The song was composed by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay in a mixture of Bengali and Sanskrit. and the first political occasion where it was sung was the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress. In 2003,BBC World Service conducted an international poll to choose ten most famous songs of all time. Around 7000 songs were selected from all over the world. According to BBC, people from 155 countries/island voted. Vande Mataram was second in top 10 songs. This post helps you understand what a magnificent impact it had on the freedom movement. It is a long article, but a must read.
Born in a prosperous family in Kantalapada, 24 Parganas, on June 27, 1838, Bankim Chandra was a young student at the time of the First War of Indian Independence. Destiny had willed him to become the uncrowned king of Bengali literature. What enshrined him in the hearts of millions of people as a Maker of Modern India -- a seer and nation-builder -- is his unique contribution, Ananda Math, in which is incorporated his inspiring and soul-stirring national song, Bande Mataram. Bankim was not an idle utopian or a practical cynic. He had "a positive vision of what was needed for the salvation of the country." As Aurobindo has put it, "The Mother of his vision held trenchant steel in her twice seventy million hands and not the bowl of the mendicant. It was the gospel of fearless strength and force which he preached under a veil and in images in Ananda Math and Devi Chaudhurani." It was given to Bankim Chandra to have that supreme vision of the Mother in the form of dashapraharana dhaarini durga and reveal it to a nation which was groping in darkness, to give them a new light, to awaken them from deep slumber and arouse them to perform supreme acts of self-sacrifice.
Bande Mataram was composed even before the Ananda Math was born. It happened in 1875 when, on a holiday, Bankim boarded a train to his native place, Kantalapada. The train passed into the outskirts of the city 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 Bharata Mata-and he burst into song:
The song was born. But it had to reach the masses. It took about seven years for Bankim to present it to the people in the ideal setting. In no other setting it would have been more appropriate than in the historic novel, Ananda Math. Bankim had drawn inspiration from the Sannyasi Rebellion (1763-1800). The power-packed mantra -- Bande Mataram -- intoned by Rishi Bankim Chandra got revealed first in Barisal which was the nerve-centre of freedom struggle in East Bengal. . The Bengal provincial conference of the Indian National Congress at Barisal was scheduled to take place on April 14, 1906, and the pledge to undo the partition was to be taken. 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 Bande Mataram with a firm determination to root out the alien rule from the soil of the Motherland. At once the District Magistrate issued a proclamation prohibiting the shouting of the slogan Bande Mataram and singing the enchanting song at meetings or processions. Bande Mataram slogan went up in the colourful procession that the delegates led by prominent leaders like Surendranath Bannerjee, Sri Bipin Chandra Pal and Sri Aurobindo took out through the streets of Barisal to the venue of the conference. Hundreds of policemen armed with regulation lathis (fairly thick, six feet long) fell upon the unarmed patriots. But the brave and daring patriots answered each lathi blow with shouts of Bande Mataram at the top of their voice. News of the police repression at Barisal and the dramatic end of the conference spread like a conflagration in the entire Bengal.
Vande Mataram, the sacred mantra of patriotism, of which Rishi Bankim Chandra is the seer, brought under its spell many young men and women whom it converted into prophets of nationalism and fierce patriots who offered everything at the altar of the Mother. "If Bankim was the seer of the national mantra, Sri Aurobindo was the God-appointed high-priest and prophet," says Sisir Kumar Mitra. In the words of Sister Nivedita, "Aurobindo came out with a new interpretation of Bankim Chandra's song, 'Bande Mataram', which now leaped out of its comparative obscurity within the covers of a Bengali novel and in one sweep found itself on the lips of every Indian man, woman or child." His superb contribution is his masterly rendering of Vande Mataram into English verse. Sister Nivedita, the embodiment of the ideal of spiritual-nationalism propounded by 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.
As early as 1902, Satish Chandra Bose founded a secret society called 'Anuseelan Samity', the code of conduct prescribed for whose members was strongly reminiscent of the Ananda Math. Soon such secret organizations started proliferating in different parts of Bengal and gradually spread to Maharashtra, Punjab and many other provinces of the country including the southern most province of Madras. Pulin Bihari Das, P. Mitra, Babarao Savarkar, Veer Savarkar, Madan Lal Dhingra, Dr. Hedgewar, Jatindranath Mukherjee, M.N. Roy, Rash Bihari Bose, Bhagat Singh, Chandra Sekhar Azad and V.V.S. Iyer are all only a few gems in the precious necklace of revolutionaries worn by Bharata Mata on Her neck. Countless are the young men and women who offered their lives at the bidding of the Mother's call and immortalized themselves by becoming flowers offered at Her holy feet. Veer Savarkar, who with the help of Lokamanya Tilak obtained a scholarship to study in London reached there and joined Lala Har Dayal in the India House of Shyamji Krishna Varma. These twin angels of revolution created a spirited atmosphere in London and with their arrival in the India House, the tunes of 'Vande Mataram' started resounding in the heart of England. Inspired by 'Vande Mataram', Madan Lal Dhingra shot dead Curzon Wyllie and ascended the gallows. Veer Savarkar was arrested, brought to India, sentenced to two life imprisonments and transported to Andamans.
Madame Cama had prepared a tricolour flag in Paris and hoisted it at Berlin in the year 1905. The flag, with three strips in green, saffron and red colours arranged horizontally, had eight lotuses in the green strip, 'Vande Mataram' in Devanagari script in the saffron strip in the middle, and the sun and the crescent in the red strip. Lala Har Dayal carried the message of 'Vande Mataram' to America where he was instrumental in founding the Gadar Party for the cause of Indian Independence. 'Vande Mataram' became a novel form of greeting when Indians in Canada, particularly members of the Gadar movement, met each other. Indian patriots in San Francisco founded an association called Bharata Mata Sangh and brought out a secret publication called Bande Mataram Khalsa. The slogan even penetrated into Africa where in 1912, Gokhale was received by Indians shouting the slogan 'Vande Mataram'. Anandan, Satyendra Bardan, Abdul Quadir and Faiza, four revolutionaries belonging to the Indian Independence League founded in Malaya in 1942, were among those caught while attempting to penetrate into India from Singapore. These four were sentenced to death and hanged on September 10, 1943, and they died with 'Vande Mataram' on their lips.
The National Anthem of the Azad Hind Fauz led by Netaji Subhas was a soul-stirring adoration of the Motherland which inspired thousands of soldiers belonging to the Fauz to offer their lives at the altar of the Mother. Referring to 'Vande Mataram' song in his autobiography, Subhas says, " ' Bande Mataram' literally means 'I salute the mother' (i.e. motherland). It is the nearest approach to India's national anthem." At the Congress Session in 1896, Rabindranath Tagore sang 'Bande Mataram'. Later in 1905, Poet Sarala Devi Chaudurani sang 'Vande Mataram' in the Benares Congress Session. Lala Lajpatrai started a journal called Vande Mataram from Lahore. Mahakavi Subramania Bharati of Tamilnadu, who had attended the Congress Sessions in 1905 and 1906, while returning from Benares, met Sister Nivedita at Dum Dum and recognized in her his spiritual mother. Inspired by her, whom he adopted as his guru, he dedicated himself at the altar of the Motherland. He had fully realized the vision of the Motherland, and his songs, including the two marvelous Tamil verse translations of Bande Mataram are revelations of his vision. V.O. Chidambaram Pillai, Subramania Siva, V.V.S. Iyer, Tirumalachari and Neelakanta Brahmachari were all early recruits to the revolutionary movement from Tamilnadu. 'Vande Mataram' even seeped into the ranks of the army. Vande Mataram inspired the Indian soldiers of the British army stationed in Tamilnadu. Twenty-four daring young men belonging to the Fourth Madras Coastal Defence Battery were tried on charges of attempting to create mutiny and sentenced to death. They were hanged in Madras gaol and they all died with Vande Mataram on their lips.
Even as early as 1908, Muslim League was opposed to Bande Mataram and at the League's session in that year, presided over by Sayyed Imam, the song was condemned as sectarian, for it advocated the worship of the Motherland as a Goddess. But, in the surging floods of the revolutionary and the Swadeshi movements given rise to by the mantra, Vande Mataram, the objection was completely deluged. Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar had set the tradition of singing Vande Mataram in all Congress Sessions since 1915. In 1923, at the Kakinada Session of the Congress, when he rose to sing the song, Maulana Mohamed Ali, who was the President, objected to it. During the non-cooperation movement, when the Congress leadership adopted a policy of appeasing the Muslims, the objection to the song raised its head again. In 1922, to appease the Muslims, the singing of Mohammad Iqbal's 'Hindustan Hamaara' along with Vande Mataram was introduced. The Muslim leaders wanted the song Vande Mataram completely replaced by Iqbal's song. The All India Muslim League passed resolutions condemning Vande Mataram. To appease the League leaders, the Congress Working Committee in 1937 decided to maim the national song by allowing only the first two stanzas to be sung. The League still persisted in its objection and in 1938, Jinnah placed before Nehru his demand for completely abandoning Vande Mataram. To please the League further, the Congress decided to allow the singing of a song by Basheer Ahmad, reciting Quoran and also a prayer in English in the Assembly.
Even the partition of the country could not undo the demoralization in the Congress ranks created by the League's opposition to Vande Mataram. When Nehru expressed the view that the song Bande Mataram did not lend itself to orchestral music, a patriot-musician of Poona, Master Krishna Rao Ramachandra Phulumbikar disproved it by setting it to instrumental music. When he came to know that the Government would not approve Vande Mataram as national anthem unless it got clearance from the British band experts, he went to Bombay and with the help of the British band Commander, C.R. Gordon, got a record of Vande Mataram rendered to British Band music. In spite of all these efforts, the Congress leaders did not like Vande Mataram becoming the national anthem for obvious reasons. Even before an official decision was taken by the Constituent Assembly on this issue, Janaganamana was played as India's national anthem in the UN General Assembly in 1947. There was a possibility of the Constituent Assembly adopting Vande Mataram as the national anthem. But things took place behind the scene. The question did not come up before the Assembly. Instead of passing a resolution on the vital subject in the Constituent Assembly, the President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad came up with a statement in the Assembly on January 24, 1950, saying that Janaganamana will be the national anthem and Vande Mataram will have equal status with it.
Of course, Vande Mataram needs no official stamp of recognition as the national anthem. As early as 1905, Satish Chandra Mukherjee of the Dawn and the Dawn Society observed: "'Bande Mataram', Hail, Mother!-What Bengali heart is not set beating faster at the sound of the two magic words? When the late Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in his immortal work-Ananda Math, the 'Abode of Joy'-first sang the heart-stirring and soul-lifting song, the opening words of which have furnished Modern Bengal with a battle-cry and a divine inspiration, so to say-could he have dreamt of the transformation-the miraculous and wonderful transformation which the two mellifluent words were destined to work in the hopes and aspirations of his degenerate countrymen? The welkin now rings with Bande Mataram. The streets and lanes of Calcutta and the rest of the province resound with the solemn watchword. Bande Mataram has stirred the hearts of the people to their depths." It is a song enshrined in the hearts of millions and millions of Indians and sanctified by the sacrifice of countless martyrs who were inspired by the song to offer their lives at the altar of the Motherland. And, as Sri Aurobindo has put it in his striking words: "And when posterity comes to crown with her praises the Makers of India, she will place her most splendid laurel not on the sweating temples of a place-hunting politician, nor on the narrow forehead of a noisy social reformer but on the serene brow of that gracious Bengali who never clamoured for place or power, but did his work in silence for love of his work, even as nature does, and, just because he had no aim but to give out the best that was in him, was able to create a language, a literature and a nation."