New Delhi: India’s Ministry of Defence has dropped the popular Christian hymn ‘Abide With Me’, a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, from the list of tunes for the Beating the Retreat ceremony on Jan 29 this year, The Hindu reported on Wednesday.
The hymn was traditionally played to mark the end of Republic Day celebrations every year since 1950 at Vijay Chowk in the national capital.
“The tune has been dropped this year,” an unidentified defence ministry official told the newspaper. “There is a review of tunes every year. There is an effort to introduce new tunes and an emphasis to add more Indian tunes.”
India’s national song ‘Vande Mataram’, with a history of controversy for its Hindu imagery, is proposed to replace ‘Abide With Me’.
The official justified the decision, saying ‘Vande Mataram’ was also a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi. “There are a few other new tunes as well including some Indian ones this time,” he added.
Another official said that about 30 to 35 tunes are played at the ceremony and their sequence is reviewed every year.
A third unidentified official said the move was taken because of an increased focus on replacing western tunes with Indian tunes, adding that emphasis was also given to classical Indian instruments.
‘Abide With Me’ was written by 19th-century Scottish poet Henry Francis Lyte and composed by William Henry Monk.
A centuries-old military tradition, Beating the Retreat marked the time when soldiers withdrew from the battlefield and returned to their camps at the sounding of the Retreat.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020