Monday, 18 August 2014

A few facts about the controversial song Vande Mataram

A proposal for the Partition of Bengal was announced by the British Government on 1st September 1905 . It met with vigorous protests from Indians . October 1905 was declared as period of mourning , and the slogan Vande Mataram became a cry for all patriotic Indians to bond together against the British rule. The British authorities thereafter declared the song containing the slogan seditious and Anti British . The slogan was part of a longish poem (in Sanskrit and Bangla) that had appeared in a 19th Century Bangla novel, Anandmath by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee . It was first serialised in a magazine and later published as a book in 1882.
Vande Mataram was translated by Shri Aurobindo in English . Gandhi endorsed it later in Harijan ( July 1st 1939) as ,'a most powerful battle cry among the Hindus and Muslims of Bengal during the Partition days. "
The anti (Bengal) Partition movement generated a host of patriotic songs and plays and had a major impact on the nascent sound recording industry in India.  
History's whispering corridors have a strange pattern of crossing and recrossing . In 1907 the worsening Anglo German relations led to Germany's support for their enemy's enemy's  fight for independence . And the Beka records G.m.b.H ) Berlin Germany, released a two sided 10" sized 78 R.P.M. record containing a speech by Babu Surendra Nath Banerjee on 'Partition of Bengal' on the one side and a rendering of the entire  poem Vande Mataram in Surendra Babu's voice on the other. This and another record of another rendition of the Anti British poem released by The Gramaphone Co of London were deleted in 1909.
Interstingly Sir Abdul Halim Ghaznavi, a Muslim Swadeshi leader of the nationalist movement was also the agent of Beka records in Bengal. He is said to have played a great role in conceptualising the venture.
After 1909 very few records of this controversial poem were released and both the recording Industry as also the theatrical performances came under careful scrutiny by the British Government for any seditious content they may carry. Both the Dramatic Performance Control Act, 1876 and The Vernacular Press Act were used to seize and destroy such material. .
The sound recording industry had, in the meanwhile, sized up the lucrative potential of patriotic songs and plays . Vande Mataram had immediately become a best seller when Hemedra Mohan Bose of H Bose records recorded the controversial poem in the voice of the celebrated poet Tagore. Bose was also the first Indian to produce indigenous cylindrical blanks for recording sound. It was after this that backed by the Germans, Pathe in 1908 reproduced and released H Bose's famous Record number 250 of Vande Mataram in the voice of Rabindra Nath Tagore.
Soon Gandhi stepped into the Freedom Movement and the Indian National Congress came into being . This was also the time when Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, a great scholar and teacher of Hindusthani classical music was also touring the country, establishing music teaching institutes . To raise funds for his schools, he set many patriotic and religious songs to music and sang them at various public fund raisers to great applause. Among them were Vande Mataram and some of Gandhi ji's favorite Bhajans like Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram and the Narsi Mehta poem Vaishnav Jan to Tene Kahiye...
In 1921 at the annual session of the Indian National Congress  in Ahmedabad, a large crowd had gathered to prevent Gandhi ji from reaching the stage to address the audience. Pt Paluskar managed to make way for Gandhi by parting the crowd of protesters . He mesmerised everyone by his soulful rendition of Bapu's favorite Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram and led Bapu to the stage while continuing to sing. The session ended with his vigorous singing of Vande Mataram in which all joined.  


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