India

Ceremony on Wagah-Atari border

Extraordinary ceremony

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Ceremony on Wagah-Atari border
Inserted: 14.02.2014
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This border crossing is one of the few border crossings between the two rivals – India and Pakistan. Very unusual ceremony of closing the border takes place here every day at sunset. There are a lot of visitors, both local and foreign. If you are in Amritsar or Lahore, this event is definitely worth seeing.

Crowd before the entrance

There are more possibilities how to get from Amritsar to about 25 km distant border. Someone will probably offer you a ride directly at the Golden Temple or elsewhere on the street. It's advisable to set out early in the afternoon, because you need to go through several security checks.

Crowd before the entrance
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Guarded border

There is quite a considerable rivalry between these two nuclear powers and so the border is closely guarded. The border crossing is, according to some sources, the only one where foreigners can pass through.

Guarded border
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Bleachers

There are bleachers to watch the ceremony that reportedly have just on the Indian side the capacity of 5,000 spectators.

Bleachers
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Like in a sports match

Bleachers are almost always filled to the last place and there is often also crowd of unfortunates before the entrance gate trying to look inside.

Like in a sports match
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Pakistan in sight

On the Pakistani side the bleachers are somewhat smaller and even visits tend to be more modest than on the Indian side.

Pakistan in sight
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Reserved sectors

Foreigners, however, usually do not have to worry about the place, because they turn just before the main entrance to the left and after another security check go directly to the grandstand reserved just for foreigners, which is closer to the gate (border) itself. In addition to a section for foreigners there are also sections dedicated for women or for VIP.

Reserved sectors
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Security guard

Not far above you can see armed soldiers looking like from an action movie. It's hard to say whether their presence gives you a greater sense of security or vice versa. Anyway, every now and then you will be told to sit, not move too much or just anything else.

Security guard
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Moments before the ceremony

Before the guard itself lines up for the ceremony, a running to the gate takes place on the road with flags that are exchanged between women from the audience. Locals obviously have a good time and a lot of guardians supervise over everything.

Moments before the ceremony
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Presenter

Presenter with a microphone contributes to the overall atmosphere by shouting various slogans and all people in the stands complement him (e.g.  „Hindustan-Zindabad“ i.e. „Long live to India“). They want to be lauder than those on the Pakistani side who have similar slogans for the glory of Pakistan. Mutual rivalry between the two nuclear superpowers can be really felt here.

Presenter
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Gateway to Pakistan

After a while opens the border gate and there are all indications that everything breaks out in a moment. Also on the Pakistani side there are people who support their fellow citizens.

Gateway to Pakistan
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Women in the guard

There are several women on the Indian side in the border guards and they also participate in the ceremony. On the Pakistani side you will not see women, of course.

Women in the guard
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Formation

The guards form individually or in groups by rather quick march, which looks rather like a run.

Formation
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March

Some marching elements are relatively uncommon and require without any doubt considerable gymnastic training.

March
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Rivalry

Various movements and facial expressions are intended to demonstrate to the rivals “we are not afraid“. In this aspect, however, both sides are pretty well coordinated and balanced. Flags will be pull out at the same time begins in several minutes.

Rivalry
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Pull out of the flag

Flags are down at the same moment. It remains to fold them and carry away.

Pull out of the flag
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The end of ceremony

Guardsman carry the folded flag away and the official part of the ceremony is thus basically over. Sometimes even the spectators from both sides also threaten each other with their fists and show again that the rivalry between the two countries is rooted fairly deep.

You will get back to Amritsar in the darkness as the ceremony ends up with the sunset.

The end of ceremony
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