Wagah Border Crossing

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The Wagah Border, approximately 28 kms west from Amritsar on the NH1, was the only road link between Pakistan and India before the opening of the Aman Setu in Kashmir in 1999. The controversial Radcliffe Line in 1947 was drawn through Wagah village, dividing it into two.

The border crossing functions as a military point in order to prevent any persons travelling to either country. However, the main attraction at the Wagah Border is the colourful theatrical ceremony, the ‘lowering of the flags’, which is held each evening to close the gates. Almost every single day since 1959 elite soldiers from both nations have squared off – a performance unlike any other.

Tourists gather on either side of the Wagah crossing to watch the border forces of both sides perform the ceremony with much gusto and co-ordinated precision. This thoroughly practiced choreographed routine which consists of speed marching, stomping, stamping and high-kicking, is performed with much gusto and co-ordinated precision and is a great tourist attraction. Many international tourists, and locals from both countries, gather here to view the eccentricities of the Indian Border Security Force and the Pakistani Rangers. The elaborately colourful uniforms worn by the guards, the turbans, the fancy attire and accessories complement the aggressive mood and the choreography of patriotism.

The ceremony starts with a blustering parade by the soldiers from both the sides and ends up in the perfectly coordinated lowering of the two nation’s flags. One infantryman stands at attention on each side of the gate and, as the sun sets, the iron gate at the border is opened and the flags are lowered. The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side.

As relations between the two nations have become more cordial in recent years, and the strain the elaborate ceremony had on soldier’s joints, both countries agreed to tone down the aggressiveness exhibited by soldiers in October 2010.

Visitors to Amritsar are assured of transport facilities to get to Wagah Border. Buses and taxis operate on this route and travellers can also ride the special buses which are assigned to do the round trip every evening. The journey itself is rather interesting as visitors are afforded some of the rare sights of Amritsar landscape.

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