Wagah is a border town straddling the line between Pakistan and India, 29 km from the town of Lahore on the Pakistani side and 27 km from Amritsar on the Indian side. This is the only crossing point between Pakistan and India that is regularly open to foreigners.
The Wagah Border Ceremony (Flag Lowering) is conducted every day at sunset in the border between India and Pakistan located on the Amritsar – Lahore highway. It is performed jointly by the armed forces of both the countries. Number of tourists from both sides of the border gather here to witness this grand celebration.
At 2.30pm my friend Apurva and I hired a taxi from our hotel in Amritsar to Wagah Border. Taxi cost for round trip was 1000 rs. Our driver warned us about the crowd and It took good 45mins to reach. It looked like a carnival filled with people of all age group coming in overloaded rickshaws, cars and buses getting more and more people from Amritsar and surrounding towns where people came dressed vibrantly with painted faces and hawkers trying their best to make some money.
We walked over a kilometer and went through strict security check
There were more people than the place could accommodate. We quickly managed to find a place to sit on the concrete steps. I could see separate entry and seating for VIP’s and foreigners. Bollywood and patriotic songs were played through loud speakers, hundreds of people were waving flags and shouting patriotic slogans.
Soon the action began when children and women of all ages and nationalities started to dance and next moment I get to see these women lined up. It has become a practice where they hold our national flag and run to border gate and back. Watching this while seated men cheered from a distance as they were not allowed to participate. After some 15 minutes everyone were asked to retreat to their seats.
All this while I had forgotten to look at the other side. Yes!! It was my first encounter with Pakistan and Pakistani’s through the iron gates. They came in fewer numbers compared to the crowd in the Indian side, like us they waved flags and flashed mobile lights on us. The atmosphere was intense with competitive cheering between the people of two nations. It was only getting louder and the aggression and anger was clearly visible.
Around 5 pm BSF(Border Security Force) guards marched in and the parade began. Guards on both sides parade down the road aggressively with high kicks and exchange severe looks. What annoyed me the most was the people in front rows standing up every now and then during the ceremony that blocked the view of people like me sitting at the back. As the sun began to set, iron gates were opened. Both the national flags were lowered and carefully folded and the ceremony completed with a handshake between the guards of both the nations. It was a moment of national pride, unity, a deep sense of belonging in the great country of ours that every Indian would enjoy witnessing it.
May be the feeling and experience wouldn’t have been the same if it was happening anywhere else or between any other countries. Matter of fact that the relation between these two countries has strained and border line remains questionable, it makes the whole ceremony a very enjoyable and enthralling one.
Best time to visit the Wagah border is throughout the months of October to March, as the weather is pleasant. The flag lowering ceremony is conducted before sunset around 4:30 pm in winters and 5:30 pm in summers.
How to Reach
Car: From Amritsar, Wagah is about 45 minutes away by car. Most tourists can take a taxi through their hotels for a round trip, which includes the waiting time at Wagah for Rs 1000. Even outside the Golden Temple, you will come across many taxi drivers asking If you would like to visit the Wagah border.
Auto: The fare for auto is Rs.400.
Bus: There are public buses to Attari station, from where you can continue the last 3 km to the border by rickshaw
Make sure you reach there an hour earlier to find a suitable seat in the open-air theatre.
Other than camera, phone and small purse/wallet you are not allowed to carry anything.
Carry a hat and apply sunscreen if you are going in summer months.
Take extra care of your belongings. Pick pocketing is very common.
Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh are other major tourist attractions nearby.
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