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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

BANDE MATARAM: The Freedom Cry

BANDE MATARAM: The Freedom Cry
In 1905, the British Government under Viceroy Lord Curzon initiated the ‘partition of Bengal’ which became a major turning point in the Indian independence movement. During the turbulent days of the anti-partition movement in Bengal, the slogan Bande Mataram also spelled as ‘Vande Mataram’ became the ‘freedom-cry’ of national resurgence. Bande Mataram’s appeal was instant. The amazing transformation of the slogan ‘Bande Mataram’ into a revolutionary ‘war cry’ was the work of the youth in Bengal. 
  Bande Mataram’ was composed in 1876 by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (1838-1894). In 1882 the song was included in his novel Ananda Math (Abode of Bliss).

In 1906, Bipin Chandra Pal (1858-1932) and Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) adopted Bande Mataram as the name of their English Weekly that was to serve as the organ of revolutionary nationalism from Calcutta. In 1908, the ‘Bande Mataram’ was forced to stop publication under the Newspapers Act of 1908.
It was also at this point of time, the need to unite the whole of India became paramount and the question of invention of a distinctive pan-Indian National flag began to be discussed in the press. One of the first serious attempts at flag-making came from Sister Nivedita, an Irish disciple of Swami Vivekananda in 1904. Nivedita’s flag was adorned by the symbol of the Vajra placed in between the words ‘Bande’ and ‘Mataram’ in Bengali with  jyotis embroidered along the outer periphery. 

The original flag made of pure silk is preserved at Acharya Bhavan Museum, Bose Institute, Kolkata.
There were two other flags emblazoned with the slogan ‘Bande Mataram’ ;
 1) The Calcutta Flag hoisted by Sir S.N. Bannerji on the first anniversary of Boycott Day on 7 August 1906, and by the Congress President Dadabhai Naoroji at the Calcutta session of the Congress in December 1906. The flag was jointly designed by Sukumar Mitra and Sachindra Prasad Basu. The flag was made by Kumudini Basu, sister of Sukumar Mitra.
2) A - a variant of the Calcutta flag popularly known as Madame Bhikaji Rustom Cama’s flag; flown on 22 August 1907 at the Second International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart, Germany.The flag was made by Hem Chandra Kanoongo (Das).
The song ‘Bande Mataram’  was set to music by Rabindranath Tagore who also sang it for the first time at the All India Congress session in Calcutta in 1896.
 Hemendra Mohan Bose on his label, ‘H. Bose’s Record’ released commercially the song ‘Bande Mataram’ in Rabindranath Tagore’s own voice for the first time in 1907.
Bande Mataram in Raga Durga; 78 rpm vinyl disc record (12” dia)

It was Netaji Subhas Bose, Supreme Commander of the Azad Hind Fouz (INA) who asked Timir Baran Bhattacharya to set the song into a tune that could be used as a marching song. The song’s vinyl disc was released in 1938; it was broadcast from Singapore Radio during World War II in 1943.
There were numerous other rendering of the song by various other singers.
 A patriotic Bengali Movie “Bande Matarm” was released in September 1946 in Calcutta, just a year before our Independence. 
Booklet of the movie ‘Bande Mataram’, directed by Sudhirbandhu Bandopaddhyay.
 Advertisement in The Hindusthan Standard, Calcutta, dated Friday, 15 August 1947. ("Bande Mataram" English  translation by Sri Aurobindo).
No matter what its source was and how and when it was composed, it had become a powerful battle cry among the Hindus and Muslims of Bengal during the partition days. It was anti-imperialist cry….. It never occurred to me that it was a Hindu song or it was meant only for the Hindus…. It is enthroned in the hearts of millions. The flag and the song will live as long as the nation lives… ”. Mahatma Gandhi in Harijan, 1 July 1939.
  The song "Bande Mataram" which has played a historic role in the struggle for Indian freedom was given equal status with "Jana Gana Mana" while adopting the later as Indian National anthem by President Rajendra Prasad in the Constituent Assembly on 24 January 1950.

The greatest and most enduring gift of the Swadeshi Movement was Bande Mataram, the uncrowned National anthem”- The Cambridge History of India.