Great Leaders on Vande Mataram

There is no doubt that Vande Mataram unanimously echoed the sacred feelings of millions of Bharatiyas in its text. For years, it remained the fundamental inspiration of all Indian fraternities, struggling for Indian social, economical and political freedom. This freedom movement was led by various schools of thought. From the non-violence of Gandhiji to the armed resistance of Bhagatsingh and Subhashchandra Bose. Vande Mataram, however, remained a common chord connecting these outward different ways. All the leaders have praised the song and it's immortal writer Bankimchandra.  

In 1905 wrote Gandhiji, "Today millions of people gathered for a common cause, do sing Vande Mataram. I gather that it has attained popularity worth becoming our national anthem. To me it seems rather a pious, devotional and emotional song. Unlike many other anthems, it doesn’t boisterously talk about negativities of any other nation state. So high we rank it that we will soon publish it, in Gujarati and Devanagari." In the year 1936, he further thinks aloud, in his article without any change in opinion. Thus he writes, "many of the meaningful adjectives, the poet has used for our motherland, are appropriate. Now to bring these adjectives to reality, the responsibility lies on us. "  Maybe Gandhiji further was not very happy, the way Muslim league was arrogant. And he must have been in two minds, to pacify these arrogant demands. This is evident from an article he wrote in 'Harijan' on 1st of July, 1939.

Personally Gandhiji does not seem to be an anti-Vande Mataram leader. Only the chain of events during the years 1946-1947 must have upset him. Only eight days after achieving independence, on 22nd August, 1947 he said, "Vande Mataram rather than a religious appeal, seems more of a political slogan tone. When the opinion about controversy was put forth, Shri Rabindranath Tagore, had explicitly mentioned it, that both Hindu and Muslim communities had adopted its full version during the partition of Bengal. Thereafte,r since Gandhiji was assassinated, there was nobody remaining whose word Pandit Nehru would agree to. 

Pandit Nehru was brought up in a lifestyle, totally different from that of Gandhiji. He himself had experienced in his early days of leadership, what a tremendous impact this song had created on the freedom movement. In 1938 he wrote, "For more than 30 years now, the song is related directly to the Indian nationalism. Such 'songs of people' are not tailor made neither can they be imposed on the minds of people. They attain the heights by themselves." Precisely that is the reason why he could never utter a single word against the content of the song, even when he was vehemently opposing it. He spoke about it's non-suitability as a march song, the difficulties in getting the composition played by band troops of other nations etc.

However he never took a public consensus on this issue, but tried to get a sanction for 'Jana-Gana-Mana', by ways, which apparently seem to be democratic enough. In this context it will be appropriate to narrate the original text of his speech which he made before the parliament, on 25th August 1948. The text reads like this. All these objections have been dealt within the head the 'music and composers of Vande Mataram'. Earlier Pandit Nehru had remarked that decision of the constitutional assembly would be final in this regard. However, the issue was never even discussed, nor a voting was conducted on it. Instead on 24th January 1950, at 11 in the night, it was suddenly declared by Dr. Rajendra Prasad in the official statement. It said that the song constituted by the words 'Jana-Gan-Mana' and it's composition will be the official anthem of India. The right to change any of the words of it will be reserved with government. However, acknowledging the role of the 'Vande Mataram', it will be treated equivalent to that of the anthem and will be honored in the same fashion. It will be the national song. I hope this will satisfy our 'committee members.'

Once Jana-Gana-Mana was declared as the national anthem, it will be appropriate to take the view of its writer, Rabindranath Tagore. He was accused of writing and composing this song to welcome George-V during his visit in 1911. It was not the case. The 'savior' which the song speaks of can't be mortal individual, but is the divine, eternal power itself which can save the country from evil. One fact although is clear-this song has not played any role, in any way in the freedom struggle. Very often, Rabindranatah Tagore had clarified that it was never written with the motive of presenting in any of the Congress conventions, nor to welcome any British emperor. 

Yet another influential leader, although from a different stream- the advocate of the armed resistance has praised Vande Mataram, in his early days. That was Swatantryavira Savarkar who inspired many revolutionaries from Anant Kanhere to Madanlal Dhingra. While he was pursuing his college education in 1906, his article named Vande Mataram was published. Although in the name 'Vande Mataram' the article essentially speaks of the ancient glorious tradition of India-the sons of the soil and their greatness and about the progress India could achieve in

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the fields of eternal wisdom and material sciences both. Shri Aurobindo Ghosh was one more name to be influenced by the song. He was the one to translate the content of Vande Mataram in English. It was first published in 'Karmayogin'. Whether or not, Vande Mataram is constitutional anthem, all the respect as anthem can claim, it has received from India's great leaders.

Jawaharlal Nehru on The National Anthem:
"Having a tune for the national anthem to be played by the orchestras and bands became an urgent question to us immediately after August 15, 1947.  It was important from the point of view of our defence services and foreign embassies and delegations.  It was obvious that 'God save the King' was not suitable for our army bands after the change-over to independence.  We were constantly being asked about the tune to be played and could not give an answer because the ultimate decision could be made only by the Constituent Assembly." 

"The tune of Janaganamana had been slightly varied and was adopted as the national anthem by the Indian National Army in South East Asia. It had subsequently attained a degree of popularity in India also.  The matter came to a head on the occasion of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1947 in New York.  Our delegation was asked for our national anthem to be played on a particular occasion.  The delegation possessed a record of Jana Gana Mana and they gave this to the orchestra to practice.  When they played it before a large gathering, it was greatly appreciated and representatives of many nations asked to the musical score of this new tune, which struck them as distinctive and dignified.  This orchestral rendering of Jana Gana Mana was recorded and sent to India.  Our defence services bands began to play this tune and foreign embassies and delegations used it whenever required.  Various countries sent us messages of appreciation and congratulations on this tune, which experts considered as being superior to the other national anthems they had heard. Expert musicians, bands and orchestra at home and abroad played it, sometimes, with slight variation of tune, with result that All India Radio was able to collect a number of renderings." 

"Apart from the general appreciation with which this tune was received, there was at the time not much choice for us, as there was no proper musical rendering of any other national song, which we could send abroad.  At that stage, I wrote to all the provincial Governors and asked their views about adopting Jana Gana Mana or the other songs as the national anthem.  I asked them to consult their Premier before replying. I made it perfectly clear to them that the final decision rested with the Constituent Assembly, but owing to the urgent need of sending some directions to foreign embassies and the defence services, a provisional decision became essential.  Every one of these Governors, except one (the Governor of the Central Provinces) signified his approval of Jana Gana Mana.  Thereupon the Cabinet considered the matter and came to the decision that provisionally Jana Gana Mana should be used till such time as Constituent Assembly came to a final decision." 

"Instructions were issued accordingly to the Provincial Governors. It was very clear that the wording of Jana Gana Mana was not wholly appropriate and some changes would be necessary.  What was important was the tune to be played by bands and orchestras, and not the wording. Subsequently the new Premier of West Bengal informed that he and his Government preferred Vande Mataram.That is the position at present.  It is unfortunate that some kind of argument has arisen between Vande Mataram and Jana Gana Mana.  Vande Mataram is obviously and indisputably the premier national song of Bharat (India) with great historical tradition, it was intimately connected with our struggle for freedom.  That position it is bound to regain and no other song can displace it.  It represents the passion and poignancy of that struggle but perhaps not so much the culmination of it." 

Mahatma Gandhi on Vandemataram “...No matter what its source was and how and when it was composed, it had become a most powerful battle cry among Hindus and Mussalmans of Bengal during the partion days.  It was anti-imperialist cry.  As a lad, when I knew nothing of Ananda Math or even Bankim, its immortal author, Vande Mataram had gripped me, and when I first heard it, sung it, it had enthralled me.  I associated the purest national spirit with it.  It never occurred to me that it was a Hindu song or meant only for Hindus.  Unfortunately, now we have fallen on evil days.  All that was pure gold before has become base metal today.  In such times, it is wisdom not to market pure gold and let it be sold as base metal.  I would not risk a single quarrel over singing Vande Mataram at a mixed gathering.  It will never suffer from disuse.  It is enthroned in the hearts of millions.  It will never suffer from patriotism of millions in and outside Bengal.  Its chosen stanzas are Bengal’s gift among may others to the whole nation.”  -Harijan, July1, 1939.