A mix of reverberating drum beats and martial tunes, along the soft notes of instruments like the sitar and flute echoed down Rajpath as Indian compositions dominated the formal end of Republic Day celebrations with the Beating Retreat ceremony here.
Drawing the curtain over the Republic Day celebrations, bands of the Army, Navy Air Force, and Central Armed Police Forces performed over two dozens tunes, with all but one being Indian compositions.
With architectural marvels of Rashtrapati Bhawan, the South Block and the North Block shining golden against the sunlight, members of the performing bands marched and swayed with their drums, bagpipers, trumpets, among a host of other instruments, while groups of musicians sat atop the South and North block with traditional instruments, including the sitar, shehnai and tabla.
Of the 26 tunes played at the event, 25 were composed by Indians, and only Western tune played being the "Abide with me" hymn, Mahatma Gandhi's favourite.
A row of caparisoned camels from the Border Security Force Camel Mounted Band stood in the background on the Rajpath, framing the canvas for the performers.
Beating Retreat is a centuries-old military tradition dating to the days when troops disengaged at sunset. In ancient days, the sounding of a conch shell was the symbol of the day coming to an end, replaced by the bugle for the modern day warriors.
While traditionally, the Beating Retreat and tattoos have been about drums and bugles, in the present day, military tattoos have incorporated more instruments and new compositions aimed at stirring the spirit of patriotism.
The ceremony that was observed at the Rajpath, however, traces its origins to the early 1950s when Major Roberts of the Indian Army indigenously developed the unique ceremony of display by the massed bands.
While the Republic Day Parade is a show of strength, where the arms, weapons and new defence acquisitions are displayed along with cultural heritage, the Beating Retreat marks its ceremonial end, and the President permits the three wings of the Armed Forces to retreat with the celebrations being over.
Unlike former President Pranab Mukherjee, who preferred the Presidential Buggy to arrive at the ceremonial, President Kovind embarked on a Mercedes Benz limousine, the official vehicle of the President of India.
Sitting close to the President, who is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, were the three service chiefs - Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba and Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who sat next to Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, and had Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman seated right behind him, was seen tapping his fingers with the rhythm as the bands progressed with their performances.
The tunes played included some of the most popular ones including 'Vaishnav Jan', 'Ae Mere Vatan Ke Logo' and 'Vande Matram'. The event came to a close with the ever-popular "Sare Jahan se Achha".
As the event drew to a close, the magnficent buildings in the surroundings -- the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the home of the President, the North Block and the South Block, which are home to key ministries, as well as the Parliament building, the temple of India's democracy, were lit, glowing in the background of an evening sky just after the sunset.
After the President left the venue with his guards, crowd was seen gathering around Prime Minister Modi, clicking pictures and selfies.
This year, 18 Military Bands, 15 Pipes and Drums Bands from Regimental Centres and Battalions performed at the ceremony, along with one each of Navy and Air Force, and bands of the State Police and CAPF comprising Central Industrial Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Delhi Police participated.