Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn ‘Abide with me’ dropped from Beating Retreat tunes

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Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn ‘Abide with me’ dropped from Beating Retreat tunes

  • The traditional Christian hymn ‘Abide with me’, a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, has been dropped from the list of tunes for this year’s Beating Retreat ceremony.
  • The tune had been played at the annual ceremony every year since 1950. ‘Abide with me’ is played by the Massed Bands at the end of the ceremony and this year there are three tunes without it instead of the four tunes played last year including the Hymn.

Abide With Me

  • Henry Francis Lyte wrote the hymn in 1820 after visiting a friend, who in his last moments continually uttered “abide with me”, a request to ease his pain.
  • But he kept the piece to himself until his own death in 1847.
  • Paradoxically, the first time the hymn was actually sung was at Lyte’s own funeral in Nice years after it was originally written.
  • The hymn, which is popular across Christian denominations, was also played at the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • The piece also became significant and popular during World War I.
  • Edith Cavell, a British nurse, would go on to sing it the night before she was shot by a German squad for helping British soldiers escape from occupied Belgium. It is still sung during various military services in Australia and New Zealand.

Significance in India

  • Abide With Me was one of Mahatma Gandhi’s personal favourites.
  • The Father of the Nation first heard the piece played by Mysore Palace Band, and could not forget its tenderness and serenity.
  • At Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, the ashram bhajanavali — the first and probably the only cross-religion hymnal anywhere — with the bhajans ‘Vaishnav Jan Toh’ and the well-known Ram Dhun by Tulsidas, ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ in it, Abide With Me, along with Lead Kindly Light, was put together under Gandhi’s watch.
  • The hymnal is sung regularly in church choirs, and in schools and educational institutions in the country.
  • It has been translated into various Indian languages.
  • There is also an Usha Uthup version of the hymn in a Bangla film titled ‘Madly Bengali’.

In place of the hymn

  • Abide With Me has been replaced by Kavi Pradeep’s seminal piece Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon, which was written in the wake of the Sino-Indian War, and went on to become a tableau of Indian nationalism.
  • The song was first sung on January 27, 1963. Composed by C Ramachandra and sung by Lata Mangeshkar, it was first performed at Delhi’s National Stadium in a fundraiser organised by the film industry for Indian war widows.
  • Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru welled up as the six-and-a-half-minute song was sung.