Abide With Me

A day after the eternal flame at Amar Jawan Jyoti was shifted to the National War Memorial, the government has dropped Abide With Me, the sombre highpoint of the conclusion of the Republic Day celebrations.

Penned in the pre-modern world by Henry Francis Lyte, a Scottish Anglican minister and son of a naval captain, the hymn, which is known for its simplicity and sombre theme, is often sung to English composer William Henry Monk’s evocative tune Eventide, and has been a fixture in the Indian Beating Retreat ceremony since 1950.

It is always the last piece to be played by the brass bands before the troops recede up Raisina Hill to the tune of poet Allama Iqbal’s Saare jahan se achha.

Played at dusk, this is also the last piece before the retreat buglers bring down the Indian flag.

In 2020, reports had emerged about the hymn being dropped from the Beating Retreat Ceremony and being replaced by poet Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s Vande Mataram. Following criticism, the hymn was played in 2020 and retained in 2021.

View of Gandhi

Abide With Me was one of Mahatma Gandhi’s personal favourites. The Father of the Nation first heard the piece played by Mysore Palace Band, and could not forget its tenderness and serenity.

At Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, the ashram bhajanavali — the first and probably the only cross-religion hymnal anywhere — with the bhajans ‘Vaishnav Jan Toh’ and the well-known Ram Dhun by Tulsidas, ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ in it, Abide With Me, along with Lead Kindly Light, was put together under Gandhi’s watch.

Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon

Abide With Me has been replaced by Kavi Pradeep’s seminal piece Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon, which was written in the wake of the Sino-Indian War, and went on to become a tableau of Indian nationalism.

The song was first sung on January 27, 1963. Composed by C Ramachandra and sung by Lata Mangeshkar, it was first performed at Delhi’s National Stadium in a fundraiser organised by the film industry for Indian war widows.

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