You think you’ve arrived at a football match rather than a ritual…
When you arrive at the Wagah-Attari border closing ceremony, otherwise known as the ‘flag lowering ceremony,’ you might think you’ve arrived at a football match rather than the meeting of two ideologically opposed countries. Before you go, I’d suggest visiting Amritsar’s Partition Museum for insight into the violent conflict between India and Pakistan that started when the British withdrew from the subcontinent, splitting British India into two countries.
Despite the historical tension, every evening, both countries come together to celebrate the closing of the border. Since 1959, Indians have gathered on one side of a paved promenade while the Pakistan contingent sit on the other. You as a guest of this country get the best views from a VIP pavilion.
Both the Indian Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers dressed in official garb march down the road past cheering crowds. It’s more like a flamboyant performance to the tune of patriotic music than anything else – synchronised dance movements with slick salutes and high kicks among the many moves on show. There’s still some harmless rivalry though which makes it good fun. The soldiers even sculpt their moustaches in a bid to intimidate their opponents. One of the members of the IBSF acts as a sort of hype man, revving up the crowds. I’d say the Indian side is considerably louder. Everyone is welcome though to join in the singing and the dancing to Bollywood songs like Jai Ho from the film, Slumdog Millionaire. You’ll recognise it when it comes on.
This all culminates in the lowering of both countries’ flags at the same time as the sun goes down, ending in handshakes between the Indian and Pakistani military. You won’t see anything else quite like it.
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