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When Pride, Innovation, Indigenisation & Heritage were in the Air

The annual Beating Retreat ceremony this year witnessed light, arts, music, and patriotism like never before with the first ever laser and drones show

Issue: 02-2022By Ayushee ChaudharyPhoto(s): By PIB
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and other dignitaries at the ‘Beating Retreat’ Ceremony, at Vijay Chowk, in New Delhi on January 29, 2022.

As the celebrations of the 73rd Republic Day of India approached its conclusion, the capital was accessorised like never before. To add to the highlights marking 75 years of India’s independence, the annual Beating Retreat ceremony witnessed a breath taking display of indigenisation through a drones show. This year’s Beating Retreat that was held at Vijay Chowk in New Delhi on January 29, 2022, witnessed “marching on ground, music in air and sparkle in sky”.

A total of 1,000 ‘Make in India’ drones took to the sky during the ceremony, depicting a “jugalbandi of tradition and technology, lights and music,” as noted by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). This spectacular feat has allowed India to become only the 4th nation after China, Russia and UK to carry out such a large scale show with 1,000 drones. The nation’s biggest ‘Drone Show’ was executed by Indian startup, Botlab Dynamics under Union Ministry of Science and Technology and led by IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Delhi alumni. The show, was conceptualised, designed, produced and choreographed under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. For the first time, the novel drone show was made a part of the ceremony to commemorate 75 years of Independence, being celebrated as ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. The show went on for the duration of 10 minutes involving around 1,000 drones fabricated through indigenous technology. Synchronised background music and narration was also played during the drone show. From Mahatma Gandhi’s figure to the national war memorial, a rotating globe to a map of India consisting of a chakra in the centre, etc pieces of art heritage were created in the air with much precision. The Light Show marked the conclusion of nearly week long programmes related to Republic Day. This year Republic Day celebrations were initiated on January 23, marking Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s 125th birth anniversary.

Band performing at the ‘Beating Retreat’ ceremony, at Vijay Chowk, in New Delhi on January 29, 2022

Before the ceremony, Dr Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of Science and Technology, interacted with Botlabs’ team at his residence. He said that the start-Up, Botlab Dynamics was given an initial seed fund of one crore for R&D by Department of Science & Technology (DST) and subsequently 2.5 crore for scale up and commercialization by TDB (Technology Development Board) to develop first of its kind technological project in India. The Minister reiterated the government’s commitment to support more of such innovative and sustainable start-ups to fulfil Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of making India a global hub of start-up ecosystem.

The start-up incubated at IIT and was able to develop a fleet 1,000 swarm drones in six months after getting financial support from TDB.The ministry informed that the project was developed indigenously within the country, comprising development of all the necessary components, including both hardware and software such as the flight controller (brain of the drone); precision GPS; motor controller; Ground Control Station (GCS) algorithms etc.

Showcased on the walls of North and South Block before the end of the ceremony, the projection mapping show brought Vijay Chowk to life

Dr Sarita Ahlawat, MD of Botlab Dynamics said that the Drone Project could become successful only due to full financial support provided by the Ministry of Science and Technology, as Private Sector was reluctant to hand-hold the hardware start-up. She thanked the engineers associated with the project for letting go the lucrative MNC offers and owning up the idea.

She also thanked the Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh for all the support and encouragement for the project “Design and Development of a Reconfigurable Swarming System Consisting of 500-1,000 Drones for 3D Choreographed Drone Light Shows”.

A mega drone show involving 1,000 drones lit up the sky, during the ‘Beating Retreat’ ceremony in New Delhi on January 29, 2022.

Dr Jitendra Singh said, the success of this project is a perfect example of inter-ministerial coordination wherein everyone from senior officials to the last executing official of MoD, DST, TDB and IIT Delhi all worked together to make this programme a success and supporting the company in demonstrating the accomplishment of Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission.

With its unique mandate, TDB provides financial assistance to Indian industrial concerns and other agencies, attempting development and commercial application of indigenous technologies, or adapting imported technologies to wider domestic applications. The other aspect which makes TDB funding different from other financial bodies is that it also funds companies which involve high-risk technologies.


Another attraction was the projection mapping show to commemorate 75 years of independence. The show went on for around 3-4 minutes of duration. Showcased on the walls of North and South Block before the end of the ceremony, the show brought Vijay Chowk to life. From our ancient scriptures to the great personalities from Indian history; the freedom fighters to our guarding soldiers; the evolution of knowledge systems and the technology; the growth of India; the farmers and their toil; the “Make In India” importance; the show displayed the past, present, and the future highlights and potential of the nation. It was also an effort to rewind the 75 years of India’s independence.


The bands have been the major highlight of the Beating Retreat ceremony for years now. However, this time even the bands had some novelty to their programme with the inclusion of new tunes that added zeal to the ceremony. This year’s ceremony’s theme was martial musical tunes with Indian fervour. Several new tunes were added to the ceremony this year in order to celebrate ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. These include ‘Kerala’, ‘Hind ki Sena’ and ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’. The event came to a close with the ever-popular tune of ‘Sare Jahan se Acha’. For this year, the government dropped ‘Abide With Me’, the somber highpoint of the conclusion of the Republic Day celebrations and replaced it with ‘Ae Mere Watan ke Logon’. The ‘Abide With Me’ hymn has been sung in the Indian Beating Retreat ceremony since 1950 as the last piece before the retreat buglers bring down the Indian flag.

A total of 26 performances by the bands enthralled the audience this year with foot-tapping music played by the bands of Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). As the bands marched, performed and the music went higher; the spirit at Vijay Chowk continued to rise parallel. The entry band was Massed Band playing the ‘Veer Sainik’ tune, followed by Pipes & Drums Band, CAPF Band, Air Force Band, Naval Band, Army Military Band and Massed Bands.

Here’s a look at what the bands played this year:

  • Massed Bands played ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’ song commemorating Indian soldiers who died during the Sino-Indian War in 1962 arranged for Military band by MAJ S.R. Bhusal.
  • Army military band performed the composition Siki A Mole by L.B. Gurung.
  • The ‘Kerala’ composition by CHM N. Madhavan Nair was played by the Army Military band.
  • The Air Force band played to the tune of ‘Ladaakoo-the fighter’ composed by FLT LT L.S. Rupachandra.
  • The CAPF India played ‘Hathroi’ composed by FH Reid.
  • A quick march with pipes & drum played ‘Jai Janam Bhumi’ composed by Sub Major C.S. Bhandari.
  • Military melody played ‘Hey Kanchha’ composed by L.B. Gurung.

As the sun set behind the trails of the projection mapping and the drones; patriotism; nostalgia and motivation gripped the atmosphere. After all the performances were done; the buglers officially closed the ceremony after the President’s ceremony and he was then escorted to his residence.

‘Beating the Retreat’ is a centuries-old military tradition dating from the days when troops disengaged from battle at sunset. As soon as the buglers sounded the retreat, the troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield. It is for this reason that the custom of standing still during the sounding of retreat has been retained to this day. Colours and standards are cased and flags lowered at retreats. Drumbeats recall the days when troops, billeted in towns and cities, were recalled to their quarters at an appointed time in the evening.

Similar to the Republic Day Parade, eco-friendly invitation cards were prepared for the ‘Beating Retreat’ ceremony relevant to the COVID-19 times. The cards were prepared with the seeds of medicinal plants of Ashwagandha, Aloe Vera and Amla embedded in it. People were encouraged to plant it in their gardens/flower pots; the official press release informed.