|Adopted 24 January 1950|
|Lyrics Rabindranath Tagore, 1911|
Music Rabindranath Tagore, 1911
Jana Gana Mana is the national anthem of India. Written in Bengali, the first of five stanzas of the Brahmo hymn titled Bharot Bhagyo Bidhata are attributed to Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The underlying message of Jana Gana Mana is pluralism.
- English Translation
- Code of conduct
- Historical significance
- Counter arguments
- Regional aspects
It was adopted in its Hindi version by the Constituent Assembly as the National Anthem of India on 24 January 1950. The "Hindi version" essentially means simply that the Inherent vowel is changed from ô to ə in the official variation, no literal translation is done, nor is necessary, since the Sanskrit words mean the same in all Indian languages. It was sung on 27 December 1911 at the Calcutta (now, Kolkata) Session of the Indian National Congress. A formal rendition of the national anthem takes fifty-two seconds. A shortened version consisting of the first and last lines (and taking about 20 seconds to play) is also staged occasionally.
The poem is written in a literary register of the Bengali language called sadhu bhasa. The song has been written almost entirely using nouns that also can function as verbs. Most of the nouns of the song are in use in all major languages in India. Therefore, the original song is quite clearly understandable, and in fact, remains almost unchanged in several widely different Indian languages. The transcription below reflects the Bengali pronunciation, in both the Bengali script and romanisation.
You are the ruler (directing the nation for farewell) of the hearts of all peoples,
Dispenser of India's fortune.
Thy name rouses the hearts of the Punjab,
It echoes in the hills of Vindhyas and,
Himalayas, mingles in the music of the
Yamuna and the Ganga and is chanted by
the waves of the Indian Sea.
We pray for your blessings,
and sing by your praise,
The saving of all people
waits in thy hand.
You are the dispenser of India's fortune,
Victory, victory, victory to thee.
Jana Gana Mana was sung on 27 December 1911 at the Indian National Congress, Calcutta and again in January 1912 at the annual event of the Adi Brahmo Samaj. Though the Bengali song had been written in 1911, it was largely unknown except to the readers of the Adi Brahmo Samaj journal, Tattwabodhini Patrika, of which Tagore was the editor.
Code of conduct
The National Anthem of India is played or sung on various occasions. Instructions have been issued from time to time about the correct versions of the Anthem, the occasions on which these are to be played or sung, and about the need for paying respect to the anthem by observance of proper decorum on such occasions. The substance of these instructions has been embodied in the information sheet issued by the government of India for general information and guidance. The official duration of the National Anthem of India is 52 seconds.
Jana Gana Mana from the day of its first rendition on 27 December 1911 at the twenty-seventh session of the Indian National Congress at Calcutta. Emperor George V was scheduled to arrive in the city on 30 December and a section of the Anglo-Indian English press in Calcutta thought – and duly reported – that Tagore's hymn was a homage to the emperor.
The poet claims in In a letter written in 1939: "I should only insult myself if I cared to answer those who consider me capable of such unbounded stupidity." In another letter to Pulin Behari Sen, Tagore later wrote, "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 Bidhata (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."
In Kerala, students belonging to the Jehovah's Witnesses religious denomination were expelled by school authorities for their refusal to sing the national anthem on religious grounds, although they stood up respectfully when the anthem was sung. The Kerala High Court concluded that there was nothing in it which could offend anyone's religious susceptibilities, and upheld their expulsion. The Supreme Court reversed the High Court and ruled that the High Court had misdirected itself because the question is not whether a particular religious belief or practice appeals to our reason or sentiment but whether the belief is genuinely and conscientiously held as part of the profession or practice of a religion. "Our personal views and reactions are irrelevant" The Supreme Court affirmed the principle that it is not for a secular judge to sit in judgment on the correctness of a religious belief.
Supreme Court observed in its ruling
"There is no provision of law which obliges anyone to sing the National Anthem nor is it disrespectful to the National Anthem if a person who stands up respectfully when the National Anthem is sung does not join the singing. Proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung. It will not be right to say that disrespect is shown by not joining in the singing. Standing up respectfully when the National Anthem is sung but not singing oneself clearly does not either prevent the singing of the National Anthem or cause disturbance to an assembly engaged in such singing so as to constitute the offence mentioned in s. 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act".
On 30 November 2016, Supreme Court of India ordered National Anthem must be played before movies in theaters, in order to instill “committed patriotism and nationalism”. On February 10th, 2017, 2 Kashmiris were booked for not standing during anthem in Jammu Cinema, under provisions of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. This was the first arrest of its kind made by a state government in India.
This poem was composed in December 1911, coinciding with the visit of King George V at the time of the Coronation Durbar of George V, and "Bharat Bhagya Bidhata" and "Adhinayaka" was believed to be in praise of King George V as per the British newspapers.The poem is created in 'shankarabharana' rag.The composition was first sung during a convention of the then loyalist Indian National Congress in Calcutta on 27 December 1911. It was sung on the second day of the convention, and the agenda of that day devoted itself to a loyal welcome of George V on his visit to India. The event was reported thus in the British Indian press:
"The Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore sang a song composed by him specially to welcome the Emperor." (Statesman, Dec. 28, 1911)
"The proceedings began with the singing by Rabindranath Tagore of a song specially composed by him in honour of the Emperor." (Englishman, Dec. 28, 1911)
Many historians aver that the newspaper reports cited above were misguided. The confusion arose in British Indian press since a different song, "Badshah Humara" written in Hindi by Rambhuj Chaudhary, was sung on the same occasion in praise of the monarch. The nationalist Indian press stated this difference of events clearly:
"The proceedings of the Congress party session started with a prayer in Bengali to praise God (song of benediction). This was followed by a resolution expressing loyalty to King George V. Then another song was sung welcoming King George V." (Amrita Bazar Patrika, Dec.28,1911)
Even the report of the annual session of the Indian National Congress of December 1911 stated this difference:
"On the first day of 28th annual session of the Congress, proceedings started after singing Vande Mataram. On the second day the work began after singing a patriotic song by Babu Ravindranath Tagore. Messages from well wishers were then read and a resolution was passed expressing loyalty to King George V. Afterwards the song composed for welcoming King George V and Queen Mary was sung."
On 10 November 1937 Tagore wrote a letter to Mr Pulin Bihari Sen about the controversy. That letter in Bengali can be found in Tagore's biography Ravindrajivani, volume II page 339 by Prabhatkumar Mukherjee.
"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 Bidhata [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 in his letter of 19 March 1939 Tagore writes:
"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." (Purvasa, Phalgun, 1354, p. 738.)
Moreover, Tagore was hailed as a patriot who wrote other songs too apart from "Jana Gana Mana" lionising the Indian Independence movement. He renounced his knighthood in protest against the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. The Knighthood (i.e. the title of 'Sir') was conferred on him by the same King George V after receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature for "Gitanjali" from the government of Sweden. Two of Tagore's more politically charged compositions, "Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo" ("Where the Mind is Without Fear", Gitanjali Poem #35) and "Ekla Chalo Re" ("If They Answer Not to Thy Call, Walk Alone"), gained mass appeal, with the latter favoured by Gandhi and Netaji.
Another controversy is that only those provinces that were under British rule, i.e. Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Dravid (South India), Odisha and Bengal, were mentioned. None of the princely states – Kashmir, Rajasthan, Hyderabad, Mysore or Kerala – or the states in Northeast India, which are now integral parts of India were mentioned. But opponents of this proposition claim that Tagore mentioned only the border states of India to include complete India. Whether the princely states would form a part of a liberated Indian republic was a matter of debate even till Indian Independence. 'Dravida' includes the people from the south (though Dravida specifically means Tamil and even then, the same consideration is not given for the south since there are many distinct people whereas in the north each of the distinct people are named) and 'Jolodhi' (Stanza 1) is Sanskrit for "seas and oceans". Even North-East which was under British rule or holy rivers apart from Ganges and Yamuna are not mentioned to keep the song in its rhythm. India has 29 states, 7 union territories.
In 2005, there were calls to delete the word "Sindh" and substitute it with the word Kashmir. The argument was that Sindh was no longer a part of India, having become part of Pakistan as a result of the Partition of 1947. Opponents of this proposal hold that the word "Sindh" refers to the Indus and to Sindhi culture, and that Sindhi people are an integral part of India's cultural fabric. The Supreme Court of India declined to change the national anthem and the wording remains unchanged.
On 17 December 2013, MLA of Assam, Phani bhushan Choudhury cited article of 'The Times of India' published on 26 January 1950, stating that in the originally the word 'Kamarup' was included in the song, but was later changed to 'Sindhu' and claimed that Kamarup should be re-included. To this, the then minister Rockybul Hussain replied that the state government would initiate steps in this regard after response from the newspaper. The debate was further joined by the then minister Ardhendu Dey, mentioning 'Sanchayita' (edited by Tagore himself) etc. where he said Kamrup was not mentioned.
On 7 July 2015, Rajasthan Governor, Kalyan Singh has called for replacing the word Adhinayaka with the word Mangal, basing his argument on the myth Tagore himself busted back in 1939 itself.