi; one of the stops is Wagah in Pakistan, while the rest are in India.

Wagah on Independence Day… Although the Retreat ceremony attracts visitors all year round, the patriotic fervour on Independence Day remains unmatched. The crowds start collecting quite a while before the ceremony begins, waving flags, chanting slogans, cheering and encouraging the guards to crank up their performances. 


The cheering crowds

Pit stops and more… For people who go to Wagah to witness the ceremony, there are a limited number of dining options. The only fast food restaurant is Chick N Salt, located on GT Road. It is open 24 hours a day and makes a good pit stop to and from the border. If you don’t mind the diversion, there are a few dining avenues at Sozo Water Park on Canal Bank Road, adjacent to GT Road.

In a nutshell… The Wagah Border is a historically and culturally significant place and the Beating Retreat parade is a must-see, especially on Independence Day when the patriotism and fervour are at fever pitch. If you can’t make it there on Independence Day, do take advantage of the Eid holidays and head to Wagah to watch the ceremony. n

– Rehab Maqsood

First published in the REAL ESTATE Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser.

Photos by Arif Ali/White Star