Vande Mataram: The Epitome of Indian Nationalism

It is no wonder that the political awakening was brought to India not by politicians but by poets and writers.
Vande Mataram: The Epitome of Indian Nationalism

Aurobindo Mazumdar


It is no wonder that the political awakening was brought to India not by politicians but by poets and writers. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, the legend, awakened a new spirit of patriotism through his epoch-making song poem, Vande Mataram. Since then, a crusade against political serfdom stirred the minds of the Indian writers and poets who naturalized the Vande Mataram in their poems and various writings in many Indian languages. They have given a passionate patriotic call to the nation since the beginning of the mass upheaval in Bengal in 1905. They imbued their writings with patriotism, infused the spirit of national consciousness into them, and elevated them to the rank of a powerful literary language by delving deep into the national past. The people were transformed with a new idea of looking at the social and cultural problems of India. They prepared the foundations for the political claims for national statehood.

It is pertinent for us to spare a few moments for these great poets and writers when our nation is celebrating the 75th year of Republic Day. Subramania Bharati, the creator of Tamil poetry and prose, was greatly influenced by Bankim Chandra’s Vande Mataram. He made it the basic creed of his patriotism and his nationalism that embraced the whole of India. Following Bharati, many Tamil poets and lyricists began to compose patriotic poems and songs. Vallathol Narayan Menon, a well-known Malayalam poet, like Bharati, visualised India as Mother. B. Venkatacharya, one of the earliest forerunners of Bankim’s ideal of nationalism, translated the Anandamath in Kannada in 1899. He saw the hidden spirit in the novel, which inspired him to translate it with a view to spreading the spirit of freedom among the masses of Kannada. It was again translated by C. Krishna in 1964. Dattatrey Ramachandra Bendre, a well-known Kannada poet, in his poem ‘Muvathamuroo Kati’ gave a clarion call to the people to awaken and to work for the salvation of the mother India. K. V. Puttappa echoed the Vande Mataram in his long poem ‘Swathantrodaya Mahapraghatha’ in Kannada.

In the vast heartland of Hindi, the Vande Mataram was popularized by a host of Hindi poets and writers who were intimately associated with their counterparts in Bengal and who could write and read Bengali. Mahabir Prasad Dwivedi, a pioneer of Hindi journalism, used to publish in his magazine, the ‘Saraswati’, many news stories on the Bengal partition movement translated from the Bengali newspapers published in Calcutta. He devoted a column to the publication of poems on contemporary political events in the ‘Saraswati’, which was then a powerful Hindi journal in India. He encouraged people to write patriotic songs.

Many of his contemporaries, such as Rai Devi Prasad ‘purna’, Giridhar Sarma, Badri Narayan Chaudhury ‘Premdhan’, and a host of others, wrote poems in Hindi echoing the Vande Mataram. Following Dweivedi, Giridhar Sarma wrote the poem ‘Bharatmata’, which was published in the Saraswati in 1905. Raidevi Prasad’s Swadeshi Kundal and Badrinarayan Choudhury’s Bharat Bandana were also aimed at keeping the patriotic fire lit.

Hardly there was any region in India that remained untouched by the ferment of new ideas. Lakshminath Bezbarua, a great architect of modern Assamese literature, and many of his contemporary poets were greatly inspired by their counterparts in Bengal during the Swadeshi movement. Bezbarua successfully roused a sense of patriotism through his various writings. Like Vande Mataram, he composed the Assamese song ‘O mor aponerdesh’ swaying with a cadence and evocative of an image. It is instinct, with the tenderness of a heart, to dream of the motherland. The Vande Mataram inspired many more poets and dramatists in Assam. Jyotiprasad Agarwala, a noted poet, lives in Assamese literature through his songs. It is not difficult to hear the echo of Vande Mataram in his song. Bishnu Prasad Rava, who thrilled audiences through his dramas, came under the influence of the irresistible song. In many of his plays, such as ‘Krisak’ and ‘Na-Prithivir Nutun Jug’, one will unmistakably find the couplets and phrases of the Vande Mataram.

When innumerable poets and writers, who were mostly Hindus, all over India had begun to popularise, the Urdu poets and intelligentsia were not then basking in the sun. They were equally gifted and sensitive to the intuitions of his time. The noted Urdu writer of Hyderabad, Kazi Abdul Gaffar, who was greatly impressed with the Vande Mataram song, appealed to his fellow Urdu poets and writers to respond to the wind of change by spreading the message of patriotism through their writings. He even warned that it would be disastrous and ‘spell defeat for the Muslims in the literary field’ if they did not enrich the Urdu literature with the patriotic fervour. To popularise the Vande Mataram among the Muslims, he translated the entire song into Urdu. It was published in the ‘Payam’, a well-known Urdu paper, from Hyderabad and edited by the author himself on 7 October 1937. It is indeed worth quoting a few lines:

Madare Watan! Ham tujhe

Salaam Karte Hain.


Surat hain.

Tere phal meethehain.

Too janubkitârâf se—


Havaon se-Sarashar


Too hare bharekheton se


1. C. Chagla, an Indian jurist and diplomat who represented India at the United Nations, wrote that when he was studying at Lincoln College, the proceedings of the Oxford Indian Majlis, an Indian student body, were started with the singing of Vande Mataram. He wrote that ‘Vande Mataram was ‘one of the most moving songs about one’s dedication to one’s country. It deeply stirred me.’ Thus, the ancient hate and prejudice and clashing of castes and creeds that held India under their vice-like grip disappeared. Vande Mataram, an epoch-making song, has transcended all obstacles and sung the whole of India. The linguistic and cultural jealousies of different provinces as to the script and vocabulary of the language and the bonds of caste were broken apart by the force of the new ideas; a nationalist spirit was liberated from the prison-house of the past. The new political thinking of self-consciousness gave birth to a unity with a common thought.

Because of its patriotic appeal, Vande Mataram has been associated with the Indian National Congress almost since its birth. So the history of the Vande Mataram is the history of the Indian National Congress. We cannot think of the Congress without the historic song. Rabindranath Tagore was, perhaps, the first person to sing Vande Mataram before a gathering at the Congress session held in Calcutta in 1896, when Rahmuttullah Sayani presided over it. Since then, the singing of the Vande Mataram in Congress sessions has been part of a ritual.

Among the celebrities who had adorned the presidential chairs of the Congress and had shown great reverence for the Vande Mataram, many were Muslims, Christians, and Parses. Out of the fifty-five presidents until 1938, eight were Muslims, six Christians, and one Parse. Besides, many Muslims, among others, who supported the ideology of the Congress, participated in the freedom struggle. It was no surprise that among the Muslim delegates who attended the Congress session in 1906, Mohamed Ali Jinnah, Wazir Hasan, and Abbas Tybee were the most prominent.

At the Congress session in Benares on December 27, 1905, the song opened the floodgates of a new spirit of Indian nationalism, which allowed the growth of a mighty weave that swept the entire country. The song was sung by no less than Surendranath Banerjee, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, and many other great leaders of India. ‘The effect it produced upon the audience, wrote Dr. Kailas Nath Katju, who attended the Banaras session. ‘I am sure not to be forgotten by anybody who hears it’. Since 1905, the Vande Mataram has resounded from the platform of the Congress. It had been a sacred ritual to open its sessions and public meetings with the singing of the Vande Mataram.

Since independence, both Jana-gana-mana and Vande Mataram have been honoured equally and adopted as our national anthem. The Vande Mataram is obviously and indisputably the premier national song of India, with a great historical tradition, and intimately connected with our struggle for freedom. Throughout Indian history, during the freedom struggle and thereafter, India has repeatedly employed the Vande Mataram song in nationalist discourse to galvanise its citizenry in times of foreign aggression, economic crisis, military struggle, or national mourning, as well as during more mundane occasions like electoral campaigns or national holidays. During the Chinese invasion of India in October 1962, when Pandit Nehru was the Prime Minister, the Vande Mataram was heard over the earth and sky of India. So also during the India-Pakistan wars in August 1965, December 1971, and 2000, the Vande Mataram surged all throughout India, from Kanayakumari to Kashmir and from Maharashtra to Mizoram. Thus, only one song has sung the whole of India.

Top Headlines

No stories found.
Sentinel Assam