The India Pakistan Border Ceremony is not to be missed when visiting Punjab. This extremely sensitive area in India and Pakistan put their differences on hold, (or perhaps they show off their military might) and hold a show for spectators as the Wagah-Attari border crossing, closes for the evening.
We came quite close to the Pakistan border during our camel safari in Rajasthan and we admit, we felt a bit of unease as the border of India and Pakistan is extremely militarized and there is a lot of unrest.
In the desert, we thought we were pushing the envelope when we heard we were a mere 30 km away, however just outside of Amritsar in the state of Punjab a person can come as close as they can get without actually crossing the border.
The India Pakistan Border Ceremony
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Every evening in a small town just 35 km from Amritsar, The India and Pakistan border security force put on a spectacular show.
These men are not trained performers, they are trained soldiers. But the dance they do will give any dancer a run for their money!
Thousands of people, tourists and locals flock to the grandstands to watch the friendly competition between India and Pakistan.
Crowds on Both Sides
Both Indian and Pakistani citizens come to the border to watch the show.
The event celebrates the closing of the border each evening. It’s an elaborate ceremony and it is packed.
The feeling is like a rock concert or football match and not to be missed.
We arrive at the India Pakistan border to several security checks before entering the grounds.
Grandstands surround both sides of the border and loud music blasts from loudspeakers.
People dance in the street to Jai Ho, All is well, We Twist and other Bollywood classics.
The atmosphere is festive, but this event is serious.
The India Pakistan Rivalry
India and Pakistan have a strained relationship but at the border, differences are set aside and this is a peaceful moment of friendship and good old fashioned rivalry.
It feels more like a football match than a border crossing.
People around us wave flags and shout “Long Live India” along with many other chants and cheers.
They pause just long enough for us to hear shouts from across the Wagah border of “Pak-I-Stan” which causes even more of an uproar.
The Ceremony Begins
Once the sun starts to set, the music is turned off and the ceremony begins.
An emcee leads the crowd through cheers as the Indian border guards begin their marches.
These aren’t your ordinary every day marches.
No way, they are full-on with high kicks and skips. Arms are a swinging, heads are turning, and the melodrama is in full force.
It’s like something out of Monty Python more than watching a military ceremony.
Indian soldiers take turns running down the street towards the border at top speed with perfect erect posture.
Their white spatterdashes over their military boots are a blur over their polished black boots and their high ornate rooster like hats are easy to spot.
The emcee silences the crowd
For a brief moment, the border gate opens and you can see right through to Pakistan. India’s soldiers are dressed in green and Pakistan in black.
Soldiers from each side go through a series of strong poses, popping and locking their arms like a Russian dance before standing at attention.
The crowd roars
A friendly wave between spectators says, “Nice to meet you Pakistan!”
The guards’ exchange handshakes, and before you know it the gate closes again.
Flag Lowering Ceremony
Both the Pakistani Rangers and the Indian Security Force carry their flags for the lowering ceremony. This happens on a daily basis and is a tradition that is taken seriously.
As the ceremony continues, the crowd goes wild.
Everyone wants to stand and cheer, but the guards keep a close eye and everyone must remain seated and orderly.
These guys and gals are heavily armed and you don’t want to disobey.
Border Ceremony Lasts 45 minutes
Chants, marches, running, and ceremony. It’s a frenzy of activity until the flags on either side are finally lowered.
Immediately the everyone in the crowd rushes to the side of the road.
When I say everyone, I mean everyone. Thousands of people are crushed against the chain gate to wait for the signal to go to the border.
We rush towards Pakistan for a closer view. We must stay on the Indian Border side, but manage to peer through the gates and snap our photos of this untouchable land.
It isn’t long before we are ordered out, and we begin our 1 km walk back to the parking area where we meet our taxi to take us back to Amritsar.
The crowd celebrates their patriotism all the way back and the energy is high.
We hop in our shared taxi as we drive back to Amritsar and say to ourselves, “What on earth did we just wintess?
The India-Pakistan Border ceremony is one of the most unique experiences of our lives.
Tips for Visiting the India Pakistan Border Ceremony
The India Pakistan border is located on Grand Trunk Road between Amritsar and Lahore in Pakistan. It takes about 45 minutes to get there from downtown Amritsar.
- Shared taxi’s can be booked in Amritsar for 75 Rs per person.
- These shared taxi’s are small and cram 8 people in.
- If you pay 100 Rs per person you can go with 6 people for a more comfortable ride.
- Private Taxi’s are 600 Rs
- Taxi’s can be hired just outside of the Golden Palace or anywhere on the main street.
- They start selling seats at 2:00 pm and you leave by approximately 3:30.
- You arrive back in Amritsar by 7:30
- No bags are allowed
- Bring your Passport
- Camera’s and water are allowed
- $1 USD = 45 Rs