Tuesday, May 26, 2015

India’s Bizarre Border Ritual

Wagah Border – Closing Ceremony – India/Pakistan

From Amritsar, around 30 km west to the town of Atari, on the Wagah border, the closing ceremony between India and Pakistan is a daily tradition between the two countries. It is a daily ritual which occurs at the Wagah section of the border and is accessible from the city of Amritsar.

This border area is a 200 metre space spanning the geographical boundary between the two countries where the road is lined with grandstands and divided by a gate. On either side spectators gather where the Indians are to the east and the Pakistanis towards the west. It is a highly choreographed event that is performed towards sunset amidst a huge gathering.

One will find hundreds and hundreds of locals scattered around with hawkers making their way in the crowd. The place is in an oval shaped area having large concrete steps which spread around for seating with a giant gate passing right through the middle.

The gate was the border between India and Pakistan. Foreigners are provided with their own seating area towards the front to witness the ceremony. The ceremony starts with a bang. To warm up the crowd, the officials commence to play bhangra music with the audience contributing to the beat of the music and all the women leaving their seats and dancing to the rhythm of the music in the centre of the arena dancing and radiating pride for their country.

Articipating Army Officials Compete on Loudest/Longest Shout

The women giants are given Indian flags and races are held from the centre of the arena to the border gates and back again. There is no age lime for these races which start with young girls, going back and forth, with a gradual increase on age as the competitors tend to increase.

Towards the end two women who could be of advanced age, glide through the crowds carrying the flags with no indication of old age. The participating army officials then come out from both the ends of the border shouting the names of their own countries or regions which seems like a competition on who could hold it for the longest and loudest, where they are met by their own respective crowds with deafening shouts of repetition as they make attempt to compete with the other country.

One gets the opportunity of witnessing two men from two different countries with less than 100 m apart participating in an old fashioned screaming competition.The Indian army officer together with his fellow officer,then proceed with their march across the centre of the arena attired in extravagant uniforms which is complete with adorned giant fan shaped red turban.

Ceremony – A Whirlwind of Pomp & Circumstance

Among the total of around six officers, there seems to be one ranking officer in the group who tends to continue with his shout at his men and high kicking his way around the area.

During this procedure, the gates between the two countries tend to open up with both armies continuing with their march towards each other and the rituals begin as the two groups begin directing their fiery patriotism at each other. After the exchange of fiery patriotism, the two head officers from the respective country shake hands with the closing of the gate, lowering of the flags and the ceremony comes to an end.

The whole ceremony seems like a whirlwind of pomp and circumstance, which could be weird though wonderful. It is an implausible piece of cultural curiosity and one which should not be missed.

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