Wednesday, December 28, 2011

India's Morning Song

It turned 100 years old yesterday, the song first popularized as India’s Morning Song and known today, as our national anthem. Though ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was not adopted as India’s national anthem till much later, it was first sung by the Indian National Congress at its General Assembly on 27th December, 1911.

Since it was first penned the song’s seen many controversies and its path to becoming India’s national anthem was undoubtedly riddled with craters more than potholes. It is said that Tagore was first asked to write the song as an appeasement to our imperial rulers. A request that angered and offended the patriot so much that he wrote a song that might have been interpreted to sing praises of His Majesty but was in fact meant to extol the praises of the motherland.

He is believed to have said, “…The request simply amazed me. It caused a great stir in my heart. In response to that great mental turmoil, I pronounced the victory in Jana Gana Mana of that Bhagya Vidhata of India who has from age after age held steadfast the reins of India’s chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved. That Lord of Destiny, that Reader of the Collective Mind of India, that Perennial Guide, could never be George V, George VI, or any other George. Even my official friend understood this about the song.”

However, whatever may have been his intention behind the song its significance remained attached to the invaders. And when it came time for the newly born India to choose its national anthem the choice of Jana Gana Mana astounded and offended many patriots who thought that bugle of all patriotic hearts and the battle cry of the freedom struggle, ‘Vande Mataram’ should have been the winner by a mile, Tagore being one amongst their number.

However, laying down his adamant objections, Pt Nehru is believed to have laid the pragmatic opinion that Jana Gana Mana had that essential quality of all national anthems, the ability to be able to set to music and played easily in India and abroad. Needless to say, his reasoning came as a shock to India. Whatever may be said to be the guiding criteria of the selection of the national anthem, it should most certainly not be that! However, Nehru’s word was final and the seal of approval was stamped by the Constituent Assembly. And so, in the opinion of many, did India retain some dregs of the foreign yoke even as it sought freedom and Jana Gana Mana came to be immortalized as our national anthem.

Though the intention seems to have been to award Vande Mataram the same status, whether that has actually borne fruition is for us to judge …
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