December 28th, 2011
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The Morning Song of India

national anthem

Special article / Samvartha ‘Sahil’

 

samvartha“The composition consisting of the words and music known as Jana Gana Mana shall be used for official purposes as the national anthem of India, subject to such alterations in the words as the Government may authorize as occasion arises and the song Vande Mataram, which has played a historic part in struggle for Indian freedom, shall have equal status with it,” announced Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the then President of the constituent assembly of India sixty years ago, on 24 January 1950 and thus Jana Gana Mana officially became the national anthem of India.

In the celebratory mood of sixty years of republic India, the nation seems to have forgotten the sixty years of its national anthem being officially declared. However the history of Jana Gana Mana goes back to almost a hundred years i.e. 1911(27 December) when Rabindranath Tagore sang the song on the second day of the Indian National Congress session held at Calcutta.

A day before Tagore sang Jana Gana Mana the song Vande Mataram was sung as usual, which then had become a popular song of the freedom struggle. The song Vande Mataram was first published in 1882 as a part of the novel Anand Math by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. The song was sung at the 1886 session of Indian National Congress. It was set to music by Tagore and had a universal appeal during the anti-partition movement in Bengal. Gradually the song became the rallying cry of India’s freedom movement.

The sentimental attachment people had and have for Vande Mataram was respected by the then President and gave it an equal status to that of Jana Gana Mana. But still many in the country, still argue saying Vande Mataram be declared as the national anthem and not Jana Gana Mana which is believed by the mass as a prayer written in praise of King Emperor George who happened to be on a visit to India when the song was written.

Controversy surrounding Jana Gana Mana had risen when it was sung for the very first time. The objection was to the identity of the ‘Dispenser of India’s destiny’, ‘King of Kings’, ‘Eternal charioteer’ etc, to whom the song is addressed. Many thought it was referring to King Emperor George. Tagore had denied any such interpretation saying, “I should only insult myself if I cared to answer those who consider me capable of such unbounded stupidity as to sing in praise of George IV or George V as the eternal charioteer leading the pilgrims on their journey countless ages of the timeless history of mankind.” After the initial controversy over the song Jana Gana Mana, it was first published in the year 1912 in Tattvabodhini Patrika which was edited by Tagore himself, who later translated it into English in 1919 under the title ‘The Morning Song of India’.

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