Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vande Mataram......The History (Part 1)

Born in a prosperous family in Kantalapada, 24 Parganas, Bengal, on June 27, 1838, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was a young student at the time of the First War of Indian Independence in 1857. What he saw & heard from his elders, made him weep in anguish. A true patriot at heart, he took up the pen....to inspire millions to rise against the slavery.
It happened in 1875 when, on a holiday, Bankim Chandra boarded a train to his native place, Kantalapada. The train passed the outskirts of the small town and glided through vast tracts of land, wrapped in enchanting green foliage, decked with multifarious flowers, nourished and nurtured by hurrying streams and beautiful lakes and unveiling the bewitching charm of nature in all its splendour. The poet's heart was thrilled with the vision of his exquisite Mother...the Bharat Mata...and he burst into a song....'Vande Mataram' was born. However, a few years later, in 1881 the same song found a more profound meaning & place in his novel, "Ananda Math".

Inspired by the Sanyasi Movement(1763-1800), Rishi Bankim Chandra Chatterjee wrote this historic novel. The song, Vande Mataram, has been written in Bengali & Sanskrit, worshipping the Mother.....it is said that Rishi Bankim Chandra had the vision of the Supreme Mother, in the form of Dashapraharana Dharini Durga Devi, to reveal to the Nation, that was groping in darkness, to give them a new light, to awaken them from their slumber & free Bharat Mata from the chains of slavery.
Durga Maa denotes Shakti....the ultimate power.....a power to whom even the mighty Gods have bowed down to.
The greatness of Mother & the Motherland is the essence of Hindu culture. Every ruler, right from Lord Rama to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to Leaders like Swami Vivekananda to Subhas Chandra Bose, has had a deep sense of belonging for the Motherland. After the killing of Raavana, when Lord Rama was presented with a proposal to stay back in Lanka, His very famous reply was, “Janani Janmabhumishcha Swargaadapi Gariyasi” Lord Rama says, “My mother and motherland are dearer to me than heaven (let alone Lanka)”.

Around 1870, the British Raj had made it compulsory to sing "God Save the Queen" at all public gatherings. The common man had been beaten to submission & the general morale of the country was very low. It is said that in the darkest hour of despair, comes a beacon of light, a ray of hope, to show the way....as if Nature is planting the seed for a new life to usher in.
The song caught the imagination of the people & when Rabindranatha Tagore sang it for the first time in public at the National Congress in 1896, it became a rage. Every province, every street, every house of the Country gave voice to the song. Through this song, overnight, the Country seemed to have united in one mission....to free Mother India(Bharat Mata) from its slavery. The British had not expected such a tumultous response to a song. They resorted to repressive measures & immediately imposed a ban on uttering Vande Mataram in schools, colleges & public places. Thousands across the country defied the ban & courted arrest in protest of the ban. The National Movement had truly begun.

The Bengal provincial conference of the Indian National Congress at Barisal(now in Bangladesh) was scheduled to take place on April 14, 1906. On the eve of the conference there was a mammoth meeting in the small town of Barisal in which an effigy of Lord Curzon was burnt and a thousand voices cried Vande Mataram with a firm determination to root out the British rule from the soil of the Motherland. At once the District Magistrate issued a proclamation prohibiting the shouting of the slogan Vande Mataram and singing the enchanting song at meetings or processions. However, a procession led by prominent leaders like Surendranath Bannerjee, Sri Bipin Chandra Pal and Sri Aurobindo took to the streets of Barisal to the venue of the conference. Hundreds of policemen (sadly most of them were Indians, serving under the Britsih Raj), armed with lathis, fell on the crowd & beat them up, even as the shouting of Vande Mataram grew louder. While the place bled, with people lying on the ground writhing in pain, Vande Mataram became a Slogan. This news spread like wildfire across Bengal & then slowly across the country. The movement had begun.

Sister Nivedita,(an Anglo-Irish social worker & a disciple of Swami Vivekananda) dedicated herself body and soul, for the cause of Motherland and she even resigned from the Ramakrishna Order to enable herself to plunge completely into the national movement. It was Sister Nivedita who requested Sri Aurobindo to shift the centre of his activities from Baroda to Bengal in order to carry out his Bhavani Mandir scheme. Another fierce patriot and prophet who came under the spell of 'Vande Mataram' was Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya who remained a sannyasi throughout his life. He insisted that a man from every house should dedicate himself to the nation's work, like the sannyasins of Ananda Math, and that every father should offer a son for the service of the Motherland.
In 1907, Madame Bhikaji Kama created the first version of our National Flag, & hoisted it in Berlin, which had Vande Mataram written on the Saffron middle strip in Devnagari script. The upper strip was green in colour with eigth lotuses, & the lower strip was red in colour with a Sun & Cresent Moon to represent the Hindu & the Muslims.

Freedom fightors from Sarala Devi Chaudurani to Lala Lajpat Rai to Matangini Hazra to Veer Savarkar to Madan Lal Dhingra to Jatindranath Mukherjee to Rash Behari Bose to Subhas Chandra Bose to Bhagat Singh to Chandra Sekhar Azad to VVS Iyer & so many more.....all had Vande Mataram locked to their lips....giving up their entire life for the freedom of our country...our beloved Bharat Mata. The heart lifting & soul stirring song had something about its fervour...its spirit that aroused one & all.

Even today, while singing the song one can experience a lump in the throat, and wet eyes, that comes out of sheer reverence for the innumerable patriots, who gave up their life, their happiness, so that we could be free, we could be happy, we could breathe in Independence.


(to be continued......)

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