Vande Mataram: Text in context


Amit Shah of the BJP in Calcutta in June 2018. He blamed Partition of India in 1947 on truncating of Vande Mataram

Vande Mataram has now emerged as the battle cry of militant Hindutva as the Sangh Parivar discards all veneer of a pluralistic ethos in the nation’s cultural life.

Vande Mataram began as the song of Hindu revivalists in the 19th century, went through a phase of its acceptance as a slogan by Maulanas Mohammed Ali and Shaukat Ali during Gandhi’s opportunistic alliance with them in the destructive Khilafat movement, and has now emerged, shorn of all gloss, as the battle cry of Hindutva.

The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh’s (RSS) boss Mohan Bhagwat’s reply to a question soliciting his view on the issue reveals its true significance: “What is the Sangh’s view? A (Thumps the table) Vande Mataram Kehna hoga (Everyone in India will have to say Vande Mataram)”)(India Today; 4 November 2009). The river of madness was in full flood. Sample this from the same interview: “Pakistan and Afghanistan are a part of us and will return one day”; and this: “India’s unity and integrity is [sic.] non-negotiable. So is the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya and a Uniform Civil Code.” The Supreme Court is toiling in vain. The Sangh Parivar confidently banks on a favourable judgment before the 2019 election. It will never submit to an unfavourable judgment, having declared umpteen times, consistently in the last 30 years, that it is not a matter for the courts to decide.

When told that Muslims consider Vande Mataram to be “against their religion”, he arrogantly replied: “I don’t think any religion is against desh bhakti [patriotism]. To say Bharat Mata ki Jai and Vande Mataram is not like a religious puja or idol worship.” In truth, it is both. Bhagwat is either ignorant or intentionally false.

Bankimchandra Chatterjee (1838-1894) was highly influential. His poem “Bande Mataram” was composed as a song in 1875 and inserted in his novel Anandamath, which was first published in 1882, on its completion. It begins in Sanskrit, turns into Bengali and returns to Sanskrit. The “Motherland” was identified with Hindu religious deities, first, with Durga, the demon-slaying goddess, only to be transformed into the image of Kali, an angry and destructive force.

Who is this Mother whom the country was fighting for? The song, read in context, in the novel, provides the answer. It reads thus:


MOTHER, I bow to thee!

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