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Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

National hymn: Vande Matram

By Alpana Thakur

In literature there will be rare examples, when a song played such an inspirational role in a freedom movement of a nation that numerous youngsters sacrificed their lives on the very song. In the literary history of the world it was a unique event when a book was used as an instrument in the freedom struggle of a country. This song from the book became a national hymn for the thousands of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the independence of their motherland. Apart from all these startling facts, no song had become as disputed as India’s national song “Vande Matram”.

The history of this song is also unique in itself. Noted nationalist and famous Bengali writer Bankim Chandra Chatterji wrote Vande Matram in an independent entity much before his novel Anand Math. The first edition of Anand Math was published in 1882. In the later stage, this song was included in Anand Math. And the song intermingled with the historical theme of the novel in such a way that where Anand Math became a potent weapon of Indian freedom movement, Vande Matram became a national hymn for the freedom fighters. Thousands of martyrs laid their lives with the chanting of Vande Matram.

Even today, there is lot of dispute with the time period of the song but it is sure that Bankim had written this song sometime during 1874-75. “You people will not understand the essence of the song. If you will remain alive for another 25 years then you will witness that the whole of Bengal will dance on this song,” Bankim had told the Editor of Bangh Darshan. In other words Anand Math is known for Vande Matram because the main message of the novel lies in the song. According to the Sidison Committee, “When this song was written it had not become so popular but in the later stage it was on everyone’s tongue.”

Maulana had no answer for this question, so he left the stage and Puluskar completed the song. But the problem was not solved. In 1937 due to stiff opposition from the Muslim Congress governments, which came into power, different provincial states recognised only the first two stanzas as their national song. Whereas in 1938 when the Muslim League leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah presented his 11-point demand, the very first demand related to the abolition of Vande Matram.

In 1882, two years after the publication of the song, poet Ravindranath Tagore made the swarlipi of the first two stanzas and presented to Bankim. The Indian National Congress was established after three years of the publication of Anand Math. In 1886 at the second annual session of the Congress, the song that was sung, included some stanzas of Vande Matram. Hemchandra Bandopaddya wrote that song. The full first stanza of Vande Matram was included in the song. Here, Tagore sung this song, with other national songs, from the stage of the Congress.

In 1905, when Lord Curzon announced the partition of United Bengal, a resistance movement started in the State against the decision. And from here only Vande Matram was establish, as a national hymn of the freedom movement and it become a war song of the nation. Noted historian Bipin Chandra had written in his famous book ‘Swadeshi Movement in Bengal’, “For the first time Vande Matram was used as a national call.” From 1905 onwards when Anand Math become the torch of the freedom movement Vande Matram, which was incorporated in the novel, proved its twinkling light. The gift of Bankim gets a status of national song and it transcends through out the country. With this it energized the hearts of thousands of Indians and injected a fresh enthusiasm in their souls.

The period of 1905-21 can be easily termed as the period of Vande Matram. At that time it become a slogan against the Imperial British rule in public meetings and demonstrations. With the soaring popularity of the song, the British government banned the song as well as the slogan of Vande Matram. But, the popularity of the song transcend Bengal and it become popular through out the country.

The original text of Vande Matram was written in Sanskrit language. With the inspiration of Vande Matram many songs were written in different languages as well as it was translated into a majority of the Indian languages. Aurobindo Ghose translated it into English whereas the famous Tamil poet, scholar and freedom fighter Subramaniyum Bharati translated it into Tamil and he even sung the song himself. With the speeding up of national movement Vande Matram got a national identity. In the 12th session of the Congress, which was presided by Rahimulalh, Vande Matram was granted the status of national song.

Vande Matram got a national identity. In the 12th session of the Congress, which was presided by Rahimulalh, Vande Matram was granted the status of national song.

With the Khailafat and Non-Cooperative Movements (1921) the communalism started making inroads into Indian politics. The Muslim League started its objections to Vande Matram with depicting twa hi durgha as a symbol of idol worship. In 1937 the Congress Working Committee took a decision to sing only the first two stanzas of the national song.

On the advice of Tagore, the Congress Working Committee constituted a sub-committee for the analysis of all popular national songs of that time. Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and Acharya Narendra Dev were the prominent members of this sub-committee.

In 1923 at the Kakinada Congress, for the first time the objection was raised on the singing of Vande Matram. The then Congress president tried to stop the famous singer Vishnu Digambar Puluskar for singing Vande Matram at the inauguration session by saying that music is prohibited in Islam so he will not allow him to sing the song. The whole party was amazed at this act of the party president.

In his book Vishnu Digambar Puluskar, V.R. Atwale writes, on the objection of Maulana Puluskar who said, “Indian National Congress is not a party of one particular sect nor is this place a mosque where singing can be prohibited. So, you have no right to stop me for singing Vande Matram. And even if singing a song at this place is against your religion then how come you accepted the song in your presidential procession?”

On the objection for Vande Matram as national song and the Muslim resistance Arvind Ghose said, “It is not a religious song. It is a national song. In the song where is an instance of Durga, it is nothing but a depiction of Bharat as motherland.

Maulana had no answer for this question, so he left the stage and Puluskar completed the song. But the problem was not solved. In 1937 due to stiff opposition from the Muslim Congress governments, which came into power, different provincial states recognised only the first two stanzas as their national song. Whereas in 1938 when the Muslim League leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah presented his 11-points demand, the very first demand related to the abolition of Vande Matram. Such a demand was raised at a time when Vande Matram had become an essential part of the freedom struggle for the last 30 years. From 1905 onwards Vande Matram was sung regularly in Congress sessions and Provincial Assemblies, which were attended by many Muslim leaders including Jinnah and nobody ever raised any objection to it. For the appeasement of the Muslim League, the Congress took a decision to keep only the first two stanzas of Vande Matram and abolish the rest of the song. This was the first major event when Vande Matram was viewed on communal ground.

Here, it is important to note that in this time span Muslim communalism increased its toll in the country and in this process Vande Matram had become its prey. On the demand of abolition of Vande Matram by the Pirpur Committee Report, Rajendra Prasad writes in his book Divided India, “Muslim league constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Raja Pirpur, which submitted its report on November 15, 1938 which alleged many licentious and baseless charges.” In this way the real spirit of the song, which was obviously nationalism, gets trampled with stiff Muslim opposition.

On the objection for Vande Matram as national song and the Muslim resistance Arvind Ghose said, “It is not a religious song. It is a national song. In the song where is an instance of Durga, it is nothing but a depiction of Bharat as motherland. Then why should the Muslims not accept it? It is a symbol which is used in a poem.” In his book Communalism in India Vipin Chandra says, “ For Bankim his motherland is Bengal and this land is like a mother to whom he is imploring in Vande Matram.”

In a speech given in the Constituent Assembly (1948) Jawaharlal Nehru had said, “Undisputedly, Vande Matram is a prominent song of India and has a great tradition. It was deeply associated with our freedom movement. Its place will remain forever in the history of the country and no other song can take its place.”

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