Wagah Border Ceremony – from Pakistan side
The ceremony at the Pakistan – Indian border at Wagah is a ‘must see’ activity for anyone who visits Lahore. The lowering of the flags, or the Beating Retreat ceremony, is a daily military event that the security forces of India (Border Security Force) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have jointly conducted since 1959.
Making your way to Wagah from Lahore is about a one hour drive, and once you reach the outskirts of Lahore, the landscape changes and you come into the rural and agricultural area, which are clearly poorer areas of town, and made up of numerous villages. The areas are full of cattle, farming and a large amount of brick factories with large towers being the kiln smoke stacks, which surround the landscape.
Getting to the border requires many security check points and a lot of traffic. It is highly recommended to arrive ea
rly to get your pre-allocated seat, and ensure you are through all the checkpoints with time to spare.We left Lahore around 3pm and arrived around 4.30pm, with long queues of cars waiting to be searched and papers verified. The size and seriousness of the Rangers increased as too did their guns as we approached the parking area. The main reason behind the increase in security is due to a suicide attack at the ceremony in 2014, where a terrorist self detonated an explosive device on the Pakistani side after the ceremony, and succeeded in killing more than 60 people, and injuring over 100 in the process. See here for more details.
Upon taking your seat, there is an instant “buzz’ from the highly behaved crowd. This may have something to do with the presence of numerous Rangers with sub machine guns controlling things, or may be part of the hype around the crowd. You can see two large iron gates at the front of the ceremony area, one clearly saying “Pakistan” and then only separated by about 4-5 metres is another one saying “India”. You can see the Indian crowd all seated in similar fashion just opposite us. The mood is intensified by the announcer, drummers and chants by the entire crowd yelling out “Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan” in unison….you can only assume the Indians are doing the same, but all we could hear was our side. Highly energetic, and highly patriotic.
The actual event is hard to describe and do it justice. A set of decorated infantrymen march aggressively towards the gate, gesture, growl and yell at the border, after a while the gates briefly open, then and Indian and Pakistani Infantryman approach each other aggressively and equally aggressively shake hands. They then turn and approach their own lands, and the gate close.
More parades, gestures, and chanting of the crown occurs, before the gates open again and from both sides each stand-off at each other, including the Rangers and the Indian Border Force Guards. The flags are lowered in a synchronised style as the bugle plays and then extremely quickly, once the flags are down, they grab it, march off and shut the gates, and fold and remove the flag away for the evening. This is a truly amazing event, and one I am glad I got the chance to see.
Prior to going, our downstairs local neighbours were highly worried about us going saying it wasn’t safe. As I am writing this post, this clearly proved to be wrong. The level of security present and the way in which it was managed goes a long way to secure the attendees, but like most things these days, you cannot stop living life!. If you take this approach you wouldn’t go to Paris, to Sydney, to London, to Boston….the list goes on. You have to go about your life, sure you are cautious, and don’t put yourself in stupid situations, but you cannot let those who have evil intent win. Beside that, the lovely family who took us, surely wouldn’t put us in a compromising position, in fact it was the complete opposite with full VIP treatment all the way.
At the end of the event we were ‘mobbed’ by locals wanting many photos with the ‘white people’. This started off innocent and amusing, but did get a tad out of hand at the end, and we have to intervene…especially as they were isolating “The Princess”. It made me think, what would happen if I grabbed at local Pakistani 15 year old girl and demanded photos with them! I am sure a different outcome….but all was good and the kids found it a bit amusing, and probably confronting with their 5 minutes of fame!
Overall, a big “thumbs up” to Wagah, and to this tourism event.
The best way to fully appreciate the spectacle is via this short video below
Aussie in Lahore…