Sunday, September 03, 2006

Vande Mataram Controversy

Is the Vande Mataram relevant today ?

The last time I mumbled through the National Song ' Vande Mataram' was sometime during my school days on maybe Gandhi Jayanti. Even then I had a hard time learning the lyrics which were in a different language, and today remember only the first line which went something like Vande Mataram - sujalam, sufalam.....etc.

vande mataram indian national song muslim bjpEven the National Anthem - Jana Gana Mana is known for having obscure words which are not in mainstream use today. Though I know the lyrics to Jana Gana Mana as it was strongly drilled into my head in school, I could'nt say much about its meaning until I checked out wikipedia while writing this post. What's more I have witnessed most folks being either silent or mumbling gibberish whenever the National Song or Anthem are sung at functions.

The National Anthem - Jana Gana Mana was originally written in Bengali by our nobel laureate bong leader Rabindranath Tagore while the National Song Vande Mataram was also written by another bong in a Sanskritized form of Bengali named Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Both have a language and style which may have been considered 'cool' in the early twentieth century by their fellow bong nationalist leaders but is quite unrelated to the language spoken today. Forget about South Indians even many Bengalis are unaware of the words or meaning.

My point is should'nt the 'National Song' or 'National Anthem' be in the 'National Language' like Hindi or maybe even a language that most people would understand - like maybe a combination of hindi-urdu-english with simple words. If the national flag can go through various changes and the constitution be amended, then why not change the words of the national song/ anthem too ?

vande mataram song muslim maulvi bjp arjun singhThinking about the Muslim position about 'Vande Mataram' being a song of worship to a goddess, I ran a search for the term 'Vande Mataram' on Google image search to see what results would be thrown up. Other than photo's of stage theatre and the CD cover to AR Rehmans music album of the same name I got pictures of a goddess that was supposed to be Mother India but looked surprisingly like Goddess Durga who is widely worshipped in Bengal.

There are so many other patriotic songs or songs from films that touch the heart of the common man more than these politically chosen national songs - for example Sare Jahan se Acha, Meri Desh ki Dhartee, Mere Watan ke Logon. A national song should be one which every citizen is proud of and has no objection to on any grounds. A true nationalist should always mean the words he sings or says.

So what do you think ? Is it feasible ?


  1. I agree with you that such symbols (like National Anthem/Song) need not be considered sacred. They can be changed with time and if necessary reflect the sentiments of newer generations.
    More on this at my site:

  2. hmm, wouldnt agree... the things we are discussing were made by a set of people who made a direct contribution to us being free now... they saw merit in these symbols... and we would & should be showing respect for them by maintaining these in their original form... maybe we shouldnt look at it like a product/service which needs to be constantly tweaked for convenience..

  3. LOT of things we do or did in India doesn't make any sense now-a- days!! Most South Indians donot even speak or understand Hindi!! How can you be proud of saying or singing something when you have no clue what it means!Even if it's in sanskrit!
    It's bit like me reciting prayers to Jesus (I am a Hindu!) in my convent all through my school years without knowing single thing about it!! It makes me smile even now :D

    But just singing a familiar tune or songs all our lives brings a kind of security and comfort, perhaps!! If we change the lyrics to suit modern days, it will probably benefit the younger generations but what about me , a NRI, who is clinging onto nostalgia!! Wahhhh.......
    Thank you for making me think other than mundane things today :)
    Have a nice day..Asha....

  4. heard about remixes?
    i hade when any album tries to adds a new tune to a golden classic song.
    why do you think people will agree to remixing vande mataram.

    BTW: there exist a couple of remixes of vande matram already

  5. agree that even the national song/ anthem shuld change with the times.

  6. ugh, this site is acting like o3. Not accepting my comment. Trying again.

    A patriotic song is a patriotic song. I will sing it if I feel like it. Its not the governments job to decide what I should sing.

    Its also not the Imam's jopb to dictate who is or is not a good muslim.

    People need to learn to mind their own business.

  7. First, to answer your comment on my blog:
    1. I DO expect Hindus to speak up against Narendra Modi. What that post meant was that public silence will allow our politicians to do something as dastardly as the Partition again. And at that point, we will be helpless.
    True, that post did not communicate this intent too well. I did write another post shortly after, but am not sure if you had a chance to look at it. .hence the repetition here.
    Incidentally, your comment helped me clarify my ideas much better.. and led me to create a petition for the Election Commission.. only havent acted on it yet :-)

    Re. Vande Mataram.. I really dont care.. there are other ways to care for your country than worrying about the national song. i would rather have the politicians care about national GDP and national negotiations at the WTO and the COmmon Civil Code. THOSE are issues. These are non issues. and these should be allowed to die their own natural death.

  8. oh i wanted to know the meaning of the lyrics.
    thank u soooo much!! ^^

  9. i don't agree...i'm a bong i know the importance of the song...the whole awakening, freedom fighting upto the part of the first revolt was in bengal and we should be greatful to those leaders who started them....they got their inspiration from these songs and if they have decided to chose these songs we should respect them coz bcoz of them we are free. we should our self find out the meanings of them.

  10. I dont know if you are a bong hater or not, but surely u have some basics wrong. (simply do a search on 'bong'or 'bengali'on ur own blog and uill relaise y) U based in Delhi?? Surely there are lot like u are found in Delhi who are shamelessly bong haters.

    Anyway, lets come bk to the point. After doing a Google image search if u get a certain image, that does not testify anything. If u understand SEO u willl better know it.

    If you don’t understand the meaning of your national song, than you are unfortunate, then India is unfortunate for having people like you. Remember, that Sanskrit is mother of all (most) languages in India and the song is written in plain and simple Sanskrit with usage of Tatsama words (Tatsama words are those words which people use in different languages while changing their form, like jal, akash etc). This is not a BENGALI song. This one for the nation and in a democratic way it tries to cover everyone in the country. If you and ur ‘folks’ don’t understand it even after it was ‘drilled’ into your head throughout your school life then I would say ur intelligent level is much lower than an average donkey.

    The music has nothing to do with ‘cool’ quotient. But being a bong hater to the core you wont understand in anyway.

    Are you sure the if great face-hiding Monaj Kumar’s any Hindi number being chosen as national song, people from southern states will approve it? And people from North East?

    Lastly, you have made a Google image search and found Devi Durga’s image against a keyword search of ‘Vande Mataram’. Let me tell you how images are placed in Google. If I write an article and carry an image of mine and give the image a description like, ‘krish is upset over Cyberkitty’s anti bong comemnt’ then in fifteen days time my image will be hosted in Google Image Search Engine with all these words that is ‘krish is upset over Cyberkitty’s anti bong comment.’ And then if you search by the name of Cyberkitty there is a possibility that my image will be displayed against your name’s querry since ur name is also part of the description. Search Google Image by ‘George Bush’ and you will definitely find lots of search result that have nothing to do with Bush.

    The gist is, a google image can not be determined as a testimony.

    Also, if you are an Indian you would know only ‘Bong’ does not worship Durga, She is Goddess for all the hindu community. Moreover, the image that you have pasted, we bong don’t worship her as Devi Durga, to us She is Basanti Ma.

    See how proudly an Englishman or a French or a German or a Dutch with boasted chest sing their national song on every occassions. And then compare with people like yourself and your ‘folks…(who are) being either silent or mumbling gibberish whenever the National Song or Anthem are sung at functions.”

    Why India, any country would have been embarrassed with citizens like you.

  11. I will come bk to ur blog again to see if you have the courage to post my comment.

  12. Thankyou for you comments.

    Hi Krish,

    Written like a true Bong!

    If you initially say you don't know if I am a bong hater or not, then why do you assume that I am a 'Bong hater to the core'? I certainly am not and many Bengali's refer to themselves as 'Bongs' too.

    When I talked about Google searches, I meant the rule rather than the exception. eg. if you image search for Amitabh Bachchan - 99 times out of 100 you would get a pic of Amitabh Bachchan.

    You are right when you say, that the English, French, German and Dutch sing thier anthem 'proudly with boasted chest'. The very reason they are able to do that is because the anthem is in thier native language, they know what the song means and they mean every word they sing.

    Most people in India, even South Indians understand Hindi by way of films and serials, hence it is far more acceptable for a national song than minority languages like Sanskrit or Sanskitized Bengali.

    As for embarrassment -
    When Gandhiji first decided to abandon western dress and wear dhoti without shirt, many top Indian leaders of the time looked at him with ridicule. New ideas always embarass a few people initially. Later, the ones who have useful ideas win awards.....

  13. This message is for CYBERKITTY

    The so called FREEDOM you have today (be it in south or north india) is because of the nationalist movement started in Bengal and the work done by people like Ravindranath Thakur etc.

    If you don't understand the meaning or the sanctity of the national song or national anthem LIVE IN USA OR UK AND NEVER CONSIDER YOURSELF INDIA.

  14. To Chaos Guy -

    Bengali's should not take full credit for India's freedom. There were many people from other States that played a much more important role, such as - Mahatma Gandhi and Vallabhai Patel (Gujarat), Jawaharlal Nehru (Kashmir), BR Ambedkar (Maharashtra) and Lala Lajpat Rai (Punjab). Click here for the full list

    Hypothetically, if you gave a free UK, USA ticket to everyone who does not know the national song or its meaning - more than 80 percent Indians would be leaving the country....and most of them gladly!

  15. I agree that most Indians do not understand national athem. Of course I would feel much better if I could relate to the song and it was in a language I understand. Especially if we think of the next generation of kids I'm sure our national anthem in Bengali which most Indians don't understand will fail to inspire.
    Apart from all this non sense about being ashamed bla bla be practical and it is true that if you are forced to sing a song whose meaning you dont know and its in a language u dont know and that too right in the childhood itself.. what do you expect? If they can't change the national anthem to a more common language that most Indians can understand and relate to .. least they should do is.. in schools.. all kids should be taught what these songs mean before forcing them to sing. Atleast as a kid I never knew what it meant and my school never taught me anything. Thanks to the internet that now I know what it means and ofcourse the meaning is beautiful and if the same words were conveyed in a more common language im sure it would have inspired me and made me feel proud

  16. If the National Anthem was to be decided on the basis of 'majority' liking of Indians, and thus cater to the taste of the masses, or else be chosen by the new MTV generation, then probably we will end up with 'Dhoom Machhale, Dhoom machhale' as our national anthem. It is not the first time that i am hearing this thing that people don't know the words of our national anthem, i have myself met people who say so, but I am not that concerned by the fact that many Indians don't know the words, what concerns me more is that this reflects that our basic education and schooling system is quite appalling in many parts of India. The words of 'Jana Gana Mana' aren't as esoteric as you seem to suggest. There is no language in India that everyone can understand, and even if there was one, then also all Indians won't be able to understand the meaning of the song.

  17. If the Indian National Anthem is suddenly changed for convenience of the latest "Jet-set-generation" into some cool westernized rock music, would it be justified? There would always be some Indians who won't understand Hindi. Furthermore, when students can master so many different languages, computer technology, Java, C# and what not, it is too difficult to learn by heart the lyrics of the national anthem?
    Also, consider the disrespect we will be showing for the great men of the freedom movement, if we replace their chosen anthem with a ultra-modern "Chammak Challo" song. In Jana Gana Mana, Rabindranath carefully inculded all the states and stitched them into one great nation. By the way, the poet wrote this song in 1911, and the words are common to Sanskrit, Hindi and Bengali... and many other Indian languages.
    Many fundamentalist Muslim mullahs now feel irritated with Sanskrit words, Patriotic image of Bharat Mata, Jana Gana Mana, as well as, Vande Mataram. Yet, many real patriots like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan didn't develop any allergy with the above. If someone has hate inside the heart, he can see enemies everywhere, even among friends. That's why some people tend to object on every issue.

    BTW, Bankim Chandra Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay's "Vande Mataram" is written in SANSKRIT, not in BONG(Bengali)!!!


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