Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jana Gana Mana

Jana Gana Mana, India's national anthem is an incredibly beautiful song. Sadly, it has also been the subject of a lot of unnecessary controversies, the main jist of them being that it was written by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in praise of King George V. This controversy, which should have been a non issue by now, having been clarified on more than one occasion by Rabindranath himself, was once again brought up by the current Rajasthan governor and former UP CM, Kalyan Singh. The latest rant was about removing the word "Adhinayaka" from the anthem as it referred to the British apparently as per him.

Over the next few days, a number of write-ups came up defending Tagore and I liked two of them in particular. One was this Facebook post by veteran journalist, Kanchan Gupta who mentions that :
What is now the National Anthem of the Republic of India is the first stanza of a five-stanza Brahmo Sangeet or psalm. It was composed by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore on December 11, 1911, in adulation of Param Brahma.
The other interesting post was in Swarajya by Aravindan Neelakandan titled: Why Should The RSS Dislike Jana Gana Mana?  This also refutes the myth of Tagore composing the song for the British.

What was interesting for me was to learn about the full song of Jana Gana Mana. As we know, only the first stanza of the song is considered as India's National Anthem, reading and listening to the next 4 stanzas of this incredibly beautiful song gives an idea of the deeper meaning and symbology associated with it.

The 3rd para containing the following lines is particularly suggestive of one man, at least for me:
Hey Chiro Saarothi, Tabo Ratha Chakrey Mukhorito Potho Dino Raatri
Daaruno Biplabo Maajhey,Tabo Shankhodhwoni Bajey
Sankato Dukkho Traataa

 The 4th and the 5th para of course refer to the Divine, protective Mother and so the Krishna-Kali symbology makes great sense.

Moving on, I tried to find on YouTube some good renditions of the full song of Jana Gana Mana and I found three versions worthy of sharing.

First is this version performed by 39 of India's finest singers & musicians (with the background narration of Harsh Neotia the only slightly irritating part in it).

Second, is this lovely rendition by Sukhada Bhave (couple of minor errors in the wording notwithstanding).

Third, is this sublime rendition in Bangla by Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta - my favourite version.

Apart from being the creator of India's national anthem, Tagore also is the author of Aamar Sonar Bangla, which went on to become the national anthem of Bangladesh and is also an incredibly beautiful song. As Wikipiedia notes, he also wrote the music and lyrics for Nama Nama Sri Lanka Mata in the Bengali language for his student Ananda Samarakoon, who returned to Ceylon in 1940 and translated Tagore's song into the Sinhala language Apa Sri Lanka, Namo Namo Namo Namo Matha. In fact, I could not help but notice a bit of similarity in the music between the Indian & Sri Lankan anthems :)

And so, Jana Gana Mana, the national anthem of Republic of India, is so many things; it is a a divine prayer to the almighty, a sublime composition and a patriotic song. Take it the way you will, but I think it deserves our love and respect. Dragging in into petty political disputes by the left or the right, does great disservice to this beautiful piece of art and Rabindranath Tagore's genius. The great man and his work of art, deserve better.

PS: Collating some other beautiful renditions of the National Anthem here, based on a friend's suggestion.

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