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National Anthem/Song: Jana Gana Mana/Vande Mataram

I've been a journalist for over a decade, working across newspapers and magazines. At Forbes India, I write and edit stories on varied themes. I am a sports buff — turning to the back pages of the newspaper first— and keenly follow current affairs, pop culture and new trends at the intersection of politics, business and culture. Being an inveterate foodie, I often end up writing about it.

Image: Chaitanya Dinesh Surpur

Why was it made a national symbol?
Penned by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in Ananda Math, ‘Vande Mataram’, the song and the war cry, was synonymous with India’s fight for independence. It was first sung on a political stage at the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress, 15 years before Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Jana Gana Mana’ made its debut there (on December 27, 1911). Both the songs secured their ‘tryst with destiny’ when the Constituent Assembly, which was convened at the moment of India’s independence, started its historic session with ‘Vande Mataram’ and signed off with ‘Jana Gana Mana’. Finally, on January 24, 1950, the Assembly officially declared ‘Jana Gana Mana’ as the national anthem and ‘Vande Mataram’ the national song.

Current Status

Historians believe that Hindu nationalists within the Congress lobbied for ‘Vande Mataram’ as the national anthem. But the Muslim League thought it was anti-Islam. The debate has lived on, rocking Parliament even in 2006.

In its long journey, ‘Jana Gana Mana’, too, has faced controversies: Vilified for not being representative, taken to court for including Sindh, and criticised for paying homage to Emperor George V. But, even a century later, the song captures popular imagination. In 2003, Maharashtra made it mandatory for Mumbai theatres to play the national anthem before a screening. Supriya Roy, former librarian and archivist of Rabindra Bhavana at Visva-Bharati University, believes the anthem should be given all the importance it deserves. “But this cannot be done by force. We have to try creative methods to make our children and youth feel proud of it.” 

(This story appears in the 22 August, 2014 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Sourav Kumar

    I love my india

    on Dec 16, 2014
  • D.bose

    Both of these songs are religious. Vande Mataram is for the adoration of Durga ( that was the reason it was popular among the revolutionaries), Jana Gana Mana is the adoration of Krishna ( look at the second stanza about the eternal chariot raider). INA adopted a different version of the Jana Gana Mana; this is the possible reason it was adopted as the National Anthem.

    on Aug 8, 2014
    • Jaideep

      care to mention an sources for your claims ? meaning and normal perceived view of the national song and anthem is different from what you make it to believe.

      on Aug 12, 2014
      • D.bose

        I can read the original Bengali version of both of these songs, which we had to recite in full when I was in my primary school. You have no idea about the complete songs. Read the complete version, not just the first stanza.

        on Aug 12, 2014
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