Wagah-Attari border ceremony

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Wagah-Attari border ceremony
GenreMilitary display
DatesEvery day
Location(s)India-Pakistan border
Coordinates31°36′17″N 74°34′23″E / 31.60464°N 74.57310°E / 31.60464; 74.57310Coordinates: 31°36′17″N 74°34′23″E / 31.60464°N 74.57310°E / 31.60464; 74.57310
Years activeSince 1959 (62 years ago) (1959)
FoundedBorder Security Force and Pakistan Rangers

The lowering of the flags ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border is a daily military practice that the security forces of India (Border Security Force, BSF) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have jointly followed since 1959.[2] The drill is characterized by elaborate and rapid dance like manoeuvres and raising legs as high as possible, which have been described as "colourful".[2] It is alternatively a symbol of the two countries’ rivalry, as well as brotherhood and cooperation between the two nations.

At the international border between India and Pakistan, the pomp and pageantry of the Beating Retreat and the Change of Guard occur within handshaking distance of the Indian and Pakistani forces. Wagah, an army outpost on the India-Pakistan border between Amritsar and Lahore, is an elaborate complex of buildings, roads and barriers on both sides. The daily highlight is the evening “Beating the Retreat” ceremony. Soldiers from both countries march in drill, going through the steps of bringing down their respective national flags.

Similar parades are organised at Mahavir/Sadqi border near Fazilka and Hussainiwala/Ganda Singh Wala border near Firozpur.


The Wagah-Attari border ceremony
Marching by Indian Border Security Force soldiers
Women personnel of Border Security Force taking part in the ceremonial retreat at the India-Pakistan border at Wagah, 2010.
Pakistani Rangers at the Wagah-Attari border crossing
Indian crowd watching the ceremony

This ceremony takes place every evening immediately before sunset at the Wagah-Attari border, which as part of the Grand Trunk Road was the only road link between these two countries before the opening of the Aman Setu in Kashmir in 1999. The ceremony starts with a blustering parade by the soldiers from both sides, and ends up in the perfectly coordinated lowering of the two nations' flags.[3] It is called the Beating Retreat border ceremony on the international level. One infantryman stands at attention on each side of the gate. As the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags are lowered simultaneously. The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again. The spectacle of the ceremony attracts many visitors from both sides of the border, as well as international tourists.[3] In October 2010, Major General Yaqub Ali Khan of the Pakistan Rangers decided that the aggressive aspect of the ceremonial theatrics should be toned down. The soldiers of this ceremony are specially appointed and trained for this auspicious ceremony. They also have a beard and moustache policy for which they are paid additionally.[citation needed]

2014 suicide attack[edit]

On 2 November 2014, approximately 60 people were killed and at least 110 people were injured in a suicide attack on the Pakistan side of the Wagah-Attari border. An 18 to 20 year-old attacker detonated a 5 kg (11 lb) explosive in his vest 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the crossing point in the evening right after the Wagah-Attari border ceremony ended.[4][5]

2016 Indo-Pakistani tensions[edit]

After the India–Pakistan military confrontation on 29 September 2016 the border closing ceremony continued, but on the Indian side public attendance was denied on the evenings between 29 September and 8 October 2016.[6] As a sign of the increased tensions, the BSF did not exchange sweets and greetings with Pakistani Rangers on Diwali 2016, despite a long tradition of doing so on major religious festivals like Bakr-Eid and Diwali, and also during Independence Days of both countries.[7]

Other places[edit]

Border ceremony at Ganda Singh Wala/Hussainiwala border

Similar border ceremonies by the Pakistan Rangers and BSF just before sunset are also carried out at other India-Pakistan border posts, such as the:

As at Wagah-Attari border, border soldiers from both sides intimidate each other by throwing high kicks and by staring, and the ceremonies are concluded by a simultaneous flag or beating retreat. These ceremonies occur in smaller settings, and spectators tend to be local Punjabis rather than tourists from other regions in India, Pakistan, and other countries. The method of drill and parade is also quite different compared to the one in Wagah-Attari border.

See also[edit]

Wagah-Attari Border Ceremony from Pakistani Side, 2013


  1. ^ "Mixed feelings on India-Pakistan border". BBC News. 14 August 2007.
  2. ^ a b Khaleeli, Homa (1 November 2010). "Goodbye to the ceremony of silly walks between India and Pakistan". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  3. ^ a b Frank Jacobs (3 July 2012). "Peacocks at Sunset". Opinionator: Borderlines. The New York Times. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  4. ^ "Pakistan blast 'kills 45' at Wagah border with India". BBC News. 2 November 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Police: Suicide bomber kills dozens at Pakistan border parade". CNN. 2 November 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  6. ^ "Attari-Wagah post echoes with patriotic chants again". hindustantimes. 9 October 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  7. ^ "BSF refuses to exchange Diwali sweets at Wagah as Indo-Pak tension increases". The Economic Times. 30 October 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  8. ^ a b 5 crossing points in India: All you need to know, India Today, 10 OCt 2016.
  9. ^ a b Beating Retreat Wagah India, CHanging Guards, accessed 8 July 2021.
  10. ^ Sadqi retreat ceremony, nic.in, accessed 8 July 2021.
  11. ^ Second Wagah: India, Pak agree to new ceremony, beating retreat on Punjab border, Hindustan Times, 201 April 2017.
  12. ^ At Sadiqi border, strained Indo-Pak ties dampen spirits, The Tribune, 17 April 2019.

External links[edit]