Celebrating India's Republic Day with Vande Mataram
Banned by the British Colonialists from 1905 to 1947, this protest song and its message brought a diverse and largely uneducated nation together. 140+ years later, the words live on.
Most of you know the poem and song “Vande Mataram” and maybe even hum the tune set to Raag Des. Originally titled “Bande Mataram”, a poem by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in his 1882 novel Anandmath, the words are in Bengali and Sanskrit. It gained popularity first when Rabindranath Tagore recited the poem in Congress in 1896. By 1905, it had become popular amongst political activists and freedom fighters as a marching song, which led to it being banned from the public sphere for half a century.
Here’s an iconic cover of a 1909 issue of the Tamil magazine Vijaya showing "Mother India" (Bharat Mata) with her diverse progeny and the rallying cry "Vande Mataram".
Exactly 74 years ago, on the eve of India’s first Republic day, the Indian constituent assembly adopted it as the Republic’s National Song.
The poem is an ode to Ma Durga, so there was controversy in accepting the full version in 1950 owing to the religious tensions of the time. A truncated version was finally used, constituting the song's two popularly known paragraphs.
This is the most popular version of this song I learned in childhood. It used to play on the radio, TV, and was part of the morning school assembly. It’s believed to be a composition of Pt Vishnu Digambar Paluskar from the early 1900s. Interestingly, I also found another version credited to his son Pt D V Paluskar set to Raag Kafi. There was also an illustrated version of this printed in 1923 created by the artist K Tejendra Kumar Mitra. Click here to read the fascinating story of its discovery and see all the illustrations.
On the eve of India’s Independence in 1947, Pt Omkarnath Thakur’s voice echoed in India’s parliament and throughout the nation. “He sang Vande Mataram mid-night at the parliament, and his song was again broadcast by Akashvani (radio) in the morning at 6:30 AM”. Here’s a recording of that performance.
Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar’s composition from the 1952 movie Anandmath is also famous. I remember hearing this song often during parades and ceremonies. ARR’s masterpiece “Maa Tujhe Salaam” was released in the late 90s and captivated the nation. It still ranks in the top 5 Rahman songs in my library.
The version I present is set to Raag Brindavani Saarang, originally sung by Pt Vishnupant Pagnis (of the Sant Tukaram fame) over 100 years ago. I discovered this gem from Parrikarji’s archives. It has captivated my imagination ever since.