History of Vande Mataram, Indian National Song - Informative & researched article on History of Vande Mataram, Indian National Song
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Home > Reference > Indian Literature > Regional Indian Literature > Bengali Literature > Bankim Chandra Chatterjee > Vande Mataram > History of Vande Mataram
History of Vande Mataram, Indian National Song
History of Vande Mataram goes back to sometime in the late 19th century.
 History of Vande Mataram appears to be indeed diversified and highly unlikely, when one considers the time when it was written. It generally took ages for such kind of a song or prose or verse to achieve wide acceptance. It is normally believed that the concept of Vande Mataram dawned on Bankim Chandra Chatterjee when he was still serving as a government official under the British Empire. He wrote the song in an unprompted zeal, making use of words from Sanskrit and Bengali, two languages in which he excelled. However, the song was met with intense initial criticism, due to the obscurity in pronunciation of some of the words. The song first appeared in Bankim Chandra's respected book Anandamath (pronounced Anondomô?h in Bengali), published in 1882. However, it saw the light of the day amidst fears of being banned by the English. Although, the song was actually penned down in 1876. Jadunath Bhattacharya composed the tune for Vande Mataram, just after it was written.

History of Vande Mataram, Indian National Song The history of "Vande Mataram" unfurls that it was an emblem of national outcry for freedom from British tyranny during the Indian freedom movement. Enormous rallies, gradually taking up the shape of a storm were initiated primarily in Bengal. The major metropolis of Calcutta, would bolster themselves up into a patriotic vehemence by crying out the slogan "Vande Mataram", or "Hail to the Mother (land)!". British very much dreaded the potentiality of imminent danger of an instigated Indian populace. At one point, they put a ban on the utterance of the motto in public forums and jailed innumerable freedom fighters for disobeying the prohibition. In fact, history of Vande Mataram becomes even more varied and exudes a feel of pride, when Rabindranath Tagore sang Vande Mataram in 1896 in the Calcutta Congress Session held at Beadon Square. Legends followed. Dakhina Charan Sen sang it five years later in 1901, during another session of the Congress at Calcutta. Poet Sarala Devi Chaudurani sang the song in the Benaras Congress Session in 1905. Lala Lajpat Rai started a journal called Vande Mataram from Lahore. Hiralal Sen made the first political film in India in 1905, which concluded with the hypnotic chant. Matangini Hazra's last words as she was shot to death by the Crown police were Vande Mataram.

In 1907, Madam Bhikaji Cama (1861-1936) exhibited the first version of India's national flag (the Tiranga) in Stuttgart, Germany in 1907. The flag was engraved with Vande Mataram in the middle band.

Bankim Chandra was a man of mystery and his historical evolvement of the song provides some dichotomy. It is not known for certain when the poem Vande Mataram was composed by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. All that comes to light is that it probably took form in his mind over a long period, between 1872 and 1875. The first few verses of the poem, including the part now known as a national song, were written long before it was published in the novel Anandamath. In the memoirs written by Bankim's younger brother it has been recounted that the poem had been lying around for several years in Bankim Chandra's study. One of the assistants who helped him in editing a literary journal picked up the poem and commented that Vande Mataram would not be so bad and would in fact do quite well as a filler to fill up an empty space in the galley-proofs for the number. History of Vande Mataram seems quite like an ordinary story, when one considers it in the Indian Independence rank. Bankim Chandra, his nephew explained later, refused to have it published in that fashion and said, 'You can't possibly guess now if this is good or bad. Time will tell-I shall be dead by then, it is possible that you may see that day.' That was the end of the matter and the poem as one knows remained unpublished. Till one day Bankim Chandra went back to the poem he had written years ago to make it the centrepiece of a complex mosaic of ideas, the novel Anandamath.

From historical internal evidence however it appears that the first few verses of Vande Mataram were written after 1872. The ninth line of the song described the land, personified in 'the Mother' saluted in the poem, as 'awesome with the clamorous hail (to the Mother) from the throat of seven crores'. The number seven crore, or seventy million, was the population of the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, the area under the lieutenant governor of Bengal; it then included the present states of Bihar and Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Assam and present-day Bangladesh. This figure, seven crore, was unknown till the first census in that part of India in the year 1871. Bankim Chandra wrote an essay in 1872 on the population statistics of the census of 1871. The poem could not have been written before 1872, i.e. before the publication of the census of population of eastern India.

Another kind of evidence regarding Vande Mataram's history is the similarity of ideas between an essay written by Bankim Chandra in 1874 and the song Vande Mataram; numerous ideas and imageries are common between these two pieces of writing, leading to the hypothesis that they were written about the same time. A third piece of evidence is the testimony of Aurobindo Ghosh, later known as Sri Aurobindo of Pondicherry. Aurobindo writes in April 1907: 'It was thirty-two years ago that Bankim wrote his great song....' Aurobindo Ghosh belonged to the generation next to Bankim's and could have had access to people who knew the author well. He states very precisely that the poem was written in 1875. On the whole, it appears that the composition of the poem can be dated between 1872 and 1875.

From then till 1881 the poem did not see the light of day. In that year Bankim published it as a part of the novel Anandamath in the literary journal he edited. History of Vande Mataram takes an interesting turn from here. A notable fact is that when the poem was inserted in the novel and serialised in the journal, the first twelve lines (the first two stanzas) were put within quotation marks; the rest of the poem was printed without quotation marks. The reason for it has been rightly inferred that the author wanted to separate the first two stanzas which he had written earlier, around 1875, from the part written later (lines 13 to 27); the latter part was put outside quotation marks. The latter part was written probably in 1881 bearing in mind the context of Anandamath. This distinction between the originally composed song and the additions made later to fit into the narrative of the novel is important, because it was the latter part which contained those explicitly Hindu and idolatrous imageries which were objected to by many outside the Hindu community.

From the above-mentioned accounts, it becomes quite evident that, whatever the controversy or belief might be about the song, the history of Vande Mataram took an elevated status, owing to its billowing popularity in the pre-independence setting.

(Last Updated on : 09/04/2009)
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