The creator of the National Anthem of India:
A brief history and some controversies:
Controversy exists regarding the appropriateness of Jana Gana Mana as the national anthem of an independent India. The poem was composed in December 1911, precisely at the time of the Coronation Durbar of George V, and is a paean in praise of “the overlord of India’s destiny”. The composition was first sung during a convention of the then loyalist Indian National Congress in Calcutta on Dec. 27, 1911 . It was sung on the second day of the convention, and the agenda of that day devoted itself to a loyal welcome of George V on his visit to India. The event was reported thus in the Indian press:
“The Bengali poet Babu Rabindranath Tagore sang a song composed by him specially to welcome the Emperor.” (Statesman, Dec. 28, 1911)
“The proceedings began with the singing by Babu Rabindranath Tagore of a song specially composed by him in honour of the Emperor.” (Englishman, Dec. 28, 1911)
“When the proceedings of the Indian National Congress began on Wednesday 27th December 1911, a Bengali song in welcome of the Emperor was sung. A resolution welcoming the Emperor and Empress was also adopted unanimously.” (Indian, Dec. 29, 1911)
Unsurprisingly, the belief gained ground that the poem had been written in honour of the visiting monarch. Others aver that the newspaper reports cited above were misguided, the confusion arising since a different song, written in Hindi by Rambhuj Chaudhary, was sung on the same occasion in praise of the monarch. However, the two poems were written in different languages; Tagore already enjoyed much fame in India, and newspaper reports are both consistent and categorical on the point of Tagore having himself sung his composition on the occasion.
Nevertheless, other explanations for the motivations that informed the creation of the poem have been proposed. On a visit to India, the poet Yeats received a visit from an Indian admirer who was also, in Yeats’ words, “an Indian devotee” of Tagore. In a letter to a lady friend, Yeats quoted this unnamed devotee as giving him a ‘strictly off the records’ version of events dealing with the writing of Jana Gana Mana. That version, as presented in 1968 by the Indian Express newspaper, was this:
“He (Tagore) got up very early in the morning and wrote a very beautiful poem…. When he came down, he said to one of us, ‘Here is a poem which I have written. It is addressed to God, but give it to Congress people. It will please them.”
Thus, Tagore is said to have written the poem in honour of God. In a letter to Pulin Behari Sen, Tagore himself wrote:
“A certain high official in His Majesty’s service, who was also my friend, had requested that I write a song of felicitation towards the Emperor. The request simply amazed me. It caused a great stir in my heart. In response to that great mental turmoil, I pronounced the victory in Jana Gana Mana of that Bhagya Vidhata [ed. God of Destiny] of India who has from age after age held steadfast the reins of India’s chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved. That Lord of Destiny, that Reader of the Collective Mind of India, that Perennial Guide, could never be George V, George VI, or any other George. Even my official friend understood this about the song. After all, even if his admiration for the crown was excessive, he was not lacking in simple common sense.”
In 2005, there were calls to delete the word “Sindh” and substitute it with the word Kashmir. The argument was that Sindh was no longer a part of India, having become part of Pakistan as a result of the Partition of 1947. Opponents of this proposal hold that the word “Sindh” refers to the Indus and to Sindhi culture and people which are an integral part of India’s cultural fabric. The Supreme Court of India refused to tamper with the national anthem and the wording remains unchanged.
The National Anthem
The English translation of the National Anthem:
Some interesting titbits:
Rabindranath Tagore is the only person whose poems have been adopted as the national anthem of more than one country. Another poem of his (Amar Shonar Bangla) was adopted as the national anthem of Bangladesh.
P.S.I have never been comfortable listening to a national anthem on any country sitting or doing something else. I am not telling everyone to be like that. Just give the respect to the song.Thanks