Amid soulful classical renditions and foot-tapping numbers rending the air as the Raisina Hill dazzled in a kaleidoscope of colours, the Beating Retreat ceremony was held in New Delhi on Monday, which marked the culmination of Republic Day celebrations.
Held at the majestic Vijay Chowk, the event included a tribute piece for late Marshal of Indian Air Force Arjan Singh.
The function began with President Ram Nath Kovind arriving at the venue, his first appearance at the Beating Retreat ceremony as the Head of State, with his ceremonial motorcade.
His predecessor, Pranab Mukherjee, had ridden the ceremonial buggy down the Raisina Hill last year for the event.
Several performances by Army, Air Force and Naval bands, among other troupes, thrilled the audience with patriotic fervour, as they cheered loudly against the backdrop of a delightful twilight.
But, one piece by the Air Force Band was rather special and it lifted the spirits of the crowd high in the air -- 'The Great Marshal'.
The lilting music, produced with percussion instruments, which included African drums was arranged specially for the Air Force Marshal, who died last September at the age of 98.
With flawless performance by the bandsmen, 'The Great Marshal' won the hearts of the audience.
Several paramilitary bands, pipes and drums bands from regimental centres and battalions also enthralled the crowd, with a clear sky and relatively warm weather adding to the cheerful atmosphere.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa and Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba were present on the occasion.
Dressed in brown kurta, white pyjama with a printed shawl thrown over a bundi, the Prime Minister was seen tapping his feet and knuckles during the course of the performances.
After the event, he even reciprocated to the enthusiastic crowd, as he ventured out into a stand, leaving behind his VVIP security cover, and shook hands with people, young and old.
Some of the instrumental pieces that cast a spell on the audience were -- 'Manohar' by Tri-Services Military Band with accompaniment of Indian instruments, 'Kingdom Of Heaven' by Army Band, and 'Abide With Me' by Massed Bands.
As the bugle was sounded for the retreat, the Raisina Hill complex lit up in a riot of colours, the illumination powered by LEDs rather than the traditional incandescent bulbs.
The neighbouring buildings, like Rail Bhawan and Udyog Bhawan, however, still carried the traditional lighting.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Health Minister J P Nadda were also present at the event.
In a break from tradition, the imposing Rashtrapti Bhawan, and the twin North Block and South Block were bathed in a dynamic LED display, evoking a different aura of the landscape.
"Every year, we are used to seeing the countless bulbs lighting up brilliantly towards the end of the Retreat ceremony, and people would let out a huge cheer. This time, its a new lighting and hence that hurrah reaction was not quite there," a security personnel on duty, who did not wish to be named, said.
The Beating Retreat ceremony is similar to an annual pilgrimage for many Delhiiites and some visitors even come from nearby places, just to see the dazzling lights, but this year, they were in for a colourful surprise.
In the Rashtrapati Bhawan complex, the central dome towered over the historic building, was bathed in tricolour pattern, the facade in dynamic white, while the iconic Jaipur Column was standing in all blue, evoking a patriotic fervour.
The two Blocks flanking the steeped road leading to the main gate of the President's Estate, wore a multi-coloured hue -- pink, blue, green, yellow, red -- to the accompaniment of instrumental music pieces.
"I attended the event for the first time. I brought my DSLR, only to capture the dazzling display of light at the end. The light scheme is also good but the bulbs create a magical aura, And, static lighting makes for a better photography too," Abhishek Ranjan, who lives in south Delhi, said.
Last October, the Central Public Works Department had launched a dynamic lighting system for the facade of the two Blocks, displaying a wide range of themes with up to 16 million colour combinations.
The iconic buildings are traditionally illuminated on eight select days through the year -- including Republic Day and Independence Day -- with static lighting.
This system covered an area of 16,750 sqm.
The new dynamic facade lighting, which saves energy, covers an area of 21,450 sqm, and has been on display on North Block and South Block since October, but on Monday, it was a lavish visual treat along with rich music, to mark the grand occasion.
All Photographs: Atul Yadav/PTI Photo