The visit to Amritsar is never complete without visiting the famed Atari-Wagah Border- the thin strip of terrain dividing India and Pakistan. The Atari-Wagah border is part of a village called Wagah that inadvertently lends out the dividing line between the two countries. The renowned demarcating border is located at approximately 28km from the city of Amritsar, India and about 22km from Lahore, Pakistan. The Wagah village is on the Radcliffe line that was marked in order to partition the two countries back in 1947.
In Pakistan the crossing between the two countries is called the Wagah Border and in India it is known as the Atari Border. The Retreat Ceremony was started way back in 1959as one of the means to end the hostility between the two countries andinvolves the lowering of the two National Flags hoisted on either side of the border before sunset every day.
Just about two hours before sunset the stadiums built around the Atari and Wagah gates are filled to brim with the citizens of the two nations and even foreign nationals to watch The Retreat Ceremony. You can hear piercing but heart felt patriotic cheering cries from all sides of the stadium. And to burn up your patriotic fervor even more, there are those timeless Bollywood ‘Desh-Bakti’ songs blaring in full volume in the back ground. The ceremony starts with two lady soldiers’ march towards the gate with an amount of unbeaten aggression. The stadium reverberates with the piercing march cries from the soldiers. Two Border Security guards take positions on either side of the closed Gate, painted in Indian Tricolor and with the Asoka Chakra engraved on the two sides of it.Small posse of BSF guards then performs their pre-defined articulated marches after which the two guards posted at the gate open it with an unparalleled vigor. A couple of soldiers from the two nations shake hands and salute each other to express brotherhood, solidarity and friendship between the two countries. Again the troop of guards performa set of marches to rhythmic beats, which is surely a must watch. After the marches, the two flags are lowered slowly, set to full salute from the guards. Two guards swiftly fold the unhooked flag in perfect folds.A soldier retreats with the folded flag to the barracks after firm handshakes with his counterpart on the other side of the fence. The two gates are once more closed for the day.
The Retreat Ceremony is something hard to explain in detail as it’s a must watch to get the patriotic feel and also to see the synchronized moves and steadfast marches of the Jawans. Lastly it is all about igniting your feelings - the love for your country of course, when you get to see a portion of land that was once part of our great nation.
You need to reach Atari by at least 3.00pm, to assure a good seat. Long winding queues for the security checks are unavoidable. You may have to stand in the queue- separate for ladies and men, at least one hour before you enter the stadium. For security reasons, outside food is not allowed inside ,but you find several vendors selling water bottles and short-eats inside.
Totes and huge shoulder bags are again few of the items on the not-allowed list of things inside. And you have to be extra careful of your valuables, like your phones and wallets.