Lay off the National Anthem

Like most people, our national anthem makes me emotional. It is part of one’s history. It is a feeling. I do not deconstruct it nor do I see it as a necessary vehicle to flash patriotism. I have reservations about blind patriotism, anyway.

There are people like me, people like us, who feel and think. So, how would you react if you were told that the anthem you grew up singing and listening to is being reinvented? That it is being “launched” in a “limited edition” by a private company?

We have had the “Saare jahaan se achcha”, “Vande Mataram” and “Mile sur mera tumhara” versions, which is fine. It is also all right to alter the tune of the anthem for a specific purpose that is not in any manner insulting or takes away from the way we know it.

What is about to be unleashed on us is an extended version with four more verses that were in the original "poem" by Rabindranath Tagore:

Now, for the first time in the nation’s history, these four verses, set to music and produced by Saregama, will be presented to the nation by The Times of India. At a special launch ceremony this evening, two days before the nation celebrates Independence Day, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will release ‘Jaya He!’ a unique, limited edition rendition of these verses… Over the next few days, the four stanzas will also be unveiled at the 9pm News Hour on Times Now.

This is not any ordinary song. How has the finance minister agreed to attend the function? Who has granted the permission for this adaptation? There is often a ruckus about depiction of caste, religion and tampering with ‘facts’ and even names and shlokas from holy scriptures. This anthem is about India, despite its controversial history that it was written in praise of the imperial powers at the time. You cannot tamper with it. For, even technically, “Jana Gana Mana was officially adopted by the Constituent Assembly as the Indian national anthem on January 24, 1950.”

This obviously implies the verses as they are recited today and have always been since. The music company is riding on the Independence Day fervour and the media company is marketing its news channel and taking over the nationalism bastion too, after capitalising on everything that can be commercially sold, including the soul. Buy those darned CDs about sufi, bhakti, shakti sangeet and be transported to some delusionary heaven.

The TOI report states rather audaciously:

There are few who don’t get a lump in the throat when the national anthem is played, especially when it wraps up with the distinctive flourish of ‘Jaya He!’. But the irony is that Rabindranath Tagore never intended Jana Gana Mana to be signed off with ‘Jaya He!’ He’d actually written four more verses of our moving anthem, which are hardly known about.

Before barfing this tripe, the least they can do is gather some basic research. It takes less than two minutes, unless you really want to use the word “irony” in the news item. Besides, rather disgustingly, the headline of the report is 'Unchained Melody'. Is the original shackling us and are the private companies in charge of unchaining us? Here are a couple of details:

  • All the stanzas end with “Jaye He”, which translated means: “Victory, Victory, Victory be to You, the Supreme King, the dispenser of the destiny of India!” So Tagore wrote it this way, and whether it is a sign-off with a flourish or not is a matter of one’s preferences. All the original five verses are here with translation.
  • Tagore did not choose the national anthem. It was legally adopted by the INC.

Given its controversial history, what is this new marketing trying to achieve? Get into more discussions, more panellists splitting hairs, more friction? I can already see the Reverand Arnab Goswami (who is also an anchor for those who do not know!) going rat-a-tat-tat about how India needs to get in touch with its roots and wipe out corruption. Yes, some hoity-toity socialite conscience will be around to sniff the air disgustedly and quote from what Tagore intended, according to the said Rev. Goswami: “By the halo of Your compassion India that was asleep is now waking”. The “your” could be the youth, the citizen’s movement, Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev, the Dalai Lama, Sonia Gandhi, heck even the cartel of industrialists. I mean, they run the marathon so they are awake, stupid.

They have roped in top singers and the fact that it is limited edition is a smart strategy. Whet the appetite. This is one Armani of an anthem.

What next, India? Outsource the tricolour, the assembly and even Parliament? There is not much difference between a buyer of the spurious from a sell-out.

If this is called waking up, then it is time for the country to get some sleep.


  1. FV

    If I was your school teacher, i give you five stars, three smileys +++

    My sentiments entirely. would


  2. TE:

    If I was your school teacher, i give you five stars

    My teachers were not so generous. Forget five stars, they did not even give me the local dhabba...

  3. 'local dhabba?'
    You are such a genius Farzana.From where did you find this?It is a pure Gujarati 'home-talk' word.And I learn some untold lesson of patriotism from you today.Thanks.

  4. Arre, I thought everybody knows 'dhabba', but that does not mean they are all geniuses. Pukki baat!

    About patriotism, I do think my lessons would be banned if they were more publicised.


    I can already see certain people say, "Oho, she now talks patriotism when she is a jihadi."

    Funny. Patriotism of their kind is like jihad.

  5. Some people are confused and disoriented. They should research more on a sensitive subject like the Indian National Anthem and it's author Sri Rabindranath Tagore before passing a careless, defamatory judgement.

    I would like to quote from my blog on this matter.


  6. Quoted from my blog:

    The Indian National Anthem was never written in the praise of some British sovereign, as some wicked people try to imply. The poet who refused to accept Knighthood from the British crown, would not fall so low as to regard a King as the god of India. Even this idea is revolting. Rabindranath Tagore's letter(10 Nov 1937) should clarify the mist around India's National Anthem ( Jana Gana Mana ).

    "A certain high official in His Majesty's service, who was also my friend, had requested that I write a song of felicitation towards the Emperor. The request simply amazed me. It caused a great stir in my heart. In response to that great mental turmoil, I pronounced the victory in Jana Gana Mana of that Bhagya Vidhata [ed. God of Destiny] of India who has from age after age held steadfast the reins of India's chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved. That Lord of Destiny, that Reader of the Collective Mind of India, that Perennial Guide, could never be George V, George VI, or any other George. Even my official friend understood this about the song. After all, even if his admiration for the crown was excessive, he was not lacking in simple common sense"

    Again Rabindranath wrote on 19 March 1939:

    "I should only insult myself if I cared to answer those who consider me capable of such unbounded stupidity as to sing in praise of George the Fourth or George the Fifth as the Eternal Charioteer leading the pilgrims on their journey through countless ages of the timeless history of mankind."

    ~Amitabha Chatterjee


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