Vande Mataram had indeed worked like a Ved mantra. This is what the author and poet, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya had prophesied in answer to the criticism that the words used in the song were too difficult to pronounce. He said to his critics “I may not live to see its popularity, but this song will be sung by every Indian like a Ved mantra”. How true his words were. The history of the Indian freedom struggle bears a testimony to it. Vande Mataram has spontaneity and emotional appeal to arouse patriotism even in a slavish heart. The song has the capability to transcend barriers of caste, creed, region and religion. It was sung with gusto by patriotic Indians throughout the length and breadth of Bharat. When the song was sung , with the fading notes of the last stanza, the emotionally surcharged crowd of men and women would raise the slogan : Bharat Mata Ki Jai. The sound and the echo shook the mighty British Empire to its foundation.
Bankim babu wrote Vande Mataram in one sitting in his native village, Naihati, just a few miles away from the metropolis, Calcutta..It was Akshay Naomi which fell on a Sunday on 7 November 1875 and Bankim babu, a Deputy Collector of the British Raj was relaxing in his ancestral home. His mind and heart were in turmoil. The English masters were forcing their own national anthem, God Save the Queen, down the throat of all Indians. Bankim babu felt the divine inspiration and words came pouring out of his heart and on to his pen. An immortal song, Vande Mataram, stood composed. It was seven years later that Vande Mataram was incorporated in the famous novel of the author, Anand Math, dealing with the history of the Sanyasi uprising in Dacca, North Bengal and other places from 1763 to 1780. The Dharm Yudh was against the foreign domination. The English and their collaborators were targeted. The saints uprising has inspired the youth of Bengal ever since. Indeed, it was a never fading source of inspiration for the patriots all over Bharat
No less a person than Gurudev Ravindra Nath Tagore lent his voice to Vande Mataram when he sang it in the session of the Indian National Congress in Calcutta in 1896. It was a stirring moment, although the tempo was rather slow compared to that of the rendering of Vande Mataram by Lata Mangeshkar in the movie, Anand Math. Nevertheless, Vande Mataram had come out of the rural landscape to play its all important role on the national stage. Bengal loved the song and the rest of India was not far behind. Vande Mataram was sung in many tunes, in many languages by many men and women voluntarily. North, South, East and West of India were equally involved.
1905 was the high noon of the national fervour that Vande Mataram generated. Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy, passed a decree dividing Bengal into two parts, east and west. The British are at their best when they play the game called, Divide and Rule. However, it was rather unfortunate for the rulers that the Bang Bhang united India as a whole. Men and women of all faiths walked the streets of towns and talukas of Bengal singing Vande Mataram with religious fervour. It was a sight to be seen to be believed. The decree of Curzon was rescinded. But the British were back to their game of dividing the united people. They made some elements believe that singing Vande Mataram was a sign of Hindu domination. Their trick worked. The bogey of religion took its toll. The Muslim League was born. No one was happier than the British masters.
The Indian National Congress, at its Varanasi session , adopted Vande Mataram as the national song on 7th September 1905. The cohesive spirit that the song generated could not be lost sight of by the national leaders. The momentous decision was taken unanimously a century ago. Since then the national song is sung at all sessions not only of the Congress but also the Bhartiya Janata Party and some others. It is sung in the closing session of the parliament too. Truly national in word and deed.
Vande Mataram has all along been a song of patriotism and unification. Gandhi and Jinnah sang it together on the Congress platform till the latter quit the Congress as he was a non-believer in the principle of Swaraj. Of course, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Shri Purshottam Das Tandon, born rivals, were in the forefront in singing Vande Mataram at the beginning of the session everywhere. Shri Rafi Ahmad Kidwai , out and out a nationalist, never had a second thought about singing Vande Mataram. Nevertheless, the divisive forces were working overtime at the behest of their British masters to upset the applecart. How sad, the mischief mongers had their way. The rest is history. Is history repeating itsef ? Time alone will tell.
Singing Vande Mataram the Indian people had waged the war of Independence non-violently. The song was all along the National Anthem to the rank and file of freedom fighters. A committee comprising Nehru, Azad, Subhash Bose and Narendra Dev had said that the first two stanzas of the song had no reference to any religion and should be our anthem. It came as a rude shock when the controversial decision to make Jana Gana Mana the national anthem was announced on 24 January 1950. However, the words of Dr Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly, came as a soothing balm. He said, “…the song Vande Mataram , which has played a historic part in the struggle for Indian freedom, shall be honoured equally with Jana Gana mana and shall have equal status with it.”
Taking a look at the English translation of Vande Mataram, done by Shree Aurobindo, one may safely surmise that the storm in a tea cup brewing at the behest of separatists will blow away and patriotism will prevail. The stanzas of the song are given below :
Mother, I bow to Thee !
Rich with thy hurrying streams
Bright with orchard gleams.
Cool with thy winds of delight
Green fields waving Mother of might,
Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet!
Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I bow
Indeed the original song in Bangala with a rich dose of Sanskrit words is soul stirring. Although the British government in India had banned the national song Vande Mataram, it surfaced and resurfaced. The British failed in suppressing the spirit of independence. The Indians won their freedom. Let us now all sing in unison the song of the People,
By Brig Chitranjan Sawant,VSM