Before 1947, the areas now known as India and Pakistan were one united territory under British rule. After a series of both peaceful and violent uprisings from those who wished for independence, Britain — which similarly was struggling to manage the territories — gave in. In August 1947, the British Parliament enacted the Indian Independence Act and the Partition of India. The Partition divided up over 175,000 square miles — home to nearly 90 million people — and created (among other nations) both India and Pakistan. The Radcliffe Line became the border between the two nations.
In the half-century-plus since, relations between India and Pakistan have been less than friendly. Still today, few roads transverse the between the border of India and Pakistan. One border gate is at a village called Wagah; the village itself was split by the Radcliffe Line, half in each country. And every evening, the heavily patrolled border at Wagah closes to traffic — with, in the words of the video below, “well-choreographed contempt.”
The routine runs about 45 minutes (the video is just under five minutes) and involves no weapons. It attracts a crowd of tourists and viewers, on both sides of the border, resulting in stadiums built on either side. Spectators chant for their country throughout. Witness, below (or click here), the Wagah Border Closing Ceremony: a dance routine straight out of a bad, Indo-Pakistani vaudeville dream.
The most critical point in the ceremony is comes at the end: the flag lowering. Both sides work together to take care that the flags are lowered in sync, as not to offend the other side. Indeed, the two nations collaborate on the ceremony regularly. This past summer, citing knee and injuries from repetitive goose-stepping, the two sides agreed to tone down the dance.
Bonus fact: In Strasbourgh, France, in 1518, a woman named Frau Troffea began dancing in the streets. She continued to do so for four to six days. Soon, dozens more joined her. By the end of a month’s time, hundreds of people were dancing. Many died from the constant dancing, most likely due to exhaustion, stroke, or heart attack. No one knows what caused the apparently contagious need to dance.
From the Archives: Kentucky, Disconnected: The border between Kentucky and Tennessee is peaceful, but no less silly (albeit in a different way).
Related: “The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan” by Yasmin Khan. Four stars on ten reviews.