(Last Updated on : 14/08/2012)
Impact of Vande Mataram in times prior to independence was exceedingly sublime, if spoken in the least. Every mind was influenced and drawn to the poem someway or the other. Numerous interpretations followed. When the poem was later absorbed in the novel Anandamath, a different kind of impact was seen from the intellectual class.
In this context, one needs to bear in mind two facts in considering the impact of the poem Vande Mataram a hundred years ago. First, one needs to think of a time when the notion of motherland was not as banal as it became with its repetitious use in propagandist words and clichés and images and in print or cinematic or electronic media. Second, to state that the poem had a wide appeal on account of its evocation of the archetypal is not necessarily the same thing as justifying its conversion into a divine object of worship. The question that comes here is that what accounted for the 'belief-producing' power of the poem. The answer has to be sought in the historical location of this piece of writing in a culture that nurtured the archetype and imagery which Bankim Chandra deployed. However, Bankim did not perhaps deploy with deliberation and calculation, but as the idiom that came naturally to him, since he shared that culture. This was the strength of Vande Mataram, accounting for its tremendous impact on socio-political culture of pre-independence years. However, the poem's limitation was also realised in the eyes of its critics, because it was perceived to have excluded those who did not share that culture. But then Bankim Chandra was writing a poem, not the resolution of a political party. It was the political appropriation of it which made the poem a slogan, a contested national anthem and eventually a communally divisive issue.
The archetype of the mother that was worshipped did not need to be anything more than the representation of an idea which was not consciously formulated. And probably nothing but an intuitive swing back to that memory occurs at the moment of the creation of Vande Mataram. No deliberate reasoning on the part of the author, nor calculation of the appeal the archetype evoked. In fact, the difficulty of consciously articulating what is intuitive is encountered by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
when he transplanted the poem he had written into the novel Anandamath; the 'explanations' of Vande Mataram
are the weakest parts of the novel, didactic and banal.
Some archetypes are representational devices, collectively shared by those who have a shared history, real or imagined. One need not necessarily assume a supra-personal level of consciousness, to enable one to think of such archetypes; these archetypes are commonly observed in historical and cultural phenomena. Bankim Chandra's contribution was to recall and anachronistically to 'nationalise' an archetype which predated nationalism by centuries. This was a significant cause for the impact of Vande Mataram on later nationalism, times much later than Bankim Chandra. Though he had written the poem in the late 19th century, its 'real' essence and feel was only comprehended in the whole era of 20th century, which is still going on now. Vande Mataram's impact on young freedom fighters and crusaders looking towards a more vindictive side of action, took up the slogan as life-blood.
Vande Mataram therefore was not merely an act of rediscovery of something that belonged to the past. It was also a revelation of something that was new, an old object of worship now reinvented as the motherland. The meaning thus attributed is certainly new; the scriptural and mythical origins-the story of the creation of Durga, the gift of various weapons by different gods to her, the particularities of the scriptural narrative all added to the then scenario.
Bankim Chandra had written the poem keeping in mind a very different aspect; he never perhaps had realised such an impact it would make on the society in 20th century, with interpretations still continuing into the 21st century.