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National Anthem and National Song of India

Posted by Admin on September 1, 2014 | Comment

Both the national anthem and the song had been the fountainhead of inspiration for the freedom fighters in the pre-independence era. While the anthem has the message of pluralistic society and harmonious co-existence, the latter reflects the passionate fervour to break free from the foreign yoke and bring prosperity to the motherland. The history behind their origin is as interesting as their composition.

National Anthem and National Song of India

History of National Anthem

The national anthem has its origin in 1911, the same year when the British decided to shift the Capital from Calcutta to Delhi. There was renewed vigour among the Indians to fight for freedom. It was in the midst of this upheaval that the song Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka Jaya Hey was penned by Rabindranath Tagore. It was first sung by Tagore’s niece Sarala Devi at the annual conference of the Indian National Congress (INC) in Calcutta in 1911 (December 27). The song was addressed to an august gathering of INC leaders including Bishan Narayan Dar, Bhupendra Nath Bose and Ambika Charan Mazumder.

The song’s first public appearance happened in January 1912 under the title ‘Bharata-vidhata’ in the Brahmo Samaj-run news daily, which used to be edited by Tagore himself. Five years later in 1917, the song was again sung at the Congress conference. Tagore’s niece successfully introduced Jana Gana Mana as the “life-force of freedom fighters.”

Jana Gana Mana gained national prominence for the first time when the historic session of the Indian Constituent Assembly on August 15, 1947 concluded with the song. Finally on January 24, 1950, the first President of independent India, Rajendra Prasad officially declared Jana Gana Mana as the national anthem.

Why Jana Gana Mana Was Adopted as the National Anthem?

Jana Gana Mana was understood by all citizens of country irrespective of the differences in language. Most of the words used in the song have same meaning in different Indian languages. The song not only acquired wide acceptability among nationalists in every corner of the country, but it was also carried beyond the borders of the country, more so after it was translated into English as “The morning song of India”.

Notwithstanding the controversy that the song was a glorification of the British monarch King George V, Jana Gana Mana was adopted as the national anthem by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army. Even Mahatma Gandhi eulogized the song in 1946 when he said that “the song has found a place in our national life.” It was chosen as the national anthem after Vande Mataram was overruled by certain communities.

History of the National Song of India

Much before Vande Mataram (“I praise thee, Mother”) was accorded the status of national song of India, it found a place for the first time in the novel ‘Anandamath’, written by Bankim Chandra Chatterji in 1882. The author had worked for the British Indian government as a civil servant. Historical documents suggest that Chatterjee had conceived the idea of Vande Mataram around 1876 when he was still a government official.

The events such as the Revolt of 1857 and the Sannyasi Rebellion in the 18th century left an indelible impression on his mind. Chatterjee wrote Vande Matarm as a hymn to the motherland. He took the liberty of using words from Sanskrit and Bengali. The tune for the poem was composed by Jadunath Bhattacharya. Aurobindo Ghose translated the song into English both in the prose and verse forms.

The song played a vital role in the freedom movement. Vande Mataram was first sung in a political context by Rabindranath Tagore at the INC session in 1896.

Over a period of almost six decades, the song’s importance elevated and it garnered pan-India appeal. “Vande Mataram” became the national cry for freedom, whose utterance in public was later banned by the British. Several freedom fighters were imprisoned for singing it. The song was repeatedly sung in the Congress sessions held in 1896, 1901 and 1905. The song reached the pinnacle of popularity in the first decade of 20thcentury with Lala Lajpat Rai starting a journal of same name. In fact, the first version of Indian national flag created by Bhikaiji had Vande Mataram written in the middle band.

Why Vande Mataram Was Chosen as the National Song

Different theories exist as to why Vande Mataram was not chosen as the national anthem. The answer lies in the fact that Jana Gana Mana was more widely acceptable. Since Vande Mataram depicted India as ‘Mother Durga’, it offended other religions who are opposed to the idea of idol worship. Muslims were of the opinion that the origin of the song, Anandamatha, was a novel that had an anti-Muslim message.

Long before the song’s first two verses were proclaimed the national song of the India, the discussions had begun among the members of INC about the status it should have. During one such discussion in 1937, it was pointed out that though the first two stanzas could be interpreted as “unexceptionable evocation of the beauty of the motherland”, in the succeeding stanzas India is likened to the Hindu goddess Durga. Therefore, INC decided to adopt only the first two stanzas as the national song.