Monday, July 22, 2024

Vande Mataram: Patriotism or Controvery? 

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Vande Mataram as a phrase or song is a 100-year symbol of patriotism. However, for the ‘peaceful’ community this phrase is a symbol of controversy. Chanting ‘Vande Matrama’ is a matter of nationalistic pride for all Indians, or at least it should be. The poem was inked in the 1870s by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. It holds a significant place in India’s struggle for independence. It was first published as a song in the novel “Anandamath,” penned by the same author in 1882. This song was introduced to the Indian National Congress in the 1896 session by Rabindranath Tagore, who later set it to music, turning it into a powerful and emotive patriotic song.

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The All India Muslim League has long objected to the song. Even in the pre-Independence era, this song was not accepted by all members of the ‘peaceful’ community. They deliberately chose to raise objections to the song and the phrase. The recent objections by the Samajwadi Party Maharashtra President and MLA Abu Azmi have reopened this pandora’s box. His statements reek of similarity to Pakistan’s Qaid-i-Azam, Mohammed Ali Jinnah.  

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Role in Patriotism

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Vande Mataram was a rallying cry during India’s freedom movement. It united Indians of all religions to fight for the independence of the motherland. It is an expression of love and devotion towards the homeland. As s symbol of the collective spirit of the Indian people, it ensures that Indians put nation before self, before family, and before religion. The song’s evocative words and soul-stirring melody created a sense of pride in the nation. The song’s role in inspiring nationalism among Indians is unquestionable. It continues to urge all Indians to stand united against the world.

Acceptance of Two Stanzas

In the pre-independence era, Vande Mataram was accepted across religious lines. It was initially sung by people from all communities as a mark of their love for the country. However, after its introduction as a patriotic song and a chant for independence, Mohammed Ali Jinnah voiced concerns after its interpretation in an English translation in the 1930s. Thus, in 1937 the Indian National Congress stated that the first two stanzas were non-controversial and accepted these stanzas as inclusive to all religions.

However, since then the objections from certain members of the ‘peaceful’ community raise objections to the phrase “Vande Mataram”. They purport the idea that the phrase and the song contradict their monotheistic beliefs. 

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The Misinterpretation Controversy

The phrase is written in Sanskrit. As in most cases with Indic language, the ‘भाव’ of the phrase changes with respect to its use. The word “Vande” comes from the root word ‘Vand’. There are many translations of the word. They range from “I bow” to “I praise”, “I revere”, “I celebrate”, or “I salute”. However, how the user interprets this phrase depends upon the rest of the text and their own preferences. Most ‘peaceful’ leaders raise concerns that the phrase refers to bowing to the motherland. This interpretation is seen as against their religious principles. However, if the user translates the phrase as “I salute thee, O Motherland”; then the phrase does not violate any religious sentiments. 

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Example : The 1st Verse of the National Song

Sanskrit Verse :

वन्दे मातरम्!
सुजलां सुफलां मलयजशीतलाम्,
शस्यश्यामलां मातरम्।
वन्दे मातरम्!
शुभ्रज्योत्स्ना पुलकितयामिनीम्,
फुल्लकुसुमिता द्रुमदल शोभिनीम्,
सुहासिनीम् सुमधुरभाषिणीम्,
सुखदाम् वरदाम्, मातरम्!
वन्दे मातरम्, वन्दे मातरम्॥

Translation of the Verse:

“I salute thee, O Mother!

Rich with thy hurrying streams,

bright with orchard gleams,

Cool with thy winds of delight,

Dark fields waving Mother of might,

Mother free.

Glory of moonlight dreams,

Over thy branches and lordly streams,

Clad in thy blossoming trees,

Mother, giver of ease

Laughing low and sweet!

Bless me with happiness, O Mother,

Speaker sweet and low!

Mother, to thee I salute.”

Jinnah used ‘Vande Mataram’ as a Divisive Tactic

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Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the All India Muslim League, opposed the singing of “Vande Mataram” by Muslims. He stated that certain verses of the song conflicted with Islamic beliefs. Jinnah used this as a divisive tactic to distinguish Muslims from the broader national movement. He also gained Muslim sentiments to promote the idea of a separate Muslim nation. Jinnah’s stance on issues like this, along with Gandhi’s complacency with Jinnah’s words or actions, fueled communal tensions sown by British colonials. By increasing controversies like these, Jinnah succeeded in using the HIndu-Muslim divide that led to the eventual partition of India in 1947.


Vande Mataram is a powerful and emotive expression of love and devotion towards India. It serves as a symbol of patriotism that has survived since the pre-independence era. While it has been embraced by many Indians, some ‘peacefuls’ continue to use this as a subject of controversy. Their objections arise from misinterpretations of its English translation. However, willful negligence cannot be ruled out; they may be taking a page from Jinnah’s book to use this phrase to keep India divided. Nevertheless, true Indians understand this phrase and the nation song as an anthem of national unity and pride. Moreover, its popularity as a unification tool is probably the reason for its controversy in the minds of the ‘peacefuls’.

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