Wagah Flag Ceremony

On the Pakistan-India border the militaries perform an elaborate theater of aggression each and every night

The village of Wagah lies on a contentious border. Its eastern half remains in India as it has always been, while its Western half is in Pakistan, split down the middle by the British in 1947. Wagah remains the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan, though trucks and mail trucks are not allowed to pass. Porters must carry items across the border from an Indian truck onto a Pakistani one, or vice versa. Every sunset for 62 years the crossing between the two countries has been closed in the Wagah flag ceremony. It is a spectacle not to be missed.

Each night the Indian military, and the Pakistani Rangers step out to the cheers of thousands of spectators. While one side screams “Pakistan Zindabad” or “Long live Pakistan,” the other shouts “Jai Hind” or “Long live India. Wearing almost identical military regalia of boots, spats, uniforms, metals, mustaches and plumed hats the two sides are distinguishable by the differing colors of their uniforms: dark green for the Pakistani Rangers and tan for the Indian Military.

Heated looks, mimicked threats, goose stepping and the slap of boots hitting the pavement are all part of the ritual and the movements all bear a distinct resemblance to those of angry birds. Carrying loaded weapons the two sides perform a final elaborate series of steps, speed marching towards each other in an aggressive dance before meeting in the middle and taking the flags down simultaneously. There is the briefest of handshakes and then the gates are closed. The ceremony, for that day at least, is over.


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