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Indian national anthem: Some glimpses from the past
On the morning of 15th August 1947 swelled with pride, I cycled down to Cawnpore's Police Grounds. At the district level, the symbolic transfer of power from the British to us Indians was to be played out. I had goose pimples all over.

Under the shade of a shamiana sat the British District Collector, his wife, an assortment of Englishmen and some Indian dignitaries. Along with the Indian policemen were equal number were gorapolicemen. We referred to them as 'Tommies'. While the Indians glowed with joy and pride, the Englishmen looked sullen and solemn. They had just lost their 'Jewel in the Crown'!

After the speeches, the police lined up to salute the lowering of the flag of the mighty British Empire and the hoisting of the flag of the new born nation. When the Collector lowered the Union Jack, the band played 'God Save the King'. At my elitist English school, the day started with teachers and children singing, 'God Save the King', under the benign portrait of King George VI. If the teacher noticed any student keeping mum, the punishment was to stand outside the class. This and ban on speaking Hindi on the campus or even on the play ground, were some reasons why my elders pulled me out of the school.

I first saw the Indian national flag that morning when some Indian dignitary hoisted our tiranga, after the Union Jack had been lowered. The Indian audience rapturously thundered with applause. The Tommies were jeered at. Some fired crackers, as the police band played 'Sare Jahan SAchha Hindustan Hamara'. As we shall see, India did not have a national anthem till 1950! In the interim, we sang other patriotic songs, which we had been singing during the freedom struggle.

On the midnight of 14th August, all of us had been glued to the radio, as Nehru delivered his iconic 'Tryst with Destiny' speech to the Constituent Assembly and the nation. The proceedings had started with Sucheta Kriplani singing 'Vande Mataram'.

The programme started at 11 pm with Sucheta Kripalini singing Vande Mataram and President of the Constituent Assembly Rajendra Prasad addressing the session before Nehru's speech reminding people about the duties in independent India. Choudhari Khaliquzzaman, a Muslim League leader from UP, seconded the motion moved by Nehru. However, Choudhari later left for Pakistan. Sarvepalli Radhakrishan delivered his speech before midnight and spoke about India's unique achievement.

After freedom fighter, Hansa Mehta handed over the national flag to Dr Rajendra Prasad, the eventful proceedings of the session ended with Sucheta Kriplani singing 'Saare Jahan Se Achha' and 'Jana Gana Mana'.

Jana Gana Mana:

It was on 24th January 1950 that the Constituent Assembly adopted the Hindi version of the first stanza of Tagore's 'Bharot Bhagyo Bidhata'.

Tagore's original song in Bengali was first sung in 1911 at the Calcutta session of Indian National Congress. The proceedings had started with a prayer in Bengali, to praise God. It is believed that Tagore's song was not an ode to Bharat, but an invocation to God for the well being of Bharat! Some wrongly believe that the Tagore song was in praise of King George V. In the same year 1911, King George V was in India for the inauguration of New Delhi. 'An acquaintance of Rabindranath, who was a great admirer of the Raj requested him to compose a song in praise of the emperor. 'The very proposal was obnoxious, repulsive and demeaning to the great poet. So offended was he that he produced his immortal poem to commemorate the victory of the real 'Bharat Bhagya Bidhata'!

Recently, from its archives DD Bharati ran: 'The Voice of Radio' ? a series of interviews with Ameen Sayani, India's most popular and many-faceted broadcaster. Ameen recalls that as a child he had walked holding Mahatma Gandhi's hands. His mother, Kulsum Sayani a dedicated educationist, was a close associate of Gandhi. For communicating with the masses, Gandhi always used very simple language. He asked her to work on a journal which used Hindustani, instead of Sanskritised Hindi or Persianised Urdu ? to unite Hindus and Muslims. She created the journal 'Rahbar' for the common man, which lasted till 1960. During the freedom movement, it was distributed to hundreds of political prisoners lodged in jails across the country.

Ameenhas endeared himself with generations of listeners, with his signature opening 'Bhaiyon aur bahano'. When asked, how he could touch the hearts of every Indian, his answer was ? 'Hindustani'.

He narrates, that when after our Independence in 1947, the first Indian delegation went to the United Nations, they were asked for the music score of the country's national anthem. India formally adopted 'Jana Gana Mana' much later in 1950. But the delegation had a recording of Tagore singing the song himself. That recording was handed over and 'the song was played by the house orchestra in front of a gathering consisting of representatives from all over the world'.

Ameen Sayani's interviews are from the old archives of AIR and DD, and today his views may be different. But it is interesting to recall his views then. Firstly, he believes that 'Vande Mataram' is a more patriotic song, while 'Jan Gana Mana' is an invocation to God. He would have preferred 'Vande Mataram' as our national anthem.

Secondly, as an erstwhile promoter of Hindustani, he suggested that the anthem be written in very simple Hindi. Once the choice is finalised, the chosen anthem be set to music. And translation of those lines in all languages of the States, to be set to the very same music ? to be played at all national and state occasions, each singing in their own language!

He also cited that in 1945 a song in Hindustani broadcast daily by Subhash Chandra Bose's Azad Hind Fauj from Singapore, was very popular all over India. It was set to the same musical score as Jan Gana Mana. With lights switched off, we listened to these broadcasts though forbidden by the British government. The text of the song is given after the article.

My own take on the National Anthem:

Most of the songs we sang in marches during our struggle inspire me. I would stand up for any of them. But we as Indian citizens should abide by our Constitution and set code of conduct. All these 70 years, except for a few mild controversies, all over India we have stood up, whenever the national anthem is sung or played (just 52 seconds!) In what way does it only now, after 70 years infringe our sensibility and personal liberty?

On the other hand, 'patriots' who bash up others in the name of nationalism or patriotism are goons, far removed from patriotism. That the law does not teach these offenders or other vigilantes a salutary lesson is a worrying sign. These days every week, something from the dead past is raked up and rubbed in, with TRP hungry TV channels adding fuel to fire by inviting fanatics of all shades to vitiate the national discourse. This is not what we understand as nation building. This certainly is distracting the nation from the burning issues of employment, poverty, education, farmer suicides, etc.

Perhaps, it would be futile to tell the TV debaters ? 'Don't raise your voice. Improve your argument'!


Song of Azad Hind Fauj:

'Shubh sukh chain ki varsha barsay, Bhaarat bhaagya hai jaaga'!

Shubh sukh chain ki varsha barsay, Bhaarat bhaagya hai jaaga!

Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Draavid, Utkal, Banga ?

Chanchal saagar, Vindhya, Himalay, neela Yamuna Ganga ?

Teray nit gun gaayen, tujhsay jeevan paayen,

Sab jan paayen aasha!

Sooraj ban kar jag mein chamkay, Bhaarat naam subhaaga!

Jai ho, jai ho, jai ho ? Jai-jai-jai-jai-ho!!

Sab kay dil mein preet basaaye teri meethi baani ?

Har soobay kay rehnay waalay, har mazhab kay praani ?

Sab bhayd aur farq mitaakay, sab goad mein teri aakay,

Goondhein prem ki maala!

Sooraj ban kar jag mein chamkay, Bhaarat naam subhaaga !

Jai ho, jai ho, jai ho ? Jai-jai-jai-jai-ho!!

Subah saberay pankh pakheru teray hi gun gaayen ?

Baas bhari bharpoor hawaayen jeevan mein ritu laayen ?

Sab milkar Hind pukaaray, "Jai Aazaad Hind" kay naaray,

Pyaara desh hamaara!

Sooraj ban kar jag mein chamkay, Bhaarat naam subhaaga!

Jai ho, jai ho, jai ho ? Jai-jai-jai-jai-ho!!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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