Saturday, July 10, 2010

The National Anthem of India

India's various ethnic and cultural groups are honoured in the national anthem "Jana-Gana-Mana" (Thou Art the Ruler of the Minds of All People), and the melody is very reminiscent of Indian music as well. The words and music were written by Rabindranath Tagore, the same composer of the words and music of the national anthem of Bangladesh.

The subject of the song is the Universal Spirit that guides India (God), possibly as a unifying link to the varying ethnic groups of the nation. It was first used as a national anthem by the "Free State of India" (Axis-controlled India) from 1943-1945. it was officially adopted as India's national anthem two days before the republic was declared in 1950. At the time of adoption, another "national song" "Vande Mataram" was popular with the people and many government leaders, but the fact that Vandemataram personfied India as a Goddess was offensive to the monothestic Muslim population led to Janaganamana's adoption as the national anthem.

Vande Mataram ("I do homage to the mother") is a poem in the 1882 novel Anandamatha by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay. It is written in a mixture of Bengali and Sanskrit. It is a hymn to the goddess Durga, identified as the national personification of Bengal. It came to be considered the "National Anthem of Bengal", and it played a part in the Indian independence movement, first sung in a political context by Rabindranath Tagore at the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress. In 1950, its first two verses were given the official status of "national song" of the Republic of India, distinct from the national anthem of India Jana Gana Mana. Many Muslim organizations in India have declared fatwas against singing Vande Mataram, due to the song giving a notion of worshipping Mother India, which they consider to be shirk (idolatry).

A commonly cited English language translation of the poem, Mother, I bow to thee!, is due to Sri Aurobindo (1909). The poem has been set to a large number of tunes. The oldest surviving audio recordings date to 1907, and there have been more than a hundred different versions recorded throughout the 20th century. In 2002, BBC World Service conducted an international poll to choose ten most famous songs of all time. Around 7000 songs were selected from all over the world. Vande Mataram, in a version by A. R. Rahman, was second in top 10 songs.

The stamp above and below features the anthem composer and lyricist, Rabindranath Tagore issued by Bulgaria in 1982 and India in 1952 . In the middle is the lyrics of Vande Mataram issued by India in 1976.