The story of Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite anthem, removed from today’s Beating Retreat ceremony

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A day after moving the Amar Jawan Jyoti to India Gate at the National War Memorial, the government has decided to drop “Abide with Me”, the Christian hymn which marks the conclusion of the ceremony of the swinging retreat on January 29 — at the end of the Republic Day festivities.

The anthem which was Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite was replaced by the patriotic song “Mere Watan Ke Logon”, written in Hindi by Kavi Pradeep, composed by C Ramchanadra and sung by Lata Mangeshkar – commemorating the soldiers who died during the war with the China in 1962 — will replace the iconic melody. It is believed to be an effort to “Indianise” the colonial traditions that are still part of the Indian military.

What is the anthem about?

‘Abide with me’ was written by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte. There is no clear evidence of when he actually wrote the anthem.

According to reports, Lyte probably wrote the hymn in 1820 while visiting an old friend William Augustus Le Hunte who was on his deathbed. As Lyte sat next to Hunte, Hunte kept repeating the phrase “stay with me…”

He later recalled the anthem in 1847 during an illness which ultimately led to his death. The hymn is based on Luke 24:29 of the Bible, in which the disciples asked Jesus to stay with them.

The lyrics of “Abide With Me” were associated with various hymn tunes, however, in 1861 the editorial board of Hymns Ancient and Modern felt that the words needed something better and asked William Henry Monk, who later composed the tune “Eventide”.

Besides Mahatma Gandhi, the anthem, which is popular across all Christian denominations, is also said to have been a favorite of King George V and Alfred Lord Tennyson. It was played at the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and also during the sinking of the Titanic.

The anthem is also sung at various military services in Australia and New Zealand, as well as at Remembrance Day services in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Since 1927, the first and last verses of the anthem have traditionally been sung at the FA Cup final and also at the Rugby League Challenge Cup final since 1929.

Since when is it played at the Beating Retreat ceremony?

The tune has been played annually since 1950 at the Beating the Retreat ceremony by the Massed Bands of the Security Forces. After the tune is played, the Indian flag is lowered at dusk to mark the end of the Republic Day celebrations.

The Beating Retreat, which marks the end of the Republic Day celebrations, is played annually on January 29 with military bands performing on Rajpath as the sun sets over Raisina Hill.

In recent years, Indian compositions have found their way into military bands that previously played mainly British tunes.

The call of Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson

Mahatma Gandhi first heard the piece played by Mysore Palace Band, and could not forget its tenderness and serenity.

According to an article in The Examiner, Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar said the anthem “symbolizes the syncretic culture of our nation where all religions are included and given status and respect. equal”.

He further urged Indians to take it upon themselves to perform, recite or play the hymn in tribute to the Father of the Nation.

He also asked churches to play the anthem on January 30, the day of Bapu’s martyrdom in 1948.

“My call to the Church is to sing ‘Abide With Me’ in as many churches as possible across India on January 30 this year, in tribute to Mohandas Gandhi and in affirmation of the inclusive and tolerant culture of India. India and our secular belief in equal respect for all religions,” he said.

Posted: Saturday, January 29, 2022, 9:45 AM IST

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