Sickled BHARAT MATA, Vande Mataram, Bankim Chandra, Kishan Chandra Bhagat and his Research on Ananda Math and INTACH
Troubled Galaxy Destroyed Dreams: Chapter 107
Vande Mataram/Matarm - Lata Mangeshkar
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Vande Mataram Anand Math Lata Hemant Bankim Original
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Vande Mataram - Maa Tujhe Salaam (A.R.Rahman)
The grat Indian Academic personalities like Jadunath Sarkar, Dr Ramesh Chandra Majumdar and Chandranath Basu dismissed Anandmath as an IMAGINARY MIST without any Historical base. Perhaps most powerful Prose writer in this subcontinent Akhtaruzzaman Ilius complained that Bankim lacked Social realism and his writings were nothing but Romantic Illusion about the past. But on teacher from Lalgola, Murshidabad, Kishanchand Bhagat originally from Balia, an OBC by caste, has discovered all the relevant Historical and Anthropological facts and evidences to amke sense of hard social realism in Bankim literature, specially Anandmath. He invested himself to invent the sources of Vande Matram and Anadmath. He rediscovered the Geopolitics of Gaur and Murshidabad aling with NATORE. He tried to know the old changing demography and had done a marvellous Anthropological research on the delta of Bhagirathi Hugli and Padma rivers. He has sought the missing links of Ancient bengal History known as DARK Age and wiped out of our Memory. He has troubled himself to look into indigenous, aboriginal, black untouchable roots of Bangla as well as Indian nationality. though the President of India has recognised the man as National Teacher, but the Bengali brahaminical hegemony has done everything to derecognise him.
Last week, Me and Sabita spent some time with the Bhagat family and visited all the Relevant places in and around Murshidabad and Lalgola. Then, we visited all the places historically relevant to the History of Gaur. to make the tour full circle we visisted larger areas in birbhoom also.
We were stunned to see the SICKLE BHARAT MATA temple being so marginalised and neglected. The Lalgola Palace has been trasformed into an Open Air Correction home. The site is under INTACH. But Intach has done nothing to save the legacy of Vande Mataram, without which India`s Struggle for Freedom would seem quite lifeless. Not only Bankim, but Swami Vivekanad and Kazi Nazrul Islam are also associated with Bharat Mata Temple. But neither Government of India nor governemnt of West Bengal seem to have cared for it at all. Single handedly, the National Teacher Mr Bhagat have brought the matter in limelight which is well recognised by the institutions like OXFORD University and Sahitya Academy.
It is apparent that there was a cry to “drive out the British” almost throughout the first century of the British rule in India.
Lalgola, located 225 km north of Kolkata, is bounded by a number of big and small lakes, small temples and mosques. This city is famed for the Lalgola Survey Centre of CIFRI  and the Lalgola Open Air Prison.
In the pre-independence time, this area was an important business hub. After independence, Lalgola lost its glory and importance mainly due to being border town. The place still is a commercial center - wheat, jute and legumes being the main trading items.
Lalgola is located at . It has an average elevation of 23 m (75 ft). It is situated almost on the bank of river Padma, and thus the north and east of the town is bounded by Bangladesh. Padma is changed name of Ganges after entering into Bangladesh from India, In this geographical area, river Padma is taken as International border. It is at the north-eastern end of the district and is 225 km from Kolkata.
The weather/climate is similar to the rest of Gangetic West Bengal. Maximum temperature during summer is 45°C and minimum during winter is 8°-10°C. Here, anybody can experience a very good feel of all the six seasons.Lalgola is located at 24.25° N 88.15° E
In the 2001 census, Lalgola community development bloc had a total population of 267,563 of which 136,853 were males and 130,710 were females. Decadal growth for the period 1991-2001 was 29.40% for Lalgola, against 23.70% in Murshidabad district. Decadal growth in West Bengal was 17.84%.
Probably, the most special thing about Lalgola is that, the first 'Open Air Jail', officially – 'Lalgola Open Air Correctional Home', was founded here in the year 1987. For this purpose Sri Birendra Narayan Roy, popularly known as Biren Roy, descendants of Lalgola Raj family and erstwhile king of Lalgola, gifted their residential palace to the Government. Royal residence made way first for female lunatic convicts and later, from 1987, the open-air correctional home. Open Air Correctional Home is a relatively new and revolutionary concept. Situated over 100 acres of land and mango garden comprising of about 1000 mango trees, this Open Air Jail is a correction home for the prisoners. Convicts sentenced to imprisonment for a period of 7 years or more and such of them as have already served 2/3rd of their sentence and have maintained all along a good jail record are eligible for transfer to the open jail after thorough screening and personal interview by a board constituted for such selection. Surprisingly, inmates get freedom to go out during day time (06:00 hrs to 20:00 hrs). They have their own source of income in the forms of cultivation, goods shops (given by the Prison Authority), Private Tuition. They even get quarter for their families.
B D Sharma, Inspector General, Jails, said: “There are a couple of heritage structures inside as well as outside the premises of the Lalgola Open Air Correctional Home. We want to restore and conserve them. But instead of employing professional architects and conservationists, the inmates will be trained for the work under the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).”
Lalgola is a correctional home without any defined boundaries. Inmates are transferred there after serving part of their term in other homes.
“The inmates are free to roam around or do some work. In fact, there are some who run shops or pull rickshaws. But they have to stay in the Home at night. We are going to train some inmates who have been masons earlier. After the training is over they will be transferred to Lalgola,” said Sharma.
G M Kapur, Convenor, INTACH, said: “We have already identified and checked the structures to be restored. Our architects are also empanelled with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. After the costs are sorted, out training of the inmates will begin and we will start work shortly.”
When the inmates will see the restored structures they will feel dignified and useful and put the training to good use after being released. “That is going to be our reward,” said Sharma.
U.S. AWARDS GRANT FOR RENOVATION OF HISTORICAL SITES AT THE LALGOLA CORRECTIONAL HOME IN WEST BENGAL
January 30, 2008
KOLKATA -- The U.S. Consul General in Kolkata Henry V. Jardine today handed over a check of Rs. 2,775, 000 ($63,000 approximately) to West Bengal State Convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) G. M. Kapur at the American Center in Kolkata. This grant, awarded through the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation, will go towards the renovation of the historic Lalgola site in Murshidabad district in West Bengal.
The proposal to restore the historical structures at the Lalgola Correctional Home in Murshidabad, submitted with the support of the American Center in Kolkata by INTACH has competed internationally and won the award. This was the only proposal to be awarded for India during the current round of competition, which shows the importance the U.S. government places on the goals of this particular restoration project. This award will allow INTACH to not only renovate the historic structures but also to provide vocational training to inmates housed at the Lalgola Correctional Home.
The Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation helps countries around the globe preserve historic sites and manuscripts, museum collections, and traditional forms of expression such as music, dance, and language. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs administers the Fund, established by Congress in 2001. To date, the Ambassador's Fund has supported more than 300 projects worldwide totaling more than $11 million.
In 2005, The Fund awarded a grant to the East and West Educational Society of Patna to fund a survey of 25 districts in Bihar to document Islamic and Hindu 15th and 16th century architecture. The world-renowned Khuda Baksh Library in Patna has been an important partner in this project. In 2004, a grant by the Ambassador’s Fund also helped preserve art, architecture and traditional crafts in Bishnupur in West Bengal’s Bankura district. This project, also through a proposal submitted by INTACH, has assisted the Archeological Society of India in its efforts to preserve the cultural legacy of this important Bengali historical site. A grant was also awarded in 2002 to the Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology, in Gangtok, to help in the preservation of rare paintings, scrolls and other art objects. (Please visit: http://exchanges.state.gov/culprop/afcp/.)
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Surprisingly enough, the opposition to foreign rule in early years came more from the peasants, labourers and the weaker sections of the society that from the educated bourgeois classes. Unscrupulous defiance of moral principle and the reckless exploitation of the masses that characterized the early activities of the traders made the rule of the East India Company hateful to the people. The proselytizing activities of the Christian missionaries were greatly resented all around. The deliberate destruction of Indian manufacturer and handicrafts aggravated agrarian misery and economic discontent. All these factors led to local resistance in different parts of this vast country which was basically united in its opposition to the British rule.
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Rajshahi Raj occupied a predominant position among the territorial magnates of Bengal in the 18th century. It was the second largest zamindari with an area of about 33,670 sq km. The zamindari came into being during the early part of the 18th century. at that time Nawab murshid quli khan was the diwan/ subahdar of Bengal (1704-1727). A man of strict principle, he maintained rigorous discipline in every aspect of his administration. Owing to nawab's stern revenue policy as well as for the zamindars' maladminisstration and their failure to pay the stipulated revenue dues in time, many old zamindars lost their zamindaries. Besides, many zamindars lost their zamindari on account of their disobedience and rebellion. Murshid Quli Khan settled these zamindaries with his trusted followers and cronies. In this process of replacement the most fortunate beneficiary was the Rajshahi zamindari (also called natore raj). The family also benefited by another feature of nawab's revenue policy of encouragement to the formation of big zamindaries.
The Rajshahi Raj family traced its origin to one Kamdev Rai, a tahsildar of Baraihati in Pargana Lashkarpur, under puthia raj family. Kamdev had three sons Ramjivan, Raghunandan and Bishnuram. Of the three brothers, Raghunandan was the most promising and enterprising. Darpanarain, the zamindar of Puthia, and Murshid Quli Khan had significant contributions behind Raghunandan's rise to prominence.
Darpanarain appointed Raghunandan his wakil at Jahangirnagar (Dhaka), the capital of Bengal. Raghunandan sided with Murshid Quli Khan in his entanglement with the Subahdar azim-us-shan and thus won the confidence of the former. Again, when the diwani was transferred to Murshidabad, he was appointed in a similar capacity as his master's representative there. Raghunandan, a man of parts, soon caught the attention of the Sadar Qanungo at Murshidabad, who appointed him deputy or naib qanngo for his sound knowledge in finance and law. During this time he came in close contact of Diwan Murshid Quli Khan and secured his great trust and confidence.
As a confidant of Murshid Quli Khan, Raghunandan secured a portion of the Rajshahi zamindari in 1706, in the name of his brother Ramjivan. Banugachi was added to the family as its former zamindar had mismanaged his estate and become a regular revenue defaulter. Then gradually followed the additions of the pargana Bhaturia (1711) and Niz-Rajshahi (1713). Soon after this the diwan bestowed pargana Naldi upon Ramjivan. When Sitaram, the zamindar of bhusna, revolted against the diwan's authority and oppressed smaller zamindars and stopped paying revenues to the treasury, Murshid Quli Khan sent a strong force against Sitaram and suppressed his rebellion. In this campaign against Sitaram, Ramjivan, the founder of Natore Raj and his diwan Dayaram cooperated. As a reward for their services Murshid Quli granted Ramjivan the whole of Bhusna together with pargana Ibrahimpur in 1714. In fact, the rise of the Natore family was established with the dismemberment of Sitaram's estate.
After the subjugation of the refractory Afghan chiefs the nawab settled Tanki Sarubpur with his favourite Ramjivan (1718). Ramjivan by this time earned nawab's confidence by his efficient management and punctual payment of revenues. Thus, by these successive additions, the vast Rajshahi zamindari was built up during the lifetime of its founders. It became the second largest zamindari of Bengal after Burdwan. Tradition called it an estate of 52 lakh of rupees.
Although Raghnandan at Murshidabad was the founder of the Rajshahi zamindari, but its successful consolidation and management was largely due to his elder brother Ramjivan and his diwan Dayaram, a first rate man of business. Raghunandan died in 1724 without leaving any heir. His death was followed by that of Ramjivan in 1730. Before his death, Ramjivan had adopted Ramkanta as his son and successor. In 1730 Ramkanta inherited the entire zamindari of Rajshahi at the age of 18. Thoroughly inexperienced in zamindari administration, he, neglecting the zamindari affairs, passed most of his time in religious activities. Fortunately, rani bhabani, his wife and a lady of great foresight, sagacity and intelligence, efficiently managed the zamindari with the help of trusted diwan Dayaram.
Ramkanta died in 1748, leaving his wife and only daughter Tara. But before his death he allowed the Rani to adopt Ramkrishna. Thus the Rani, a lady of enormous virtues and capacity, as the real zamindar of Rajshahi managed it quite efficiently and increased its revenues substantially. She maintained cordial relations with the nawabs of Murshidabad. When the east india company was granted the diwani administration of Bengal in 1765, they found the zamindari of Rajshahi in peaceful and prosperous conditions and as such did not disturb her, and kept her in the possession of her zamindari. The Rani upheld the dignity and prestige of the zamindari by her social activities.
Only a dozen large zamindars controlled half of the total landed property of Bengal while the colonial state was forming in the last decades of the eighteenth century. The colonial state viewed these princely zamindaris as potential threats to the security of the new state, because their wealth and influence were so great that they could at any opportune moment combine and put the colonial state in great jeopardy. Hence it became a policy of the government to weaken these estates, if not destroy them altogether. One of the strategies to implement this design was the ruthless operation of the sunset law.
In 1788, in her old age, Rani Bhavani transferred the zamindari to her adopted son Raja Ramkrishna, then forty years old. In 1791, the Decennial Settlement was concluded with him at a jama of Rs 22,52,200. Since the decennial settlement, the Rajshahi zamindari suffered from three pernicious problems: over assessment, mismanagement and the intrigues of amla (officers). The dismemberment of the zamindari started immediately after the decennial engagement. Before the dawn of the next century, the entire zamindari had been transferred to fresh hands except some few parganas the total revenue demand on which hardly exceeded Rs 34000 in 1800.
As the resources of the zamindari had never been investigated minutely, it is difficult to state categorically whether or not the zamindari was properly assessed. The original decennial assessment exclusive of all deductions on different accounts was S Rs 20,27,200. To this sum was added a rasad (increase) of S Rs 2,25,000. Hence the permanet assessment of the zamindari was fixed at S Rs 22,52,200. The average annual collection of the estate from 1778-79 to 1788-89 amounted to S Rs 21,24,400. The gap between the known revenue yield and the assessment was further widened by the withdrawal without compensation of the customary allowance of batta on the payment in sicca currency. The raja had derived an annual income of about one lakh of rupees on account of batta and there had never been any hint in the decennial agreement that it would subsequently be resumed without compensation. Thus if to the gap between past revenue yield and the 1791 assessment is added the loss of the batta alowance, the raja may be seen to have been overburdened by the decennial settlement by about two lakhs of rupees a year.
Raja Ramkrishna at first refused to accept the settlement and persisted in throwing every obstacle and impediment in the way of the execution of the settlement. But ultimately he acceded to it with a note of protest. He wrote to the Council that he accepted the settlement only to avoid further displeasure from the government.
In these circumstances it was not surprising to find that Raja Ramkrishna lost two of his big parganas bearing jama of about one lakh and fifty thousand rupees within a year after his decennial engagement. This, however, did not relieve him from further distress. Every year arrears were accumulating. In July 1795, his outstanding arrears amounted to S Rs 5,39,054. Stating his difficulties, the raja wrote to the Council for abatement of the oversassessment and make remission of the consequent arrears. But his appeals were consistently turned down.
The repeated representations of Ramkrishna ventilating his difficulties in paying public revenue and his chronic arrears, led to a full-scale discussion in the Council about the affairs of his zamindari and opinions of the collector and from the Board of Revenue were sought. The Collector, giving his report in favour of the raja said that his zamindari was overrated by at least half the amount of rasad imposed on him. But the Council was not prepared to scale down the government demand. The raja's incompetence was blamed for arrears. In fact, the government was determined to dismember the large zamindari into numerous and easily manageable smaller estates. The Government's failure to collect the substantial amount of its demands in spite of the use of all administrative machinery at its disposal makes it abundantly clear that the resources of the zamindari were unequal to assessment.
The last phase of the zamidari was most tragic. In April 1798, Raja Biswanath attained his majority and took over the management of the zamindari. Soon he fell in huge arrears for which mahal after mahal were sold for recovering public revenue. By 1800, the great Rajshahi raj was reduced to insignificance. Utter poverty descended on the family. In consideration of his past rank and status and present indigence, the Government granted him an allowance of eight hundred rupees per month in 1805. A zamindari which was the second largest in Bengal, just next to the Burdwan raj, in 1790 became almost extinct within the next ten years.
It was the overassessment which made the zamindari helpless. The raja stood little chance of getting rid of debt balances and consequently sale of his lands continued. But over assessment was certainly not the whole truth behind the dissolution of the zamindari. The raja's own character was also a significant contributory factor. As a believer in the Vaisnava cult, Raja Ramkrishna was always engrossed in spiritual meditation oblivious of zamindari affairs. He used whatever leisure he managed to have after meditation and other religious duties in composing popular vaisnava songs which earned him the title 'Raja-saint' of Bengal.
Ramkrishna's utter indifference towards the zamindari management made him absolutely dependent on his amla who gradually became so powerful that the raja lost control over them. The members of the zamindari bureaucracy in league conspired to fatten themselves at the expense of their master.
Raja Biswanath, however, tried to save some parts of his zamindari through benami purchases. Thus he bought pargana Naldi and Santore, which bore a combined jama of about one lakh rupees, in the names of his peons; but ultimately some of these had to be disposed of in order to clear off debts. His grandmother, Rani Bhavani, purchased Huda Hurer Para, Tarraf Dakhin Jowar and Huda Barnagar in Murshidabad district in her own name. Their combined jama stood at S Rs 33,706. These benami purchases, together with the purchases of Rani Bhavani, saved this historic family from total extinction. In 1819, the sadar jama of the zamindari on all accounts amounted to Rs 88,006.
The Rajshahi Raj witnessed its rise almost throughout the eighteenth century, but its decline started even before the century ran out. It somehow maintained its precarious existence during the next century. The zamindari was ultimately abolished under the east bengal state acquisition and tenancy act, 1950. [ABM Mahmood and Sirajul Islam]
Julius J. Lipner
The Republic of India, which is constitutionally a ‘secular’ state, has a National Song and a National Anthem. Each has its official and other uses. The verses that became the National Song have been dogged by religious and political controversy, sometimes turning to violence, from pre-Independence days. These verses first appeared as part of a larger hymn in Anandamath, a Bengali religio–political novel by the famous novelist, Bankim Chatterji, first published serially in 1881–2, and then as a book from 1882. The hymn is entitled ‘Vande Mataram’, viz. ‘I revere the Mother’, and glorifies the ‘motherland’ of a band of ascetic warriors, called ‘santans’ or ‘Children’, who live in the heart of a dense forest somewhere in Bengal and emerge periodically to make war against foreign (Muslim and British) rule. As the hymn clearly indicates, the santans are children not only of the motherland but also of the Goddess, who is identified with the motherland. However, the National Song, which comprises only the first two verses of the hymn, makes no mention of the Goddess. This has not prevented various Indian voices through the decades from objecting strenuously to the religious, ‘idolatrous’, and ‘xenophobic’ resonances of a National Song that allegedly belies the secular status of the state. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the title of the hymn/National Song, viz. Vande Mataram, played a significant role, as watchword and rallying-cry, in India’s largely (Hindu) freedom movement, as also in communal strife between Hindus and Muslims from the first decades of the twentieth century. Using a recent resurgence of the controversy as a starting point, this article discusses the content of the hymn in its original setting, reviews the history of and reasons for the ongoing controversy about the National Song, and offers a suggestion as to how fundamental religio–political objections to it may be resolved.
India, which prides itself on being a ‘secular’ polity constitutionally, is in the extraordinary position of having both a National Anthem and a National Song. This is not the place to analyse the precise meaning of ‘secular’ with respect to the Indian Constitution. Much ink has flowed to this end. Suffice it to say that here this word is used not in the sense of ‘anti-religiousness’ but in the sense of not granting privileged status to any particular religion in the eyes of the Constitution. In other words, from the point of view of the Indian Constitution where matters of national or state policy are concerned, there should be no majoritarian or other bias towards the privileging of a particular religious faith.2
The title-words of the National Song are Vande Mtaram.3 One translation of this Sanskrit expression would be, ‘I revere the Mother’, from vande, the first person singular, present indicative of the verb vand, ‘to praise, revere, worship, salute, pay homage to’, and mt, ‘mother’. The meaning of both terms has proved controversial, and we shall return to this point. As we shall see, there are nine verses in all to the song or hymn with the title-words, Vande Mtaram, but the Indian National Song comprises only the first two stanzas of this hymn.
The national daily, The Indian Express, carried an article in its New Delhi edition on 21 August 2006, from which we take the following extract:
[S]ources told The Indian Express that [Arjun Singh, the Human Resources Development (HRD)] minister had got a letter, on 2 August this year, from Culture minister Ambika Soni on the issue of centenary celebrations of pre-Independence era themes, including Vande Mataram.
Soni explained to Singh that a National Committee for Centenary Celebrations under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister had been organising several events in this regard. Vande Mataram, she wrote, was composed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1876 and Rabindranath Tagore recited it for the first time at the Congress session in Bombay in 1896. Later, in 1905, it became the battle-song in the movement against Partition of Bengal [under British rule]. It was finally adopted as the national song at the Varanasi session of the Congress party on 7 September in 1905.
Having given this brief history,4 Soni wrote the year-long celebrations had started on 7 September 2005, when the song completed 100 years of adoption as the national song. As a ‘befitting grand finale’ to the year-long celebration, the Culture minister asked her HRD counterpart to have the singing of Vande Mataram at 11 a.m. on 7 September in all educational institutions across the country.
The HRD minister, on 8 August this year, wrote to all chief ministers and heads of Union Territories to have this ‘simultaneous countrywide singing’ of the first two stanzas of the national song at 11 a.m. on 7 September in all schools, colleges, and other educational institutions.
In passing, we may point out that this date seems an odd claimant for centenary celebrations of the National Song, for according to the reported statement of the Culture Minister herself, the song was composed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and was aired officially in a nationalist context towards the end of that century. We shall see, further, that it was adopted by the Constituent Assembly of an independent India under the chairmanship of Rajendra Prasad (India’s first President) only on 24 January 1950. None of these major landmarks coincides with a centenary celebration in 2006!5
The HRD ministry’s directive caused uproar throughout the land. This agitation occurred at several levels: religious, political, community, and state. There was strong Muslim representation that the song was idolatrous, anti-Muslim, and anti-secular. Here Sunnis and Shiites were as one.6 Even Sikhs objected on an official level to the directive.
[T]he Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) ... asked the Sikh community not to sing the national song on 7 September. In a statement issued [in Amritsar], SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar, while making an appeal to all community members not to sing the national song, said it only propagates a particular religion and does not fulfil aspirations of minorities, including Sikhs, Muslims and Christians. ‘It’s a conspiracy to spread communalism in the nation’, said Makkar.7
The national response to the directive was a classic fudge. Some states of the Union, largely those under the influence of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, identified with the right wing politically) professed to follow the directive; some states left their educational institutions free to make up their own minds. Some Muslim-run institutions sang the National Song, others refused to comply with the directive. In many cases, local Muslim authorities advised Muslim parents to keep their children away from school for the occasion. In general, some schools, aware of the reasons for the controversy, decided to have the hymn sung during morning assembly as part of the daily routine; in other institutions, the hymn was sung as a special event at 11 a.m. as recommended by the directive. Indeed, almost immediately after promulgating the directive, the HRD ministry itself issued a clarification stating that this was not intended to be compulsory (to the chagrin of the BJP), and it is interesting to note that on the appointed day, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, President of the Congress party (the chief party of the coalition forming the central government), absented herself from an official function where Vande Mtaram was to be sung; she sent a representative.
The point is that religious and political controversy over Vande Mtaram and its status as National Song has been a running issue for nearly a century. The agitation Arjun Singh’s directive engendered (not to mention Mrs. Gandhi’s politic response to a political hot potato) is but an index of a seemingly intractable problem India has had to contend with more and more urgently since becoming an independent ‘secular’ multi-faith democracy in 1947. This situation cannot continue; it is a serious bone of contention in the body politic. Sooner or later a decision about the status of Vande Mtaram will have to be taken with an eye to the future. The purpose of this essay is to look into the formative literary and political history of Vande Mtaram; to examine Vande Mtaram’s text and context; and to assess various objections made against it as to both content and status as National Song. This task will be facilitated by referring from time to time to the broader work I have undertaken on the topic in my book, nandamah, or The Sacred Brotherhood by Bankimcandra Chatterji (abbr.:ASB).8
As the previous sentence suggests, the hymn Vande Mtaram was given public currency through the Bengali novel entitled nandamah (which I have translated as The Sacred Brotherhood) written by Bankimcandra Cattopadhyay (anglicised as ‘Chatterji’; 1838–94). The novel was first published serially in Bagadaran, the literary journal in Bengali that Bankim edited, from March 1881 to June 1882. Thereafter, with some important revisions, the novel underwent five editions in book-form, the last of which we may call the standard version since it is this edition that appears in the various anthologies of Bankim’s works including the anthology published under the aegis of the Bangiya Sahitya Parisat (The Bengal Literary Society) to mark the centenary of Bankim’s birth.9 The standard edition appeared in November 1892.
The novel itself is set in the early 1770s, during the so-called sannys (or ‘renouncer’) rebellion as it occurred in the Birbhum district of greater Bengal, and the great famine in the region at the time. These two events provided the raw data of the narrative which Bankim then refined, and also re-defined, for his purposes. Thus, while the original ‘renouncers’ comprised itinerant bands of ganja-smoking Hindu and Muslim sannyss and fakirs, often numbering thousands, who travelled at certain periods of the year (many accompanied by their women and children) on pilgrimage routes, exacting tolls and provisions from the villages they passed, the inner core of sannyss of Bankim’s story are all cultured, upper-caste Hindus (mostly Brahmins) sworn to a vow of temporary celibacy. The original sannyss were for the most part a rabble, of considerable nuisance value because of their importunate practices, not only to the British who had the (lucrative) task of collecting the revenue for the regional Muslim rulers and imposing order for this purpose, but also to the local villagers whose livelihood in cash and kind was imperilled by the predatory behaviour of the renouncers. This compelled the British to try and disband the renouncers on a permanent basis, which led to running battles between the two sides for several years (the so-called sannys-rebellion), till eventually – by the turn of the century – the British won through. The situation in the early 1770s, however, was exacerbated by a terrible famine that gripped much of the middle regions of the Bengal of the time.
Bankim converts the deprivation and general lawlessness of these circumstances to the backdrop of his novel. Bengal is now contested land: there is no clear ruling authority. The titular Muslim rulers have gone to seed and are uninterested in enforcing the requisite order for the welfare of all their subjects, both Hindu and Muslim; they are reliant on the British to whom they have given the task of collecting revenue on their behalf. The British, who perforce have negotiated very generous terms, are interested only in their dues, and not in administering the land. Historically, these are no more than half-truths, if that, but for Bankim’s purposes the scene is set for his sannyss to play their parts.
These renouncers are called santns or ‘Children’, and they take up residence in an abandoned monastery in the heart of a dense jungle. They are Children of the Mother whom they worship, the focus of which are three images of the Goddess enshrined in the monastery: the Goddess-as-she-was, the Goddess-as-she-is (identified with an image of Kl), and the glorious Goddess-as-she-will-be. But it is significant that the Goddess-as-she-was is described as ‘the motherland in the form of the nurturing Goddess’ (jagaddhtrrpi mtbhmi). So the matter is complicated. Bankim has iconised the land. The santns are Children of the Goddess as also of the motherland, and the motherland is an embodiment of the Goddess in some way. Not only has Bankim iconised the land, but through the distinctive form of the Goddess he has also ‘Hinduised’ it in some integral sense. This is clear from a description of the Mother-as-she-will-be: ‘Her ten arms reach out in ten directions, adorned with various powers in the form of the different weapons she holds, the enemy crushed at her feet, while the mighty lion who has taken refuge there is engaged in destroying the foe ... [the Goddess] roams on the lordly lion’s back, [and] has Lakshmi personifying good fortune on her right, and the Goddess of speech who bestows wisdom and learning on her left, with Kartikeya signifying strength and Ganesh good success, in attendance!’ – a description uncannily reminiscent of Goddess Durg in one of her favoured representations.10 It would be as well to mark this here especially in the context of charges asserting the ‘communal’ and idolatrous nature of the novel and its Song.
The santns emerge periodically from their forest-retreat to attack those whom they regard as unacceptable representatives of failing ruling authority: the armies of the Muslim rulers and their British allies. Their aim is to free the motherland of these alien forces;11 in this they eventually succeed temporarily . Of course, there are a number of sub-plots – and battles, transgressions of various kinds, and episodes of requited and unrequited love described on the way. We must leave these for the reader to discover. But it is at this point in our essay that we need to make a more detailed acquaintance of Vande Mtaram.
The santns take recourse to a hymn that first appears in chapter 10 of Part I; this paean sums up their patriotic ardour to the nurturing motherland whose Children they are and which they seek to set free. Its opening words are ‘vande mtaram’, but it is also important to note that in the novel this expression is used as a slogan in its own right, sometimes as a password to the santns’ secret brotherhood and sometimes as a rallying-cry in battle. We shall return to this in due course. But here is the hymn in full in the English translation I have given it. The Children have just successfully carried out a raid on a cartload of money which the British have raised as revenue, and which is on its way to the British headquarters in Calcutta, and have rescued a wealthy landowner whose name is Mahendra. One of the commanders of the successful raiding party is called Bhabananda. It will be helpful to give the context of the first appearance of the hymn in full:
‘[Mahendra and Bhabananda] walked silently across the plain in that moonlit night. Mahendra was silent, anguished, unbending, and somewhat intrigued. Suddenly, Bhabananda seemed to become a different person. No longer was he the grave, calm renouncer, the skilled, valiant figure of the battlefield, the man who had cut off the head of a [British] commanding officer! No longer the man who had just rebuked Mahendra so haughtily. It was as if seeing the radiance of plain and forest, mountain and river of a peaceful, moonlit world had invigorated his mind in a special way, like the ocean gladdened by the rising moon. He was now light-hearted, talkative, friendly, keen to make a conversation. He tried often to get Mahendra to talk, but Mahendra remained silent. Then, with no other recourse, Bhabananda began to sing softly to himself:
I revere the Mother! The Mother
Rich in waters, rich in fruit,
Cooled by the southern airs,
Verdant with the harvest fair ...
Mahendra was a little astonished when he heard this song, and was at a loss to understand. Who was this mother "rich in waters, rich in fruit, cooled by the southern airs, verdant with the harvest fair"?
"Who is this mother?" he asked Bhabananda.
Without answering Bhabananda began to sing:
The Mother – with nights that thrill
in the light of the moon,
Radiant with foliage and flowers in bloom,
Smiling sweetly, speaking gently,
Giving joy and gifts in plenty.
Mahendra cried, "But that’s our land, not a mother!"
Bhabananda replied, "We recognise no other mother. ‘One’s mother and birthland are greater than heaven itself’. But we say that our birthland is our mother. We’ve no mothers, fathers, brothers, friends, wives, children, houses or homes. All we have is she who is rich in waters, rich in fruit, cooled by the southern airs, verdant with the harvest fair ...".
"Then sing on", said Mahendra, understanding at last.
And Bhabananda sang once more:12
(1) I revere the Mother! The Mother
Rich in waters, rich in fruit,
Cooled by the southern airs,
Verdant with the harvest fair.
(2) The Mother – with nights that thrill
in the light of the moon,
Radiant with foliage and flowers in bloom,
Smiling sweetly, speaking gently,
Giving joy and gifts in plenty.
(3) Powerless? How so, Mother,
With the strength of voices fell,
Seventy millions in their swell!
And with sharpened swords
By twice as many hands upheld!
(4) To the Mother I bow low,
To her who wields so great a force,
To her who saves,
And drives away the hostile hordes!
(5) You our wisdom, you our law,
You our heart, you our core,
In our bodies the living force is thine!
(6) Mother, you’re our strength of arm,
And in our hearts the loving balm,
Yours the form we shape in every shrine!
(7) For you are Durga, bearer of the tenfold power,
And wealth’s Goddess, dallying on the lotus-flower,
You are Speech, to you I bow,
To us wisdom you endow.
(8) I bow to the Goddess Fair,
Rich in waters, rich in fruit,
To the Mother,
Spotless – and beyond compare!
(9) I revere the Mother! the Mother
Darkly green and also true,
Richly dressed, of joyous face,
This ever-plenteous land of grace.’
The translation follows the order of stanzas as given in the original; the reader will notice that there are nine stanzas in all (which I have numbered for ready reference). In any case, no one disputes the arrangement of the first two stanzas. The hymn is composed in a mixture of Bengali and Sanskrit (i.e. some lines are in Sanskrit and some in Bengali). The first two stanzas are in Sanskrit, the third has both Sanskrit and Bengali, the fourth is in Sanskrit, the fifth is in both Bengali and Sanskrit, the sixth is entirely in Bengali, and the last three verses are all in Sanskrit.
Why this peculiarly admixed composition? Let us start with Sanskrit. There seems to be little doubt that Bankim had a version of the hymn in preparation before the writing of the narrative in which the completed hymn (modified slightly for subsequent editions of the novel) was inserted.13 In elite Hindu literary tradition, of which Bankim was widely knowledgeable, Sanskrit has always been the dominant language, and its compositional forms provided (and in important respects continue to provide) paradigms for literary creativity. This was specially so, for a particular reason, at the time when Bankim was writing. In the eyes of the-then Bengali intelligentsia, Sanskrit afforded a link of continuity, culturally and religiously, with the ancestral tradition of the majority. As such, the judicious application of Sanskrit was a psychological marker of cultural ballast, of legitimising authority for what was being said through the use of the language, and of a sense of Hindu national identity.14 Further, as will be evident, Vande Mtaram is a hymn with clear religious overtones; it is a hymn of praise to a ‘deity’, a ‘mothering icon’ (exactly to whom or what we shall see), in the manner of a stotra.15 It was therefore appropriate to evoke a Sanskrit paradigm for this purpose. Its Sanskritic form and content lent it gravitas; it was to be taken seriously.
But Bankim was too good an exponent of the narratival arts to leave it at that. The hymn needed to have an emotional grip on its reader, and this was accomplished in particular by the sense and sensibilities of the Bengali. Thus the staccato effect of the Bengali in the first two lines of verse 5, or the direct and familiar form of address in verse 6 (through the use of m and tomr for ‘mother’ and ‘your’, respectively) galvanises the Bengali reader – notwithstanding the individual commitment evoked by the first person singular of vande – to a sense of devotional solidarity. Bengali was the vernacular in which the narrative was written, and by thus vernacularising the Sanskrit of the hymn, Bankim achieves the best of both worlds – the authority of tradition and the enveloping freshness of current speech.16
Now to a consideration of the hymn’s content. Here we can only raise specific issues, but let us start with a core concern, viz. the mode and object of worship of this stotra. To drive the point home, let us quote some objections:
Advising the Union Government to form a committee of Sanskrit scholars and intellectuals who can decide the actual meaning of Vande, [Maulana Kalbe] Sadiq [Vice-President of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board] said if it meant salute or salaam to the nation, he is ready to sing it .... ‘We do not even worship Mecca, Medina or Kaba, then how can one force us to worship the motherland?’ asked Sadiq.17 ‘We cannot compromise on Kalma-e-Tayyaba, the basic pillar of Islam where we are committed to one God and Mohammed is our Prophet’, said Moulana Mufti Mohammed Hasnuddin, a religious scholar. The main objection of Muslims to singing Vande Mataram is based in this belief as the song treats even land and natural resources as God which is ‘Shirk’ or un-Islamic to the Muslims.18
Christian theologians have spoken of two kinds of worship, distinguished by the Greek terms latria and dulia. Though the original context is Christian theological discourse, the distinction itself is universalisable, and will stand us in good stead in the present discussion. Latria is the worship – the absolute, unconditional acknowledgement or submission – due to the Supreme Being or God, the one, infinite being. So there is only one object of latria. Dulia, on the other hand, is reverence or homage paid to a finite being regarded as superior to one or as deserving of respect in some way. Hence we say ‘Your Worship’ to the mayor, or jokingly or devotionally proclaim that we ‘worship’ the ground our beloved has walked on, or that we ‘worship’ the image of a great human being or some ancestor. Accordingly, since the object of dulia is by definition not God or the Supreme Being, and since dulia implies only veneration or respect, the objects of dulia can be indefinite in number. To revert now to the question raised above: what kind of ‘worship’ does the term vande imply in Vande Mtaram? Is it dulia or latria?
Let us begin with an inquiry into classical Hindu tradition, the basis of current usage (further, we should not forget that vande mtaram is a Sanskrit expression). There can be no doubt that the verbal root vand– has been used regularly in the sense of latria, viz. the worship or veneration due to God alone. Here are a few illustrative examples. The Bhgavata Pura (ca. 9th century C.E.), which has played such a central and influential role in the devotional worship of many Hindu sampradyas or sectarian traditions, lists the ‘nine marks/characteristics’ of genuine devotion (iti bhaktir navalaka) to the Supreme Being (named Viu) as follows: ‘Hearing (the name and the deeds of the lord; ravaa), singing the praises (of the Lord; krtana), keeping in mind (the Lord and his deeds/attributes at all times; smaraa), being at the service (of the Lord; pdasevana), worshipping (the image of the Lord; arcana), greeting and paying homage (to the Lord; vandana), offering one’s actions (to the Lord; dsya), having faith and trust (in the Lord as friend; sakhya), and offering body and soul (to the Lord; tmanivedana)’.19 Note the presence of vandana (noun from the root vand-) as one of the nine. This is paying homage to the Supreme deity.
The great devotional theologian Rmnuja (11th–12th century C.E.), takes up this idea and affirms it. Thus in his commentary on the Bhagavadgt, that foundational text of devotion to the one Lord (bhagavn, vara; ca. 1st–3rd century C.E.), under 9.14 which describes worship of the personal Supreme Being, he glosses as follows in words attributed to Krishna, the divine being: ‘Those set on Me ... with bodies enraptured and voices tremulous with emotion ... strive after Me through such deeds as worshipping my image by acts of reverent greeting, praising (vandana-stavana-karadi-), and so on ...’. There are countless other instances of such use of the root vand-. Thus it is clear that without semantic violence, in Hindu tradition, vand- can be and has been used in the sense of address or approach to the Supreme Being. Nevertheless, vand- has often been used from ancient times in the ordinary sense of greeting or salutation, i.e. of showing respect to a person or thing that is not the divine being.20 So the matter is inconclusive from the point of view of traditional usage.
Now we may ask: is there evidence to indicate what Bankim himself may have meant by the vande of the hymn he inserted into his famous novel? Let us look into this in pursuit of further clarification. It is at this point that we shall have to draw in the meaning of ‘Mother’ or mt (the accusative of which is mtaram), the object of the verb vande.
We have already seen that in Bankim’s description of the ‘Mother-as-she-will-be’, we have more or less a description of Goddess Durg as she appears every year during the great autumnal festival in Bengal of the Durg Pj. It is no coincidence then that verse 7 of the hymn makes salient reference to Durg by name who is identified with the ‘Mother’ (as well as to the Goddess of wealth and of speech, both associated with the ‘Mother-as-she-will-be’ in the earlier description). The point that I am making is that though the first two stanzas seem to entail a straightforward description of the ‘Mother’ as a nurturing motherland, the matter is certainly not that obvious, since already from stanza 6 (‘Mother ... Yours the form we shape in every shrine’) and then into stanza 7, the ‘Mother’ shades into a personal form of the Goddess as worshipped by Hindus. It is perhaps then disingenuous to dismiss without further consideration objections which raise the issue of ‘idolatry’ as permeating the hymn as a whole. The first two stanzas (=the National Song) are a part of a whole which does seem legitimately to raise this issue.21
But we must still inquire further as to the precise theological force of vande and mtaram. Can the author of the novel, who inserted the hymn into his narrative, provide any clue? Here we turn to a controversy Bankim entered into between the time the novel was completed in serial form (mid-1882) and the time it was first published as a book (end-1882). On 17 September that year, a grandee of Calcutta, Maharaja Harendra Krishna Deb, held an elaborate rite (rddh) to commemorate the death of a close relative. A fairly detailed report appeared in the Calcutta Statesman, and the attendance at this grand event (during which an image of Krishna, the family deity, was brought into the hall) by leading English-educated Bengali men in particular so outraged the religious sensibilities of the Rev. W. Hastie, principal of the General Assembly’s Institution of that city, that he wrote a furious letter to The Statesman, decrying the bad example especially of the male attenders for appearing to countenance the idolatrous rites and thus misleading their (less-educated) womenfolk. Hastie wrote arrogantly and rudely of Hindu ‘idol-worship’ which he compared most unfavourably to the enlightened faith of Christians. Bankim, who was not present at the rite, was one of those who protested against Hastie’s comments, and he entered into a controversy about Hindu worship with Hastie through the columns of The Statesman, first under a pseudonym and finally in his own name. In the process, he gives an account of his own understanding of what passed for ‘idol worship’ among his compatriots, and it is in this context that his views are relevant for our own discussion.
In a long letter, published on 8 October, Bankim wrote as follows:
Modern science has shown what the Hindus always knew that the phenomena of nature are simply the manifestations of force. They worship, therefore, Nature as force. Sakti, literally and ordinarily means force or energy. As destructive energy, force is Kali, hideous and terrible, because destruction is hideous and terrible. As constructive energy, force is the bright and resplendent Durga. The universal soul is also worshipped, but in three distinct aspects .... I translate them as love, power, and justice. Love creates, power preserves, and justice dooms. This is the Hindu (idea) of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva ....
I now pass on to the worship. Much of the Hindu ritual is mere mummery ... Idol worship is permitted, is even belauded in the Hindu scriptures, but it is not enjoined as compulsory .... The orthodox Brahmin is bound to worship Vishnu and Siva every day, but he is not bound to worship their images. He may worship their images if he chooses, but if he does not so choose, the worship of the Invisible is accepted as sufficient ....
And I must ask the student of Hinduism when he comes to study Hindu Idolatry, to forget the nonsense about dolls given to children .... The true explanation consists in the ever true relations of the subjective Ideal to its objective Reality .... The passionate yearnings of the heart for the Ideal in beauty, in power, and in purity, must find an expression in the world of the Real. Hence proceed all poetry and all art. Exactly in the same way the ideal of the Divine in man receives a form from him, and the form an image. The existence of Idols is as justifiable as that of the tragedy of Hamlet or of that of Prometheus. The religious worship of idols is as justifiable as the intellectual worship of Hamlet or Prometheus ....
Nor must the student fall into the error of thinking that the image is ever taken to be the God. The God is always believed, by every worshipper, to exist apart from the image. The image is simply the visible and accessible medium through which I choose to send my homage to the throne of the Invisible and the Inaccessible .... The image is holy, not because the worshipper believes it to be his god – he believes in no such thing – but because he has made a contract with his own heart for the sake of culture and discipline to treat it as God’s image.
There is much here to decipher, but we are given an insight into what Bankim thought about the worship of images in the context of Hindu worship as a whole at the time of the publication of the hymn as part of the novel. It is clear that Bankim does not repudiate belief in a transcendent spiritual being (the ‘universal soul ... the Invisible and Inaccessible’) which is characterised as love, power, and justice (= ‘Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva’). He also affirms that Hindus worship Nature as power or force (akti) represented, depending on the manifestations of this force, by Kl as hideously destructive or Durg as resplendently creative, and so on. But they do not worship Nature in its own right; they ‘worship’ Nature as permeated by the universal soul which is the Ideal of beauty, power, and purity, and which finds artistic expression in the sacred image. This image is not the divine universal power. It is separate from it – a human way of representing the Invisible and Inaccessible Ideal by means of a ‘contract with [the worshipper’s] heart for the sake of culture and discipline to treat [the image] as God’s image’.
Thus vande and mtaram, the latter a fusion of land and transcendent divine Ideal, are, from the standpoint of the author of the novel, not ‘anti-Muslim’ or ‘idolatrous’ in any obvious or traditional sense, for according to Bankim the ‘image [whether Durg or motherland] is holy, not because the worshipper believes it to be his god – he believes in no such thing’, but because it is an expression of a contract he and his society have made to treat that image, ‘for the sake of culture and discipline’ (emphasis in original) as God’s image. We are speaking here of a cultural and personal contract initiated by the worshipper, and one either opts into this contract or one does not. Nevertheless, this does emphasise the peculiarly Hindu nature of the arrangement.
Further, there can be no talk here of actual polytheism, since there is only one Supreme Being which manifests through different (culturally determined) forms and images. One cannot over-simplify, then, the theology of the hymn in context. Still, it does seem that in Bankim’s estimation the hymn has force because it evokes this contract, and that actual worship of the supreme, ‘invisible’, ‘inaccessible’ transcendent ‘universal soul’ is intended to take place in and through homage paid to the motherland and various other representations of the deity. Thus a strong if indirect sense of ‘worship’ does seem to be intended by both Vande and Mtaram by the author of the novel. And it is important to note that the symbolism of the song as a whole is unapologetically Hindu.
But of course this does not resolve the problem, chiefly for two reasons: first, because by an official act, endorsed on countless political occasions, only the first two stanzas, and not the whole hymn, became the National Song, and second, because the force of worship lies not primarily in the words used to carry it out (or even in the intention of the composer of the words), but in the intention of the actual user of the words in question. Let us inquire into both these points.
So far we have looked at the first two stanzas in the context of the hymn as a whole. In this context vande and mtaram do seem to carry the connotations of worship as latria, that is, worship in the strong sense; neither the historical usage of language nor that of the author of the novel militates against this understanding. But if a special gloss is put on the first two stanzas as divorced from the rest of the hymn, does this alter the situation? Let us consider now how the first two stanzas became the National Song.
To begin with, it must be pointed out that from its earliest association with the novel, the hymn seems to have had a life of its own; there is evidence to show that the song, at least in embryonic form, was composed even before the novel was written. It then seems to have been completed and inserted into the story.22 Indeed, it was sung at a public function or two as a hymn in its own right (though apparently not with political intent) after it appeared in the serial version of the novel but before the novel had been completed.23 So there is precedent for saying that the hymn can be detached or at least dislodged from its narrative context. This makes it easier to see how the first two stanzas could be further detached from the song as a whole.
Soon after the publication of the song it attracted the notice of several writers and critics. It inspired a picture of Mother India by Harishchandra Haldar which was printed in 1885 in a journal called Balak. In 1886 Hemchandra Banerji wrote a poem, ‘Rakhi Bandan’, wherein he included the first two stanzas of Vandemataram.24
Here we must add that in contradistinction to the song Vande Mtaram, the title-words Vande Mtaram also took on an independent existence. In the novel itself this expression is used a number of times in this way – as a password, and as a rallying or battle cry. Thus both the song and slogan Vande Mtaram ran separately on parallel tracks, associated with but resorted to independently from the novel. On the one hand the song, or rather its first two stanzas, began to assume a profile on the nationalist stage. Rabindranath Tagore, Bengal’s rising star as a poet towards the end of the nineteenth century, ‘set to music the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram and sang it in the Congress session in Calcutta in 1896’.25 On the other hand, the slogan began to have a political ring of its own: ‘The first enthusiastic plea for the extensive use of the slogan Vandemataram was made by Yogendranath Vidyabhushan in his biography of Garibaldi published in 1890’.26
But the pro-active and inexorable politicisation of both song and slogan took place in connection with the first partition of Bengal in 1905, which was to come into effect in October of that year. Earlier, on 7 August, thousands of students, who included Muslims, marched on the Calcutta Town Hall, chanting Bande Mtaram,27 in protest against the impending partition. This governmental act to split greater Bengal into two parts on what Bengalis perceived to be sectarian grounds (with Hindus preponderantly in the west and Muslims preponderantly in the east), acted as the catalyst for the mass politicisation of song and slogan among Indians seeking to defy British rule. Rameshcandra Datta, in his article ‘Chatterji, Bankim Chandra’, in the well-known 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, writes, ‘During Bankim Chandra Chatterji’s lifetime the Bande Mataram, though its dangerous tendency was recognised, was not used as a party war-cry; it was not raised, for instance, during the Ilbert Bill agitation, nor by the students who flocked round the court during the trial of Surendra Nath Banerji in 1883. It has, however, obtained an evil notoriety in the agitations that followed the  partition of Bengal’ (vol. 6, 1910, pp. 9–10). ‘Dangerous tendency’ and ‘evil notoriety’, that is, in the eyes of those who sympathised with the machinations of the British government.
Evidence indicates that in the very early days of these agitations in defiance of the British and their loyal Indian civil servants, Muslims did not offer serious objection publicly to either song or slogan. We have already mentioned the Calcutta protest against the 1905 partition where people of both communities took part. S. Bhattacharya, in the book mentioned earlier, gives another example of joint action, this time in Rajahmundry in the Madras Presidency: ‘The Hindu reported in February 1907 that a Bala Bharati Samiti was organised and in Rajahmundry, "students, all wearing Vande Mataram badges, and carrying aloft beautiful banners glittering with bold letters of Vande Mataram and Allah-o-Akbar" marched around the town and "here and there the procession halted to sing the immortal song of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’’ ’ (op.cit., p. 55).
It did not take long, however, for both slogan and song to acquire sectarian resonances and in consequence to incur strong Muslim objections. This process began to crystallise as early as the first half of 1907. The swadeshi movement, viz. the favouring of products manufactured in one’s own land (swadeshi) and the boycotting of foreign-made goods, had begun in Bengal; because of the rhetoric and symbolism associated with it, it was soon perceived by Muslim leaders in eastern Bengal as a Hindu movement, which had the effect of alienating Muslims. It was alleged that ‘the Hindu Zemindars [landholders], by closing their hts or bazars to those using or purchasing foreign goods, were coercing the [Muslims to] join the Boycott movement and thus helping the yawning of the gulf (sic) between the Hindus and the Muslims’.28 This was adduced as one of the reasons underpinning the creation of the All India Muslim League at the end of 1906 to represent Muslim interests before the British as a counter-measure to the Indian National Congress which was seen as a Hindu-orientated organisation. In short, partition exacerbated Hindu-Muslim rivalries and divisive allegiances.
Serious riots broke out between the two communities in eastern Bengal in 1907. The English-language militant paper, entitled Bande Mataram, which had started in August 1906 under Bengali Hindu editorial control, played a significant role, inadvertently perhaps, both by its title and its editorials, in Hinduising the post-partition nationalist movement and alienating Muslims. Its reportage of the riots in Jamalpur is illustrative of this bias.
Here [in Jamalpur] Muslim rowdies attacked Hindu volunteers who were destroying foreign-made goods at a fair. Then they went on a rampage, burning down shops where swadeshi products were sold .... Mobs attacked landlords’ houses, destroyed debt bonds, and smashed an image of Durga. This act of desecration outraged Hindus in every part of the country. Bande Mataram fanned the flames by publishing an etching of the broken image along with headlines like ‘Hindu Women wait with Knives in Their Hands/ Rather Death than Dishonour’ .... The cry of religion in danger and womankind in danger had predictable results. Bande Mataram’s sub-editor Hemendra Prasad Ghose spoke for hundreds when he wrote: ‘It makes one’s blood boil to think of it .... Revenge is the word that escapes one’s lips’.29
At around this time, a controversial Muslim publication, called Lal Istahar (‘The Red Pamphlet’), did the rounds encouraging Muslims to have nothing to do with Vande Mtaram.30 The die was thus cast for a collision course between Hindus and Muslims over use of both slogan and song during the increasingly fraught times of political turmoil that lay ahead.
It was in the early 1920s that a fresh head of steam built up over the issue. In his book, S. K. Das notes that in the Calcutta riots of 1921, Hindu rioters used Vande Mtaram as a provocative watchword against Muslims, and ‘from this time onwards Vandemataram began to be used as the war-cry of the Hindu fanatics’ (op.cit., p. 220).31 The scene was thus set for a resolution to be passed during the 25th annual session of the All India Muslim League in October 1937 condemning ‘the attitude of the [Indian National] Congress in foisting Bande Mataram as the national anthem (sic) upon the country as callous, positively anti-Islamic, idolatrous in its inspiration and ideas, and definitely subversive of the growth of genuine nationalism in India. This meeting further calls upon Muslim members of various legislatures and public bodies in the country not to associate themselves in any manner with this highly objectionable song’.32 Henceforth, for many Muslims, Vande Mtaram would be eyed with implacable suspicion.
But while Muslim opposition was hardening, moves were afoot at the same time on another front to exalt the song, or at least its first two stanzas. The Congress party was in search of a national anthem, and various patriotic songs were up for consideration, including Vande Mtaram. In an article on the modern theme of Mother India, Geeti Sen writes, ‘In [October] 1937 Nehru wrote to Subhas Chandra Bose, ‘Certainly as suggested by you I shall discuss the Bande Mataram song with Dr Tagore’. The poet laureate confirmed that the second stanza describing the goddess enshrined in temples was inimical to Islamic tenets against the worship of icons. And after considerable debate, in the wisdom of things as they had changed, Bande Mataram was not chosen as the national anthem’.33
The reference to the ‘second stanza’ as describing the goddess enshrined in temples is puzzling. From my enumeration of the verses of the hymn given earlier, the reader will see that this would include the first six stanzas – well in excess of half the song! Perhaps the poet was nodding, or meant something like the first two major sections of the hymn! In any case, no one else of note, least of all the principal personalities involved in seeking to identify a national song at the time, was ambiguous on this matter. All (including Nehru and Bose) understood the first two stanzas to comprise the first two verses as enumerated in my translation of the hymn, viz. the eulogistic description of natural features of the land identified as Mother.
The relevant committee of the Congress party in the main followed Tagore’s advice in making its recommendation. It seems that Tagore came to the conventional view of what the first two stanzas were; in a letter to Nehru dated 26 October 1937, he wrote:
To me the spirit of tenderness and devotion expressed in [the hymn’s] first portion, the emphasis it gave to beautiful and beneficent aspects of our motherland made a special appeal, so much so that I found no difficulty in dissociating it from the rest of the poem and from those portions of the book of which it is a part .... I freely concede that the whole of Bankim’s ‘Vande Mataram’ poem, read together with its context, is liable to be interpreted in ways that might wound Moslem susceptibilities, but a national song, though derived from it, which has spontaneously come to consist only of the first two stanzas of the original poem, need not remind us every time of the whole of it, much less of the story with which it was accidentally associated. It has acquired a separate individuality and an inspiring significance of its own in which I see nothing to offend any sect or community (emphasis added).34
In the relevant matter of predilection for the nationalist history and evocative power of the first two verses of the song, this is perhaps a case of like writing to like. Both Tagore and Nehru had grown up acculturated to what we may generically call Hindu beliefs and practices, irrespective of the humanistic turns of thought their minds had subsequently acquired. They had an a priori disposition, as it were, to regard the land as ‘mother’ and to sit lightly to detaching the first two stanzas from both the rest of the song and the novel. For Tagore, this was a ‘spontaneous’ act.35 But this could not be said for those disciplined in a staunchly monotheistic faith with sharply divergent theological presuppositions, and who were convinced that the song was idolatrous and that both author and novel had a history that was implacably anti-Muslim!36
Let us now ask: can Bankim be regarded as having a bias against Muslims (which allegedly emerged in his work), and is nandamah anti-Muslim, so as to justify such adverse Muslim opinion where both author and song were concerned? I have considered this question at some length in ASB (see esp. pp. 61–70, 102–4); it is a matter of considerable complexity and resists a simplistic answer. I have discussed how Bankim tends to distinguish in his writings between, as he saw it, the Muslim as de (‘home-grown’, viz. locals who converted to Islam, large numbers of whom spoke Bengali, practised age-old Bengali ways and lived preponderantly in the eastern part of Bengal) and the Muslim as jaban or ‘outsider’, whose ancestry was derived from foreign lands such as Afghanistan, Turkey, or Persia, and who came to India to loot or rule and refused to integrate with the ways of the established Hindu majority. There is evidence to show that a particular angst emerged especially in some of Bankim’s later writings with regard to the Islamic presence in India of the second category of Muslim. As for nandamah, anti-Muslim sentiments may well be detected in the narrative, but these are expressed largely against a degenerate elite and in the mouths of impassioned characters of the story. The fact is that as Vande Mtaram embarked on its sectarian career, Muslim antipathy against song and slogan incorporated bias, not without reason, against their author.37
After they had completed their deliberations on the status of Vande Mtaram, Nehru’s Working Committee reported as follows:
Working Committee feel that past associations, with their long record of suffering for the cause, as well as popular usage, have made the first two stanzas of this song a living and inseparable part of our national movement and as such they must command our affection and respect. There is nothing in these stanzas to which anyone can take exception. The other stanzas of the song are little known and hardly ever sung .... [T]he Committee wish to point out that the modern evolution of the use of the song as part of national life is of infinitely greater importance than its setting in a historical novel before the national movement had taken shape. Taking all things into consideration therefore the Committee recommend that wherever the Bande Mataram is sung at national gatherings only the first two stanzas should be sung, with perfect freedom to the organisers to sing any other song of an unobjectionable character, in addition to, or in the place of, the Bande Mataram song.38
So here we have the makings of the current official view that has remained consistent to the present day. The characteristics of this view are that: (i) the song, especially the first two stanzas, is steeped in the history of the sacrifices made in the nationalist cause leading to India’s freedom from foreign rule – this justifies its preferred status; (ii) the first two stanzas have acquired a ‘separate individuality’; (iii) as such, the first two stanzas are religiously unobjectionable; and (iv) all things considered (a concession to the possibility of legitimate objections being made from a wider perspective), the singing of the song on nationalist or official occasions need not be compulsory. And yet it is the national song of a democratic, ‘secular’ Republic!
Jinnah and the Muslim League were not convinced, and continued to object strenuously and tendentiously to the song, but to no avail. Neither side was prepared to compromise or give ground, and we have seen earlier how finally, on 24 January 1950, the Chair of the Constituent Assembly, Rajendra Prasad, gave a decision making Vande Mtaram the National Song. As VMBS points out, this was on the last day of the Assembly’s last session, and a motion that was ‘not debated upon or put to the vote, unlike the numerous resolutions debated and voted upon in the process of making the Constitution of the Republic’, was accepted (pp. 43–4). As noted before, since then on countless occasions the first two stanzas of nandamah’s Song have been sung or chanted under official sanction in a national context that has remained contentious, and throughout this saga, to the present day, the matter has been exacerbated by right-wing Hindu organisations opportunistically vaunting the song and striving to make its singing compulsory at official functions and occasions. The issue has given no evidence of going away or subsiding with the passage of time, and it would be irresponsible to close one’s eyes to this. Indeed, the promulgation or implementation of directives such as that of the HRD ministry referred to at the beginning of this essay often leads to violence on the streets.39
Perhaps the time has come for a national debate to be undertaken by the leadership on all sides, sanctioned by a responsible government, in order to resolve the matter. The alternative is a prolongation of a religio-political issue that remains highly charged and potentially explosive. With regard to the subject of this essay, this debate could include, besides the specific matters raised here, such wider issues as the distinction between a national song and a national anthem, the purpose of a national song/anthem in a secular, multicultural democracy, the implications of history in the context of India’s nationalist movement, and determining the appropriate occasions and appropriate language(s) for singing a national song/anthem in a nation-state such as India.
But to return to the immediate crisis, it has been suggested by a recent participant that an investigatory body of experts be set up to elicit the true meaning of vande in the context of the National Song. This suggestion is really a cry for political leadership in the matter. I noted earlier that the force of worship lies really in the intention behind the use of the relevant terms, not primarily in the words themselves. One cannot legislate to determine intentions behind words. But there is sufficient ambiguity in the meaning of vande so as to leave room for manoeuvre. It may be used, as we have seen, in the sense of latria or the worship due to the Supreme Being alone, but it can also signify ‘worship’ or homage in the weak sense of dulia, in the sense, that is, of salutations or reverence offered to a non-divine object. As an immediate measure to defuse the situation (in preparation for the wider debate), it would be a constructive step if the Indian government exploited this ambiguity with respect to the National Song, and issued a clarification to the effect that not only should its singing be non-obligatory, but also that it would be open to the utterer of vande to invest this word with the intention dictated by the utterer’s conscience. This could then be followed through by individuals and communities as they saw fit. Such a promulgation would go a long way towards immediately removing the sting of religious and political contentiousness that has lurked for so long in India’s National Song.
The National Song of India
Vande Mataram ! The National song of India
sujalaaM suphalaaM malayaja shiitalaaM
SasyashyaamalaaM maataram ||
pullakusumita drumadala shobhiniiM
suhaasiniiM sumadhura bhaashhiNiiM
sukhadaaM varadaaM maataraM ||
Koti koti kantha kalakalaninaada karaale
koti koti bhujai.rdhR^itakharakaravaale
abalaa keno maa eto bale
bahubaladhaariNiiM namaami taariNiiM
ripudalavaariNiiM maataraM ||
Tumi vidyaa tumi dharma
tumi hR^idi tumi marma
tvaM hi praaNaaH shariire
Baahute tumi maa shakti
hR^idaye tumi maa bhakti
tomaara i pratimaa gaDi
mandire mandire ||
TvaM hi durgaa dashapraharaNadhaariNii
kamalaa kamaladala vihaariNii
vaaNii vidyaadaayinii namaami tvaaM
Namaami kamalaaM amalaaM atulaaM
SujalaaM suphalaaM maataraM ||
ShyaamalaaM saralaaM susmitaaM bhuushhitaaM
DharaNiiM bharaNiiM maataraM |"
Translation by Shree Aurobindo
Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Dark 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.
Who hath said thou art weak in thy lands
When the sword flesh out in the seventy million hands
And seventy million voices roar
Thy dreadful name from shore to shore?
With many strengths who art mighty and stored,
To thee I call Mother and Lord!
Though who savest, arise and save!
To her I cry who ever her foeman drove
Back from plain and Sea
And shook herself free.
Thou art wisdom, thou art law,
Thou art heart, our soul, our breath
Though art love divine, the awe
In our hearts that conquers death.
Thine the strength that nervs the arm,
Thine the beauty, thine the charm.
Every image made divine
In our temples is but thine.
Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen,
With her hands that strike and her
swords of sheen,
Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,
And the Muse a hundred-toned,
Pure and perfect without peer,
Mother lend thine ear,
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
Bright with thy orchard gleems,
Dark of hue O candid-fair
In thy soul, with jewelled hair
And thy glorious smile divine,
Lovilest of all earthly lands,
Showering wealth from well-stored hands!
Mother, mother mine!
Mother sweet, I bow to thee,
Mother great and free!
Bankin Chandra composed the song Vande Mataram in an inspired moment, Rabindranath sang it by setting a glorious tune to it and it was left to the genius of Shri Aurobindo to interpret the deeper meaning of the song out of which India received the philosophy of new Nationalism.
The English translation of Vande Mataram rendered by Shree Aurobindo, is considered as official and best as per Bhavan's book, Vande Mataram by Moni Bagchee (pg. 66).
The inspiration of
Bankimchandra's Anand Math
Historians like Jadunath Sarkar, R.C. Majumdar and literary critics have generally held that Ananda Math was a product of Bankimchandra’s imagination. The painstaking research of Kishanchand Bhakat, assistant teacher of mathematics in the M.N. Academy High School, Lalgola, in the district of Murshidabad, spanning over two decades seems to have proved otherwise. Having been District Magistrate of Murshidabad at one time and later the Divisional Commissioner, I was impelled to verify the claims. To do so I visited the ruins of the Lalgola Raj Palace, now West Bengal’s sole open-air jail, and this is what I found –
The seeds of Bankimchandra’s anti-British sentiments were sown in Berhampore, the district headquarters of Murshidabad district where he was posted as a Deputy Magistrate [he was the first Bengali to be offered a job in the civil service after he graduated with grace marks in Bengali, his examiner having been none other than Iswarchandra Vidyasagar who did not give him pass marks!]. It was the 15th of December 1873 when Bankimchandra was, as usual, crossing the Barrack Square field opposite the Collectorate in his palanquin while some Englishmen were playing cricket. Suddenly one Lt. Colonel Duffin stopped the palanquin with some abusive remarks and insisted that it should be taken out of the field. When Bankim refused to abandon his customary route, Duffin apparently forced him to alight from the palanquin and pushed him violently (as reported in the Amrita Bazar Patrika of 8.1.1974). Witnesses to the incident included the Raja of Lalgola Jogindranarain Roy, Durgashankar Bhattacharji of Berhampur, Judge Bacebridge, Reverend Barlow, Principal Robert Hand and some others. Furious at the insult, Bankimchandra filed a criminal case against the Colonel, with the Lalgola Raja, Durgashankar Bhattacharji and Hand cited as witnesses. Duffin had to get a lawyer from Krishnagar in Nadia district, as no one in Berhampore was willing to appear for him, while all the local lawyers had signed vakalatnamas for Bankimchandra.
On 12th January 1874 the Magistrate, Mr. Winter, summoned Duffin and had just begun to question him when Judge Bacebridge entered and requested a few words in his chamber. After a little while they called in Bankimchandra and Duffin. Apparently they told Bankimchandra that Duffin had not recognized that Bankim was a Deputy Magistrate and regretted the incident. They requested Bankimchandra to withdraw the case. This he was not prepared to do and after much persuasion agreed, provided Duffin offered a formal apology in open court. Reluctantly, Duffin agreed. Winter took his chair in the court thereafter and in his presence, before a packed court, Lt. Col. Duffin offered an unconditional apology to Bankimchandra. The Amrita Bazar Patrika of 15.1.1874 reports: “It appears that the colonel and the Babu were perfect strangers to each other and he did not know who he was when he affronted him. On being informed afterwards of the position of the Babu, Col. Duffin expressed deep contrition and a desire to apologise. The apology was made in due form in open court where about a thousand spectators, native and Europeans, were assembled.”
Almost immediately thereafter we find Bankimchandra taking three months leave. After this incident there must have been considerable resentment in the Berhampore Cantonment among the British militia and, apprehending bodily harm, Rao Jogindranarain Roy took Bankimchandra away to stay with him in Lalgola.
In Lalgola the Guru of the raja’s family was Pandit Kali Brahma Bhattacharya who practised tantrik sadhana. Kishanchand Bhakat has obtained an excerpt of seven slokas from a book in the family of Kali Brahma Bhattacharya whose rhythm, sense and even some words bear an uncanny resemblance to Bankim’s song. It is most probable that Bankimchandra took the first few lines of his immortal “Bande Mataram” (up to ripudalabarining) from here because in the first edition of the novel in Banga Darshan (Chaitra 1287, pp. 555-556), these lines are given within quotation marks and the spelling is most ungrammatically retained as “matarang”. Bankim faced considerable criticism on this account from Haraprasad Shastri, Rajkrishna Muhopadhyay, and others. In the later editions he removed the quotation marks and changed the spelling to the proper Sanskrit “mataram”, wiping out all trace of the borrowing.
There is an image of Kali in the Lalgola palace temple that is unique. Its four hands are bereft of any weapon. The two lower hands are folded in front (karabadhha), the palm of one covered by that of the other, just as a prisoner’s hands are shackled. From behind, the image is shackled to the wall with numerous iron chains. Kali is black, of terrifying mien, naked, a serpent between her feet, and Shiva a supine corpse before her. This represented to Bankim what Bhaarat, the Mother, had become:
“The Brahmacharin said,
‘Look on the Mother as she now is.’
Mohendra said in fear, ‘It is Kali.’
‘Yes, Kali enveloped in darkness, full of blackness and gloom. She is stripped of all, therefore naked. Today the whole country is a burial ground, therefore is the Mother garlanded with skulls. Her own God she tramples under her feet. Alas my Mother!’” (Sri Aurobindo’s translation, 1909).
It is extremely significant that on either side of this unusual Kali we find Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Kartik and Ganesh, who are never represented with this goddess. It is in this Kali that Bankim envisioned Mother as she will be and that is why he wrote, “tvam hi durga dashapraharana dharini, Thou, indeed, art Durga, ten-armed, weapon-wielding”. It is this temple that is the source of Bankimchandra’s ‘Monastery of Bliss’.
To reach this temple a tunnel existed, whose vestiges are still visible, from another temple that is now in ruins and covered up with jungle. This ruined edifice was the Jagaddhatri temple that Bankim would have seen and described in his novel thus:
“Jagaddhatri, Protrectress of the world, wonderful, perfect, rich with every ornament…the Mother as she was…She trampled under foot the elephant of the forest and all wild beasts, and in the haunt of the wild beasts she erected her lotus throne. She was covered with every ornament, full of laughter and beauty. She was in hue like the young sun, splendid with all opulence and empire…The Brahmacharin then showed him a dark underground passage…In a dark room in the bowels of the earth an insufficient light entered from some unperceived outlet. By that faint light he saw an image of Kali.” (ibid.)
A little to the east is another temple in which the image of goddess Durga was worshipped by Kali Brahma Bhattacharya—“Mother as she will be”:
“The ascetic…began to ascend another underground passage…In a wide temple built in stone of marble they saw a beautifully fashioned image of the ten-armed Goddess made in gold, laughing and radiant in the light of the early sun…Her ten arms are extended towards the ten regions and they bear many a force imaged in her manifold weapons; her enemies are trampled under her feet and the lion on which her foot rests is busy destroying the foe…on her right Lakshmi as Prosperity, on her left Speech, giver of learning and science, Kartikeya with her as Strength, Ganesh as Success.”
In the tenth chapter of Ananda Math there is an elaborate description of an extremely opulent building housing a dazzling image of four-armed Vishnu with two huge demons, beheaded, lying in front, Lakshmi garlanded with lotuses on the left with flowing hair, as though terrified, and on the right Sarasvati with book and musical instrument, surrounded with incarnate raga-raginis and on his lap one lovelier than either goddess, more opulent and more majestic: the Mother. The dynastic deity of the Lalgola Raja family was Vishnu and the image was worshipped inside the huge palace. Underground chambers can still be seen here and it is possible that the Kali icon was originally housed in one of these, reached through the tunnels.
A little further on is the ruin of an ancient Buddhist Vihara where the Buddhist goddess Kalkali was worshipped. The stream that flows by is named after her, and is mentioned in the novel. In chapter 5 of the novel he describes this “great monastery engirt with ruined masses of stones. Archaeologists would tell us that this was formerly a monastic retreat of the Buddhists and afterwards became a Hindu monastery.” This is where Kalyani first sees the noble, white-bodied, white-haired, white-bearded, white-robed ascetic. Is Kali Brahma Bhattacharya the inspiration for this figure?
To the north of the palace, through what was then a dense forest, one reaches the confluence of Kalkali, Padma and Bhairav rivers known as “Sati-maar thaan (sthaan, place)”. Here, under a massive banyan tree, groups of Bir and Shri sects of violent Tantriks used to meet. Kali Brahma used to tutor them in opposing British rule to free the shackled Mother. One tunnel from the Kali temple goes straight to the Kalkali river, whose banks were dotted with a number of small temples in which these tantriks used to take shelter. It is said that in this Kali temple Bankim witnessed a very old tantrik offering a red hibiscus to the goddess, shouting “Jaya ma danujdalani, bande bandini matarang”. Is it mere coincidence that if “bandini” is dropped from this tantrik’s exclamation we get exactly Bankim’s “bande matarang”?
Bhakat hazards a guess that this may have occurred on the full moon night of Maagh, 1280 B.S. (Jan-Feb 1874) when the death anniversary of Rao Ramshankar Roy used to be observed in the Lalgola family. This occasion occurred very soon after the court case in Berhampur and Bankimchandra’s taking leave. On this anniversary, sadhus from Benares used to arrive at this Kali temple. Repeatedly Bankim refers to “Maghi purnima” in the novel.
The inspiration Bankim received from all this is reflected first in his essay “Aamaar Durgotsab” (1874).
In the same area we find the Raghunath temple with icons of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman, Radha and Krishna, with 51 Shiva lingas and 34 Saalgraams. It is said that these were kept here from the time of the Sanyasi Revolt of 1772-73. Bhakat points out that near the Lalgola zamindari was the estate of Rani Bhawani of Natore who used to distribute food freely to the ascetics and was therefore renowned as goddess Annapurna herself. Her patronage extended right up to Benares. In 1772-3 Warren Hastings, the Governor General, forfeited a large portion of the Rani’s estate. This lead to stoppage of the supplies to the Sanyasis. The famine that followed in Bengal fanned the flames and the Sanyasis attacked the British. Led by the tantrik Mahant Ramdas of Dinajpur’s Kanchan Mashida monastery, they deposited the icons of their deities with Rao Atmaram Roy, the Lalgola zamindar, and left on their mission.
Bhakat has identified Bankimchandra’s “Padachinnha” village with Dewan Sarai village which tallies with all the data in the novel: north to south beside Padachinnha the earthern embankment built by the Nawab runs through “to Murshidabad, Cossimbazar or Calcutta” where Kalyani urges Mohendra to go and also mentions “town” which could be a reference to “nagar/Rajnagar” in Birbhum which can also be reached by this embankment. (chapter 1 of Ananda Math). On either side of the embankment there used to be dense forest, and at the confluence, at Basumati (located in Nashipur, now washed into the river was a burning ghat frequented by Bhojpuri Tantriks. All the temples mentioned in the novel are also here, as also the tunnels, the Vishnu temple, Kalkali river. Bhojpuri speaking looters and sepoys feature in the novel who tally with the fact of such people having been brought into Lalgola by the zamindar to act as sepoys and servants. Bhakat himself is a scion of such a family of staff-wielding guards and servants. They used to live in the “Deshwali” area in the jungle adjacent the palace on the banks of the Kalkali and Padma with surnames like Mishra, Pande, Rai and used to receive initiation in tantric worship from Kali Brahma. The guru was addressed as “maharaj”.
Bhakat proposes that Satyananda of the novel is none other than Kali Brahma Bhattacharya; that Dhirananda is based on the court-poet and priest of Lalgola, Trailokyanath Smritibhushan; that Bhabananda is based on the character of Raja Jogindranarain Roy (himself a tantric sadhak), who stood by Bankim and helped him get away from the wrath of the British militia; that Jibananda reflects much of Bankim himself. Bankim would have lived in the first floor room that still exists in the Kali temple courtyard. In the ground floor room lived Dr. Parry who had spent nearly Rs.10,000 in 1873 to make a medical library for the Lalgola palace. He is said to have worshipped Kali and could be the original for the physician in the novel who is loyal to the British.
On the basis of these findings, it can now be asserted that Ananda Math was not just a figment of the novelist’s imagination, but was rooted in a personal insult suffered by Bankimchandra and in the experiences he had in Lalgola as a guest of Rao Jogindranarain Roy.
But a fascinating puzzle remains. Before the images of the Mother are shown, there is reference to worshipping the country itself as Mother, quoting the Sanskrit half-sloka, janani janmabhumisca svargadapi gariyasi. Where did Bankim get this from? Considerable research by me has failed to pinpoint where it occurs. Several Tamil and Malayali Sanskritists recite it with aplomb and attribute it to Rama who is supposed to have responded in these words to Lakshmana when requested to stay on in Lanka, the city-of-gold, instead of returning to Ayodhya. Robert Goldman, the translator of the critical text of the epic, informs that it occurs in some version in the Yuddhakanda as follows:
api svarnamayi lanka na me laksmana rocate /
janani janmabhumis casvargadapi gariyasi //
Unfortunately, neither the Valmiki Ramayana, nor the Adhyatma and Ananda Ramayanas, nor the version in the Mahabharata feature the sloka. So it remains a puzzle like the panchakanya sloka.
– Pradip Bhattacharya, IAS
August 3, 2002
See Also : The Problem of Janani janmabhumishca
A quiet town on the banks of the Bhagirathi river, Murshidabad has stood witness to events that changed the course of Indian history. Capital during the reign of Siraj-ud-daula, the Nawab of Bengal, Murshidabad was also a flourishing trading town between inland India and the port of Kolkata.
Places Of Interest:
There are many places of interest here.
Nimak Haram Deohri (Traitor’s Gate) is the place where Siraj-ud-daula was assassinated after the battle of Plassey.
Khusbagh (Garden of Happiness) is a boat ride across the river, where Siraj is buried.
Hazarduari (Palace of a Thousand Doors) is built in classical architectural style. Now a museum, the palace houses, among other artifacts, the Nawab's silver throne, ivory sofa and ivory palanquins.
Other important landmarks are the Great Imambara, Moti Jhil (Pearl Lake) and the impressive ruins of Katra Mosque, built in 1723, and Medina Mosque.
Nizamatkila, an Italian style palace of Nawab Mir Jafar, stands beside Bhagirathi river.
The Jain Parasnath Temple is at Kathgola.
Another interesting palace is Wasif Manzil, with its unique collection of curios, paintings, arms and costumes.
The Char Bangla Temple at Baranagore was built in the 18th century by Rani Bhavani.
The Bhavaniswar Temple, too, is one of the finest examples of terracotta sculpture in West Bengal. It is located 23 km from Murshidabad.
Besides the crumbling mansions and cemeteries of the English and Dutch settlements, Murshidabad is famous for raw silk (tussar) production. The Government Silk Research Centre is located here.
Exquisite ivory carvings, gleaming brassware and traditional handicrafts are the other specialities of the town.
Situated 221 km north of Kolkata, Murshidabad is connected by railway and road. Long distance bus services (to Kolkata, Malda and Siliguri) are available at Berhampore, 11 km south of Murshidabad. Berhampore is also linked by railway service from Kolkata.
You may stay at the Tourist Lodge of West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation at Berhampore, 11 km from Murshidabad.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Born in Bogra District, Bhabani was married off to Raja Ramkanta, the then zamindar of Rajshahi. After his death, Bhabani became the de jure zamindar, and started being referred to as Rani, meaning queen. A woman as a zamindar was extremely rare in those days, but Rani Bhabani managed the vast Rajshahi zamindari most efficiently and effectively for over four decades. Holwell, an English writer, speculated that the stipulated annual rent of the estate to the crown was 7 million rupees, the real revenues being about 15 million.
However, what made Rani Bhabani a household name among the common people was her philanthropy and general generosity, combined with an austere personal life. The number of temples, guesthouses and roads she constructed across Bengal is believed to be in the hundreds. She also built numerous water tanks, alleviating the acute water problem of her subjects. She was also interested in the spread of education and donated generously to many educational institutes.
During the era of Rani Bhabani, she might have made some great contributions for the development and renovation of Bhabanipur temple. The deity or Goddess of Ma Tara of the Bhabanipur Temple is probably named after Rani Bhabani. Bhabanipur is a shakti-peeth which is located at Sherpur Upazila of Bogra District.
Thus the ascetic uprising grew in terms of popularity in Bengal, there was huge support for these fighting ascetics within the masses. Who joined this movement and gave it stability and strength. All those people who were responsible for various acts of atrocities, on innocent civilians, were kidnapped and killed. Thus grew a movement which was violent in nature but yet popular and had roots in the masses. During this famous uprising that the famous couplet Vande-Mataram (Hail the Motherland) was coined. This couplet went on to change the course of the Indian freedom struggle. The force & popularity of Vande-Mataram could be gauged by the fact that the British India government was forced to ban it.
So the great Sanyasi-Vidroh went on till 1800, but wasn't able to succeed in weeding away British & Muslim imperialists but for few moments it gave the ordinary Bengalis a ray of hope that they may ultimately succeed in changing the course of history. Still you could hear about the great Sanyasi Vidroh in various traditional Baul Geet (folk music of Bengal).
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee rekindled the glory of the Sanyasi Vidroh, through his famous novel Anandmath (published 1882), which later on became the Bible of Indian Freedom Struggle.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Bande Mataram redirects here, for other uses of the term, see Bande Mataram (disambiguation).
|This article contains Indic text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks or boxes, misplaced vowels or missing conjuncts instead of Indic text.|
Vande Mataram (Sanskrit: वन्दे मातरम् Vande Mātaram, Bengali: বন্দে মাতরম Bônde Matorom; English Translation: Bow to thee Mother ) is the national song of India, distinct from the national anthem of India "Jana Gana Mana". The song was composed by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay in a mixture of Bengali and Sanskrit. and the first political occasion where it was sung was the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress.
In 2003, BBC World Service conducted an international poll to choose ten most famous songs of all time. Around 7000 songs were selected from all over the world. According to BBC, people from 155 countries/island voted. Vande Mataram was second in top 10 songs.
 History and significance
It is generally believed that the concept of Vande Mataram came to Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay when he was still a government official under the British Raj. Around 1870, the British rulers of India had declared that singing of God Save the Queen would be mandatory. He wrote it in a spontaneous session using words from two languages he was expert in, Sanskrit and Bengali. However, the song was initially highly criticized for the difficulty in pronunciation of some of the words. The song first appeared in Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay's book Anandamatha (pronounced Anondomôţh in Bengali), published in 1882 amid fears of a ban by British Raj. However, the song itself was actually written in 1876. Jadunath Bhattacharya set the tune for this song just after it was written.
"Vande Mataram" was the national cry for freedom from British oppression during the freedom movement. Large rallies, fermenting initially in Bengal, in the major metropolis of Calcutta, would work themselves up into a patriotic fervour by shouting the slogan "Vande Mataram", or "Hail to the Mother(land)!". The British, fearful of the potential danger of an incited Indian populace, at one point banned the utterance of the motto in public forums, and imprisoned many freedom fighters for disobeying the proscription. Rabindranath Tagore sang Vande Mataram in 1896 at the Calcutta Congress Session held at Beadon Square. Dakhina Charan Sen sang it five years later in 1901 at another session of the Congress at Calcutta. Poet Sarala Devi Chaudurani sang the song in the Benares Congress Session in 1905. Lala Lajpat Rai started a journal called Vande Mataram from Lahore. Hiralal Sen made India's first political film in 1905 which ended with the chant. Matangini Hazra's last words as she was shot to death by the Crown police were Vande Mataram
A number of lyrical and musical experiments have been done and many versions of the song have been created and released throughout the 20th century. Many of these versions have employed traditional South Asian classical ragas. Versions of the song have been visualized on celluloid in a number of films, including Leader, Amar asha and Anandamath. It is widely believed that the tune set for All India Radio station version was composed by Ravi Shankar.
Jana Gana Mana was chosen as the National Anthem of independent India. Vande Mataram was rejected on the grounds that Muslims felt offended by its depiction of the nation as "Mother Durga"—a Hindu goddess— thus equating the nation with the Hindu conception of shakti, divine feminine dynamic force; and by its origin as part of Anandamatha, a novel they felt had an anti-Muslim message (see External links below).
In 1937 the Indian National Congress discussed at length the status of the song. It was pointed out then that though the first two stanzas began with an unexceptionable evocation of the beauty of the motherland, in later stanzas there are references where the motherland is likened to the Hindu goddess Durga. Therefore, the Congress decided to adopt only the first two stanzas as the national song.
 Rabindranath Tagore on Vande Mataram
"Vande Mataram! These are the magic words which will open the door of his iron safe, break through the walls of his strong room, and confound the hearts of those who are disloyal to its call to say Vande Mataram." (Rabindranath Tagore in Glorious Thoughts of Tagore, p.165)
The controversy becomes more complex in the light of Rabindranath Tagore's rejection of the song as one that would unite all communities in India. In his letter to Subhash Chandra Bose (1937) Rabindranath wrote,
"The core of Vande Mataram is a hymn to goddess Durga: this is so plain that there can be no debate about it. Of course Bankimchandra does show Durga to be inseparably united with Bengal in the end, but no Mussulman [Muslim] can be expected patriotically to worship the ten-handed deity as 'Swadesh' [the nation]. This year many of the special [Durga] Puja numbers of our magazines have quoted verses from Vande Mataram - proof that the editors take the song to be a hymn to Durga. The novel Anandamath is a work of literature, and so the song is appropriate in it. But Parliament is a place of union for all religious groups, and there the song cannot be appropriate. When Bengali Mussalmans show signs of stubborn fanaticism, we regard these as intolerable. When we too copy them and make unreasonable demands, it will be self-defeating."
In a postscript to this same letter Rabindranath says,
"Bengali Hindus have become agitated over this matter, but it does not concern only Hindus. Since there are strong feelings on both sides, a balanced judgment is essential. In pursuit of our political aims we want peace, unity and good will - we do not want the endless tug of war that comes from supporting the demands of one faction over the other." 
 Dr. Rajendra Prasad on Vande Mataram
- The composition consisting of words and music known as Jana Gana Mana is the National Anthem of India, subject to such alterations as the Government may authorise as occasion arises, and the song Vande Mataram, which has played a historic part in the struggle for Indian freedom, shall be honored equally with Jana Gana Mana and shall have equal status with it. (Applause) I hope this will satisfy members. (Constituent Assembly of India, Vol. XII, 24-1-1950)
 Controversy in 2006
On August 22, 2006, there was a row in the Lok Sabha of the Indian Parliament over whether singing of Vande Mataram in schools should be made mandatory. The ruling coalition (UPA) and Opposition members debated over the Government's stance that singing the National Song Vande Mataram on September 7, 2006 to mark the 125th year celebration of its creation should be voluntary. This led to the House to be adjourned twice. Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh noted that it was not binding on citizens to sing the song. Arjun Singh had earlier asked all state governments to ensure that the first two stanzas of the song were sung in all schools on that day. BJP Deputy Leader V K Malhotra wanted the Government to clarify whether singing the national song on September 7 in schools was mandatory or not. On August 28, targeting the BJP, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said that in 1998 when Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee of the BJP was the Prime Minister, the BJP supported a similar circular issued by the Uttar Pradesh government to make the recitation compulsory. But Mr Vajpayee had then clarified that it was not necessary to make it compulsory.
On September 7, 2006, the nation celebrated the National Song. Television channels showed school children singing the song at the notified time. Some Muslim groups had discouraged parents from sending their wards to school on the grounds, after the BJP had repeatedly insisted that the National Song must be sung. However, many Muslims did participate in the celebrations.
 Support for Vande Mataram
 Muslim institutions and Vande Mataram
Though a number of Muslim organizations and individuals have opposed Vande Mataram being used as a "national song" of India, citing many religious reasons, some Muslim personalities have admired and even praised Vande Mataram as the "National Song of India" . Arif Mohammed Khan, a former member of parliament for the Bharatiya Janata Party wrote an Urdu translation of Vande Mataram which starts as Tasleemat, maan tasleemat. In 2006, amidst the controversy of whether singing of the song in schools should be mandatory or optional, some Indian Muslims did show support for singing the song.
All India Sunni Ulema Board on Sept 6, 2006 issued a fatwa that the Muslims can sing the first two verses of the song. The Board president Moulana Mufti Syed Shah Badruddin Qadri Aljeelani said that "If you bow at the feet of your mother with respect, it is not shirk but only respect." Shia scholar and All India Muslim Personal Law Board vice-president Maulana Kalbe Sadiq stated on Sept 5, 2006 that scholars need to examine the term "vande". He asked, "Does it mean salutation or worship?"
 Sikh Institutions and Vande Mataram
Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee or SGPC, the paramount representative body in the Sikh Panth, stated through its media department that all its 100 schools and colleges had been ordered to say `Yes' to the song. In a subsequent interview their chief Jathedar Avtar Singh Makkar stated that "The Sikh children would sing Vande Mataram and Deh Shiva Var Mohe, the song scripted by tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh in the morning prayers". He also said "What is wrong with the Vande Mataram? It is a national song and speaks of patriotism. We are part of the Indian nation and Sikhs have greatly contributed for its independence." However Dal Khalsa, Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee and other International Sikh organisations supporting Khalistan have criticized the SGPC chief.
 Christian institutions and Vande Mataram
Fr Cyprian Kullu, from Jharkhand in an interview with AsiaNews: "The song is a part of our history and national festivity and religion should not be dragged into such mundane things. The Vande Mataram is simply a national song without any connotation that could violate the tenets of any religion." However some Christian institutions such as Our Lady of Fatima Convent School in Patiala did not sing the song on its 100th anniversary as mandated by the state. Some Christians themselves might be misinformed about the intention and content of the song. After all Christians make a distinction between "veneration" and "worship" and the song falls in neither categories and they should not be worried. If the song generates a feeling of "Indian-ness" among all Indians it should be sung. But the state need not make it mandatory.
 Vande Mataram in Movies
- aao bachchon tumhen dikhaayen jhaanki hindustaan ki
- is mitti se tilak karo ye dharati hai balidaan ki
- vande maataram ... 
- is mitti se tilak karo ye dharati hai balidaan ki
The most recent song inspired by Vande Mataram is in Lage Raho Munnabhai:
- Ainak pehne, lathi pakde chalte the woh shaan se
- Zaalim kaape thar thar, thar thar, sun kar unka naam re.
- Kadd tha unka chota sa aur sarpat unki chal re
- Duble se patle se the woh, chalte seena taan ke
- Zaalim kaape thar thar, thar thar, sun kar unka naam re.
- Bande mein tha dum, Vande Mataram
 Text of Vande Mataram
 Version adopted by Congress, 1905
In Devanagari script
सुजलां सुफलां मलयजशीतलाम्
शस्यश्यामलां मातरम् |
शुभ्र ज्योत्स्ना पुलकित यामिनीम्
फुल्ल कुसुमित द्रुमदलशोभिनीम्,
सुहासिनीं सुमधुर भाषिणीम्
सुखदां वरदां मातरम् ||
In Bengali script
সুজলাং সুফলাং মলযজশীতলাম্
শস্য শ্যামলাং মাতরম্ |
শুভ্র জ্যোত্স্ন পুলকিত যামিনীম্
ফুল্ল কুসুমিত দ্রুমদলশোভিনীম্,
সুহাসিনীং সুমধুর ভাষিণীম্
সুখদাং বরদাং মাতরম্ ||
sujalāṃ suphalāṃ malayajaśītalām
śasya śyāmalāṃ mātaram
śubhra jyotsnā pulakita yāminīm
phulla kusumita drumadalaśobhinīm
suhāsinīṃ sumadhura bhāṣiṇīm
sukhadāṃ varadāṃ mātaram
shujolang shufolang môloeôjoshitolam
shoshsho shêmolang matorom
shubhro jotsna pulokito jaminim
fullo kushumito drumodôloshobhinim
shuhashining shumodhuro bhashinim
shukhodang bôrodang matorom
- The fact that Vande Mataram is still popular today can be attested to by the fact that in 2002 it was the voted the second most requested song by listeners on the BBC's World Service radio. However, in the final ranking details, the origin was miscredited to a 1950's film.
- Throughout its history there have been numerous remakes, recreations, and interpretations of this song. Notable is music composer A. R. Rahman's Vande Mataram released to commemorate fifty years of India's Independence in 1997 produced by Bharat Bala Productions.
- The controversy surrounding Vande Mataram is not unique. There has also been some controversy around Jana Gana Mana as the national anthem.
- This is not the only song/verse with Vande Mataram as a start. There is a Sanskrit verse that has been quoted since time immemorial; and is very popular as a felicitation/sloka singing in south Indian carnatic music. The verses are as follows:
Vaaneeramaa Sevitham Kalyaani Kamaneeya Kalpalathikaa Kailaasa Naadha Priyaam Vedaantha Prathipaadyamaana Vibhavam Vidhvan Manoranjani Sri Chakraankitha Ratna Peettha Nilayaam Sreeraja Rajeswari Sreeraja RajeswariSreeraja Rajeswari
- ^ a b "National Symbols of India". Government of India. Retrieved on 2008-04-29.
- ^ a b c d e f g Vande Mataram
- ^ The Worlds Top Ten — BBC World Service
- ^ Chakrabarty, Bidyut (1997). Local Politics and Indian Nationalism: Midnapur (1919-1944). New Delhi: Manohar, 167.
- ^ p2
- ^ (Letter #314, Selected Letters of Rabindranath Tagore, edited by K. Datta and A. Robinson, Cambridge University Press)
- ^ "BJP vs Congress: It’s Vande vs Kandahar", Asian Age (2006-08-28).
- ^ a b c BBC NEWS | South Asia | Indians celebrate national song
- ^ outlookindia.com
- ^ Now, a fatwa to sing Vande Mataram-Hyderabad-Cities-The Times of India
- ^ Muslims will sing, but omit Vande
- ^ Alternative & Independent Source of Indian Subcontinent News
- ^ http://www.sikhsangat.org/publish/article_1327.shtml
- ^ INDIA India: fatwa against national song celebrating motherland - Asia News
- ^ PunjabNewsline.com - Sikhs and christians in Punjab stayed away from 'Vande Matram'
- ^ Lyrics of hindi song Aao Bachhon Tumhen Dikhaaye
- ^ Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) - Music India OnLine
- ^ LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI official site Gallery
- ^ The Worlds Top Ten | BBC World Service