Tag Archives: National Anthem India

Jana Gana Mana and Tagore controversy


Tagore’s love for Maa Bharati and Vandemataram is unquestionable. Anyone who has read the history of the Vandemataram movement would know that it was he who actually took great pains to popularize the Vandemataram song. In fact VM sung in its most popular raga is by Tagore.

Rabindranath Tagore

Painting courtesy – Shabnam Gill

He says “ “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 Jana Gana Mana Controversy :
In Tagore’s collected works, it is mentioned that the INC ( Indian National Congress) requested that Tagore write a felicitation to the King Emperor as an appeasement gesture to the British monarchy in response to the annulment of the Bengal Partition Act.
Not only was Tagore troubled by the request, he was downright offended by it. It is said that Jana Gana Mana was written more out of protest and rebellion than adoration
towards the monarchy. An objective reading of the song should make it eminently clear as to whom the poet decided to offer his worship.

In a letter to Pulin Behari Sen, Tagore later wrote, “A certain high official in His Majesty’s service, who was also my friend, had requested that I write a song of felicitation towards the Emperor. The request simply amazed me. It caused a great stir in my heart. In response to that great mental turmoil, I pronounced the victory in Jana Gana Mana of that Bhagya Vidhata of India who has from age after age held steadfast the reins of India’s chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved. That Lord of Destiny, that Reader of the Collective Mind of India, that Perennial Guide, could never be George V, George VI, or any other George. Even my official friend understood this about the song. After all, even if his admiration for the crown was excessive, he was not lacking in simple common sense.”

Mahatama Gandhi called Janaganamana a religious hymn, not the national anthem, but he characterised numerous times Vandemataram as the national anthem. About Janaganamana, Humayun Kabir agrees with the view expressed by Gandhiji. “In a sense it is more a religious hymn for all mankind than a national anthem for any country.” (Rabindaranath Tagore, a Centenary Vol.p.152)

Then Why Was the Jana Gana Mana Accepted as the National Anthem :
It was the natural expectation that Vandemataram would continue as the official national anthem of India. It was used in the Constituent assembly, and was sung by Smt. Sucheta Kriplani. But soon a dis-cordant note began to be heard. Much to the surprise of its own members, the Constituent assembly deferred the question of adopting the national anthem again and again. Who were behind the controversy and what were their motives? The following excerpt from Pt. Nehru’s statement on this issue may provide some clue:

“It is unfortunate that some kind of argument has arisen between VM and Jana. VM is obviously and undisputedly the premier national song of India, with a great historical tradition and intimately connected with our struggle for freedom. That position it is bound to retain and no other song can displace it. It represents the passion and poignancy of that struggle but perhaps not so much the culmination of it. In regard to the national anthem tune, it was felt that the tune was more important than the words, and this tune should be such as to represent the Indian musical genius as well as to some extent the Western, so that it might easily be adapted to orchestra and band music, and to playing abroad. The real significance of the national anthem is perhaps more abroad than in the home country. Past experience has shown that Janagana tune has been greatly appreciated and admired abroad…VM with all its very great attraction and historical background, was not easily suitable for orchastras in foreign countries.. It seemed therefore that while VM should continue to be the national song par excellence in India, the national anthem tune should be that of Janaganamana, and the wording of Janagana be altered suitably to fit in with existing circumstances.” (Glorious Thoughts of Nehru, p.139)

The above rational and criteria for selecting a national anthem coming from the PM, had shocked the people of India. These ideas of Nehru’s were severly criticised in the press and in other forums universally. The polls conducted by some organizations on this issue showed that 95% people favored VM as the national anthem.

“When the objection was raised to the adoption of VM as the national anthem on the ground that it was full of idolatry, Aurobindo said Durga to whom it paid homage was none other than Bharata Mata symbolising Knowledge, Power, Greatness and Glory.” (Resurgent India, p.191)

The charge that VM cannot be set to the tune to suit band and foreign orchestra was disproved when it was set to melodious tune by an ace musician Master Krishna Rao, but Nehru ji did not budge.
A final decision on adoption of a national anthem was taken on January 24, 1950, at a meeting of the Constituent Assembly, presided over by Rajendra Prasad, who later became first president of independent India.
Dr Rajendra Prasad who was presiding the Constituent assembly on 24 January 1950 made the following statement which also became the final decision on this issue:

“The composition consisting of words and music known as Janaganamana 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 Janaganamana and shall have equal status with it. (Applause) I hope this will satify members.” (Constituent Assembly of India, Vil.XII, 24-1-1950)

It is therefore clear that Jana Gana Mana as expressed by Tagore himself was not written in praise of the King George as but was a hymn to the glory of the Paramatma ( The Almighty ). He was one of the fiercest proponent of VM as the National Anthem.

Vandemataram was the mantra which the British treated as equivalent to sedition. Therefore in order NOT to offend the Britishers, VM was put aside at the behest of Pt.Nehru who proudly called himself , “ The last Englishman to rule India.”

– Ayush Nadimpalli