Playing with Anthems.

An age old aphorism in Marathi advises, ‘Don’t search the source of a river or attempt to fathom the pedigree of a Rishi. It enunciates wisdom that if a river supports life or a rishi nourishes souls of people at some place, then don’t needlessly sniff about for the origins of either. Otherwise one may very likely discover to one’s dismay that the river is polluted upstream or the rishi has an unsavoury past. Well as the English would say “Let the sleeping dogs sleep” or as Americans are fond of saying, “If isn’t broke don’t fix it”.


I became aware about the story behind the birth of ‘Jan Gan Man…’ may be one & a half decade earlier, quite late in life. Luckily so because I had enough sense by then to discriminate between crucial and trivial. It did not perturb me. Just little earlier government was compelled to ring down the curtain on mandatory playing of our national anthem in Cinema halls as the ‘Indian Patriots’ walked out  or loitered around nonchalantly without according ‘respect’ due to a symbol of nationhood. Symbols by themselves are meaningless empty shells. When people invest ideas & emotions in them, they acquire their generative power to represent & to inspire.


By and large people believe that “Bhagya Vidhata” refers to mother-nation, irrespective of whatever Rabindranath intended. Since an anthem is only a symbol of “We the people……”, what should & would count is our collective belief. Should then historical facts be ignored? Not at all. One must seek & respect truth and truth alone. Another great symbol of Indian nationhood, “Satyamev Jayate”, mandates just that but is rarely observed in our public praxis. Whoever researched this fact and brought it into public consciousness should be complimented. But we should be alive to & aware of those, who are willfully abusing it to rake up a controversy. If everything British is reprehensible, including song composed praising their king, then as a first step all of us should shun English tongue at once to demonstrate our patriotism.


Since “Vande Mataram……” is, so to say, ‘flavour of the day’, why not look into its pedigree. Vande Mataram was first published in 1882 as part of the Bengali novel “Anand Math” by Bankimchandra Chaterjee. While Sanyasi revolt of 1772-73 provided the kernel, reputed critics of the work held it to be purely fictional – a creature of writer’s imagination. However, Kishanchand Bhakat, teacher at M.N. Academy High School, Lalgola, district Murshidabad, has through painstaking research brought out the genesis of the novel. While working as a deputy collector for British, once Bankimchandra was roughed up by a British colonel. Rest is an absorbing story of research narrated in an article by Pradip Bhattacharya (To read full article click here). Narration of events that Kishanchand has put together leaves no doubt that the novel & the poem are deeply imbued with religious imagery & symbolism. Religionist of other persuasions may find it inappropriate to recite as an anthem. Neelakshi Jatar raised a pertinent point earlier when she commented, “However, isn’t it necessary to explain to all those of us who do not /or do not try to/ know the meaning of the words in Vande Mataram before we begin a campaign to make it our anthem?” Aurobindo held it a religious devotional song, and not just patriotic. Original poem comprises of several stanzas but constituent assembly (CA) found only first two appropriate for adoption.


A book by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, The Biography of a Song, I was told, traces the evolution of the song in nation’s mind space. Some serious objections to the song stem from the context in which it is set, that is the Anandmath novel. Since I have not read it even in translation, Bengali is beyond me, I can not say anything about it. Objectors however claim that it is rabidly anti-Muslim & explicitly blood thirsty. Even if true, CA accorded Vande Mataram a status rivaling our national anthem not because of its context of Anandmath, but since it was made into a proud defiance of British rule by revolutionaries like Bismil, Azad, Bhagat Singh  and Ashfaqullah Khan. Yet another instance of how symbols are transformational & not static entities, whose meanings change through association with acts of people. In 1905 British mooted a proposal to partition Bengal. Popular sentiments rose against it in one voice and at a rally “Vande Mataram” was shouted as an act of defiance & articulation of Bengali sentiments. A legend was born & countless other freedom fighters turned it into an icon of rising nationhood. When even Muslims found it then a rousing slogan, why devalue it by letting those who play politics use us, Muslims / Hindu / others, as unwitting pawns in their polarizing games.


Rohit Bal mentioned a stirring poem penned by Subhash Chandra Bose that was the anthem of Azad Hind Sarkar in exile. Few know about it. Even “Jai Hind” salutation was coined by him.  I found the poem on the net.


Subh Sukh Chain ki barkha barse; Bharat bhag hai jaga
Punjab, Sind, Gujrat, Maratha, Dravid, Utkal, Banga
Chanchal Sagar Vindh Himala; Nila Jamuna Ganga
Tere nit gun gayen; tujh se jiwan paen;
Sab tan paye asha.

Suraj ban kar jag par chamke, Bharat nam subhaga
Jaya ho, Jaya ho, Jaya ho, Jaya, Jaya, Jaya, Jaya ho,
Sab ke dil men prit basae; teri mithi bani
Har sub eke rahne wale; har mazhab ke prani
Sab bhed aur farak mita ke; sab god me teri ake,
Goondhe prem ki mala

Suraj ban kar jag par chamke, Bharat nam subhaga
Jaya ho, Jaya ho, Jaya ho, Jaya, Jaya, Jaya, Jaya ho,
Bharat naam Subhaga
Subh savere pankh pakharu; tere hi gun gayen
Bas bhari bharpur hawaen; jiwan men rut layen
Sab mil kar Hind pukaren; Jai Azad Hind ke nare
Piara desh hamara

Suraj ban kar jag par chamke, Bharat nam subhaga
Jaya ho, Jaya ho, Jaya ho, Jaya, Jaya, Jaya, Jaya ho,
Bharat naam Subhaga.


*Jai Hind*


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