Christian Hymn ‘Abide With Me’ Dropped from Republic Day Ceremony

The Beating Retreat Ceremony, organised at the Vijay Chowk on 29 January every year, marks the culmination of the four-day-long Republic Day celebrations. As tradition goes, the ceremony closes with the Christian hymn Abide With Me, which was believed to be Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite. However, that’s all set to change as the Defence Ministry has decided to not play it during the closing ceremony this year, Hindustan Times (HT) reported.

“Different tunes are experimented with at the Beating Retreat ceremony. This year Vande Mataram is likely to replace Abide With Me,” a ministry official, quoted by HT said.

Several reports suggested that Vande Mataram will be played this year instead.

“It’s always good to repackage the ceremony with new Indian tunes to make it more interesting for the spectators,” another official told HT on condition of anonymity.

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Mahatma’s Favourite

Written by Scottish poet Henry Francis Lyte in the nineteenth century and composed by William Henry Monk the hymn has been playing in every Republic Day celebration since 1950 as it was considered a favourite of Mahatma, who heard it the first when he visited the kingdom of Mysore, according to Deccan Herald.

The Mysore palace was also invited to perform in the 1950 Republic Day parade where it played the hymn and has been playing since then.

The hymn is sung at the annual Anzac Day services in Australia and New Zealand as well as some Remembrance Day celebration in Canada, Deccan Herald reported.

‘More Indian Tunes’

Ministry officials quoted by The Print, said that the focus is being given to more Indian tunes.

The are decided by the ceremonial and welfare directorate under Adjutant General’s branch of the army headquarters, in consultation with the Ministry of Defence and the latter’s decision is considered final.

While ‘Abide With Me’ was the only western tune played in 2018, out of the 27 performances in 2019, 19 tunes were composed by Indian musicians.

These tunes included Indian Star, Paharon ki Rani, Kumaoni Geet, Jai Janam Bhumi, Queen of Satpura and Vijay Bharat. The eight western tunes included Fanfare by Buglers, Sound Barrier, Emblazoned, Twilight and Drummers Call, The Print reported.

Indian classical instruments sitar, santoor and tabla made a debut during the Narendra Modi government’s first Republic Day celebrations in 2015.

Congress Questions Motive

Speaking to HT, Congress spokesperson Pranav Jha questioned the motive behind the move.

“‘Abide with me’ as well as ‘Vande Mataram’ are odes to the supreme being! We accepted Bankim’s Vande Mataram as our National Song as an ode to the Supreme Motherland... What is amazing is the priority of this government which rather than looking at abysmally low employment, crashing economy, unprecedented labour suicide and sky rocketing food inflation, is focussed on changing the music of beating retreat for the singular purpose of yet again creating rift,” he said.

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(With inputs from Hindustan Times, Deccan Herald and The Print)

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