The traditional Christian hymn Abide With Me has been dropped for the first time since 1950 in this year’s Beating the Retreat ceremony on January 29. The patriotic Hindi song Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon will replace the iconic tune, as part of efforts towards further “Indianisation” of the military, including its tunes, training literature, traditions, customs and other practices, some of which were drawn from the British era.
The official list of 26 tunes for the Beating Retreat ceremony does not carry Abide With Me. Sources in the government told News18.com that the song has been adapted by the Massed Bands in a way that the bells would continue to chime like they did with Abide With Me.
Abide With Me has been a long-standing tradition of Beating the Retreat ceremony. Efforts were underway since the middle of last year to look for a suitable Indian tune to replace it.
As earlier reported by News18.com, the Army’s Additional Directorate General of Ceremonial Welfare in July last year had invited bids for 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 the Retreat ceremony.
A top defence source said around six tunes were considered for the purpose, including a few tunes which have already been in use by the Indian military bands, and three new tunes which were sent in by private players.
“Some of the tunes which 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, aside from Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon, aside from the ones sent in by private entities,” a source said.
However, it is Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon which made the final cut and was selected to replace Abide With Me as the closing tune of the Beating the Retreat ceremony.
Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja and Drummers Call are the other tunes to be played by the Massed Bands towards the end of the ceremony. Saare se Jahan will be played by the buglers as the Presidential convoy moves back.
The Navy Band will play four tunes, the Army Band will play three tunes and four tunes will be played by the Air Force Band, including a special Ladakoo tune, by Flight Lt L S Rupachandra.
As many as 44 buglers, 16 trumpeters and 75 drummers will participate in the entire event.
There were plans to omit Abide With Me in Beating the Retreat ceremony in 2020, but after a public furore, it was reinstated back in the list of tunes for the event. However, in the last two years, the majority of the tunes played in the ceremony were composed by Indian musicians.
The Indian military has shed much of its British-origin customs and traditions over the decades.
However, there has been a renewed push towards further Indianisation of the military with plans to include additional indigenous texts in military training and strategic studies with more focus on Indian war heroes, leaders and thinkers and putting to rest the use of pre-Independence terms, avoiding anglicised names for military exercises, and call signs, including aviation call signs.
Replacing of an iconic tune like Abide With Me is a move towards this effort.