Why ‘Vande Mataram’ Lost the Race to ‘Jana Gana Mana’

On Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s death anniversary, The Quint explains the origin story of our national song.

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Vande Mataram Sujala sufala malayaja-shitalaam Shashya-shyaamala mataram.

These words that instil a sense of patriotism were penned by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in 1875 as an ode to Mother India.

Vande Mataram was a part of his novel named Anandamath, a Bengali fiction that showed the Sanyasi army fighting the British soldiers, which was published in 1882.

On the death anniversary of Chatterjee, the Bengali writer, The Quint brings you all that you need to know about the origin of our national song.

Two years after Chatterjee’s death in 1896, Rabindranath Tagore recited the poem for the first time at the Indian National Congress’ annual convention in Kolkata.

But the version sung by Tagore is not what we hear today – over the decades leading vocalists like Omkarnath Thakur and Master Krishnarao recomposed the song using varying tunes, beats and instruments.

Why Is Vande Mataram Not Our National Anthem?

The song was eventually criticised by some Muslim League members who were backed by their leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the 1930s.

They objected to the fact that certain verses of the song constituted idol worship, and that was in conflict with the Islamic beliefs.

The Muslim viewpoint suggests that God is the only creator and worshipping Mother India would run contrary to Islam.

As Vande Mataram was causing dispute, the members of the Congress Working Committee in Kolkata decided to cut the song to its first two stanzas in 1937 – an initiative taken to please the Muslim leaders. But this too failed, as they wanted complete elimination of the song.

A report published by Frontline says that on 1 March 1938, in an article in The New Times of Lahore, Jinnah stated: “Muslims all over [India] have refused to accept Vande Mataram or any expurgated edition of the anti-Muslim song as a binding national anthem.”

Eventually, when India became a republic, Jana Gana Mana (written by Tagore), which had no legacy of dispute, was chosen as the national anthem.

The first stanza of Jana Gana Mana will be the national anthem of the Republic of India and the first stanza of Vande Mataram will be the national song. It will have a status equal to the anthem.
President Rajendra Prasad on 26 January 1950 

Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam

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