Music and Composer of Vande Mataram

In a way Vande Mataram is very fortunate. In the sense that it has received the divine touch of numerous masters of the Indian Music, as singers and composers. Its first public performance was staged at the 12th Congress convention. Audience was simply delighted to hear the self-composed tune sung by Rabindranath Tagore. In 1904, the first gramophone record in Rabindranath's voice came in the market. Meanwhile the agitation against Bengal started. Anticipating trouble and the ban on the song, it was timely sent to Paris. A French record company 'Pathe' again published it. It was a pentograph type of record.

In 1901 during the Congress Vande Mataram was sung by Dakshinarajan Sen, with his own composition. Yet another name to get associated with the song was Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, he was catching the mood of the poem while singing.  His composition of Vande Mataram was most adored by Mahatma Gandhi. Pandit Paluskar shined on the Indian political scenario, with a particular incident associated with Vande Mataram. The year was 1933. He was about to start the recital of Vande Mataram, as per the usual convention in the Kakinada Congress. Just when he was about to start the presiding authority of the Congress, Maulana Ahmed Ali tried to stop him, supported by his brother Shaukat Ali. 'Since the song praised Hinduism' according to them, it should not be sung on this dais was what they said. Reacting very strongly Pandit Paluskar made them hear that this is a public meeting and not the place of worship of the Muslim religion. Those who object may very well leave the convention and abort, Panditji said, and thereafter rehearsed the full song. It is rather unusual for an artist to involve himself in the chores of political battle, but this courage was shown by Pandit Paluskar. He had composed the song in Raga 'Kafi'.

One more composition in the Raga Kafi, which rose to fame, was composed by another maestro- Pandit Omkarnath Thakur. He was firm in his opinion and advocated the full recital of Vande Mataram . He stopped appearing in the Congress convention when by bowing down to Muslim League demands, the song was split.

Later in 1947, it was Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel, India's iron man who invited him to sing it on Akashwani (All India Radio), on the dawn of Independence. And thereby, on the 15th of August 1947, at 6:30 a.m. the country could hear the deep voice of Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, reciting the unabridged, full version of India's march song -Vande Mataram in full form. In the studio Thakur sang it in the standing position.

During 1935 to 1952, many senior music composers composed the song. This included Keshavrav Bhole-the Marathi stage actor, Vishnupant Pagnis (sung in Raga Saranga) . But typically noteworthy amongst them are Master Krishnarao Fulambrikar and V.D. Ambhaikar and Dilipkumar Roy. Although each one had his own versions, their greatness lies further in the fact that these are the composers, who relentlessly tried for the song, to acquire the status of National Anthem.

V. D. Ambhaikar hailing from Nagpur, was also an active freedom fighter. In 1926, at the age of 14 he recited his version in front of Mahatma Gandhi at Nagpur. Subsequently his audience for the song included Pt. Rajendra Prasad, Vallabhabhai Patel, etc. after independence Kakasaheb Gadgil a veteran Congress leader, had arranged for a demonstrating recital of Vande Mataram, sung by Mr. Ambhaikar. The audience included the members of the committee on constitution, along with prominent leaders like Acharya Govind Vallabh Pant, Dr. Pattabhi Sitarammayya, Achraya Dada Dharmadhikari etc. it also included Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar who appreciated the composition and told Mr. Ambhaikar, "I would be the first person to buy your LP record whenever it comes up." Only Acharya Kriplani was reserved and opined that the final verdict will be given only by Pandit Nehru. Thereafter the same version was sung by Mogubai Kardikar- a senior singer of India. The composition starts from, 'Taar Shadja' and is composed in 'Mishra Khambavati' .

Another contributor composer, who tried to influence the leaders, was Timir Baran Bhattacharya. He composed Vande Mataram in Raga Durga, which was played later on the British bands. The composition resembles to that of a 'march song' and the same was broadcasted from Singapore radio by Netaji Bose, after he formed Azad Hind Sena. Another composition which has retained it's popularity is the one composed by the great music director, Hemantkumar. It was prepared for the movie 'Anandmath' released by Filmistan in 1952. It meticulously combines, Malakansa, Bhairavi etc. resembling rather an inspirational song for the warriors.

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Talking of music composers who relentlessly tried a status of National Anthem, another prominent personality should be remembered- Dilipkumar Roy. While strongly advocating such a status, he presented his composition on 29th August 1927, in front of Mahatma Gandhi and earned his praise. He has two recordings to his credit. One which he himself has sung resembles the folk music of Bengal and Assam-folklore of the mountain ranges. Other record has a duet sung with a senior South Indian Singer, M.S.Subbalaxmi, combining notes from Raga Bilawal, Bageshwari and certain other Ragas in the Karnatak style.

Last in the line but never the least comes the contribution of Master Krishnarao Fulambrikar. History will remember him as the lone warrior, the solo performer in the battle of Vande Mataram to achieve status of National Anthem. It is an unique example how the Indian academic city of Pune can produce determined individuals who could pursue a single aim, single handedly.

As the vocalist actor during 1935 Master Krishnarao had earned best of the popularity. He was one of the trusted team members of Prabhat Studios. His composition in the Raga Zinzoti was suitable to be rehearsed even by a large gathering together. Attempts were on for it's broadcast from All India Radio. However, strangely enough, all singing of Vande Mataram was banned from AIR. After enough patient waiting during one of his recitals of Indian Classical Music, he adjoined certain notes in Mishra Zinzoti and suddenly reverted back to Vande Mataram's tune. Station director Mr. Z.A. Bukhari immediately cut off the power supply of Krishnarao's microphone. This event was criticized enough in the next day's paper and all over India. As a mark of protest Master Krishnarao banned all his recitals from Radio. Until it was in 1947, an auspicious day of Chaitra Padawa, he sang the full version of Vande Mataram in the presence of the same station director Bukhari, on a special request from Vallabhbhai Patel, again. 

However he was so inspired to have Vande Mataram as the anthem, he left no stone unturned. Those days composers, musicians beyond a point never involved themselves in controversies or political shadow downs. It was only Krishnarao Fulambrikar's unadulterated faith, which resulted in logical and persistent efforts. To prove that a  large public gathering can sing it together he sang it by a large audience of 50,000 people in Pune. On  the 25th August 1948, Pandit Nehru expressed his reservations about the song in parliament- about the song's worthiness as a march song and a difficulty, which could be faced by foreign band troops in playing it. Added to it were the praises for Jana Gana Mana.

This irked Mr. Fulambrikar. He telegraphed the Prime Minister about hearing him at least once. Till Nehru's answer came Master Krishnarao practiced the steps, of the marching at the police grounds along with the policemen, while the composition was being played. This ascertained the fact that it can be best of the 'march songs.' Also to counter the argument, that the foreign band troops should easily be able to play it, he consulted the chief of the British Police Band-Mr.C.R.Gardner. He in turn with the help of British Naval Band Chief, Stanely Bills, rehearsed it on the brass instruments on the British Naval Band. Both the foreigners immediately gave their positive opinions that it was suitable to be played on the 'foreign' instruments and certified this opinion in writing.

All these evidences eventually were presented by Master Krishnarao in front of the members of the constitutional committee, and of course Pandit Nehru. He had, infact, 3 different recordings for this as evidence. One version as a march song, other version as a general welcome for any leader and the third as his composition for it to be the National Anthem. So also, he handed over the letters by the chief of the British Police and Naval Band. Even Pandit Nehru could not help admiring this effort. He affectionately put his hand on Master Krishnarao's shoulder and declared that here is a composer who will be regarded as the 'march song' composer of Independent India. Even then, in his mind, he was fully convinced about Jana Gana Mana.

On 17th January 1950, in a press conference, Master Krishnarao demonstrated his versions. Many of the members of Parliament applauded it. However on 24th January 1950 the committee for constitution, in a totally one sided verdict declared (by Dr. Rajendra Prasad) Jana Gana Mana as the official National Anthem and Vande Mataram to enjoy the status of 'equal' to anthem but a 'National Song.'Well,for Master Krishnarao not the entire efforts were in vain. Had he not attempted till this level, even the status of National Song for Vande Mataram would be distinct, nearing to impossible. So his attempts are worthy of the highest praise.