Christian hymn Abide with me has been retained in the Beating the Retreat tunes of 2020 that will mark the end of Republic Day celebrations on January 29. This comes after reports that the hymn was going to be dropped from the list of tunes and would be replaced by Vande Mataram instead.
A Defence Ministry official confirmed to The Hindu on Thursday that Abide With Me will be played this year as well. If it had been dropped, it would have been the first time since 1950 that the hymn wouldn’t have made it to the Beating the Retreat tunes.
Further, it has been reported now that Vande Mataram will also be played this year and is a new entrant to the collection of tunes.
Written by Henry Francis, a 19th century Scottish poet, and composed by William Henry Monk, Abide With Me is usually played at the end of the 45-minute ceremony that takes place at Vijay Chowk in Delhi. Following the hymn, Saare Jahaan Se Accha is usually played by the bands.
There are 30-35 tunes that are part of the Beating the Retreat ceremony. These tunes are reviewed every year per normal procedure, and sequence as well as addition or removal of tunes is also decided. The decision of what tunes will be played lies with the Adjutant General’s branch of the Army headquarters, in consultation with the Ministry of Defence, where the latter has the final say.
The Beating the Retreat ceremony has its roots in the centuries-old tradition when the troops stopped fighting, sheathed their weapons and left from the battlefield to come back to their camps when the retreat was sounded. The Indian ceremony began in 1950 when Major GA Roberts from the Grenadier battalion of the Indian army was told to put together a ceremony of display by the massed bands. Conducted on January 29 in India every year, the ceremony starts with the arrival of the President with his/her bodyguards. Then the military bands perform the tunes selected before the President and other dignitaries.