The 1947 partition of India and Pakistan led to the marking of a long white line that defines the Wagah Border between the two neighbours, separated by two heavy gates about 2 meters apart on either side. Located at a distance of 28km from the city of Amritsar, the Wagah Border is the only open border crossing India and Pakistan and which is officially accessible by both the nations.
The closing ceremony at Wagah Border, also known as 'lowering of the flags' ceremony, is a daily martial custom that the security forces of India (Border Security Force) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have mutually followed since 1959. This interesting ceremony takes place every evening before sunset at the Wagah Border.
As the sun starts to set, Wagah Border comes alive with an incredible zeal and an unmistakable nationalist energy on both sides. The show starts off with the playing of patriotic songs and remembering the brave soldiers who laid down their lives for the country. The crowd cheers on by calling out ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Vande Mataram’, reciprocated with cries of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ from the opposite side.
The ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony starts with a stiff-marching parade by the soldiers from both the sides. One infantryman stands at attention on each side of the gate. Soon after, the heavy gates at the Wagah Border are flung open; the two soldiers approach each other, exchange fierce looks, give out mimicked threats, and show anger. They shake hands and begin to lower the Indian and Pakistani flags fixed on high poles at the gates, simultaneously. At this point the noise in the open-air theatre transforms into pin drop silence. The spectators at Wagah Border remain extremely hushed in awe of the ceremony. The only sound being that of the pounding of boots of the soldiers on both the sides as they match steps and try to outdo each other as a part of the ceremonial splendour. The flags are neatly folded and carried back into the respective camps. There is a final brisk handshake between the soldiers from either side, after which no glance is exchanged. This is followed by the slammed closing of both the gates and blowing of trumpet to mark the end of the grand ceremony.
On the Indian side of the Wagah Border is a huge gate with an encryption‘Swarn Jayanti Dwar’, from where a panoramic view of the Wagah landscape can be enjoyed. This high decibel flag-lowering performance at Wagah Border is a true spectacle and attracts many visitors from both sides of the border, as well as foreigners. It definitely is a must see when in Amritsar!
Best time to visit
One can visit the Wagah Border throughout the year. However, the best time to visit the city of Amritsar is during the months of October to March, as the weather is cool and pleasant. Summers here are extremely hot and can be avoided for any outside visit like the Wagah Border.
The Wagah village was divided during the 1947 partition. Today, the eastern half of the village remains in India while the western half is in Pakistan.
The Wagah Border is also referred to as the ‘Berlin Wall of Asia’.
The six-seven feet tall soldiers at the Wagah Border are well dressed in their uniforms with colourful turbans. The Indian ‘Border Security Force’ soldiers are dressed in khaki, and the Pakistani ‘Sutlej Rangers’ soldiers are dressed in black.
The speciality of the ceremony is the extremely fast pace at which the soldiers walk, with their feet rising almost to their foreheads. This highly skilful ceremony is impressive and one of its kind in India!
The Wagah Border post remains open daily from 10:00 am till the flag down ceremony in the evening.
For the Wagah Border ceremony, it is advisable to arrive well before sunset to grab a proper seat in the open air theatre.
Depending upon the time of sunset, the flag down ceremony normally starts around 4:30 pm in winters and 5:30 pm in summers.