The year was 1911 and the event was the Indian National Congress’ Calcutta Session. The importance of the day was highlighted by the presence of King George V who was visiting India then. In the presence of the dignitaries, India’s renowned Poet and Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore sang ‘Jana Gana Mana’ for the first time in Bengali as a song of invocation.
The five stanzas of ‘Jana Gana Mana’ voice out admiration for God in lofty terms. The first stanza in which Tagore encompasses places from North, South, East and West India quoting noted landforms churns out patriotic feelings in the ears of the listener.
However this soft melody did not get much attention except with a few till 1919. While visiting the Besant Theosophical College in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh Tagore rendered ‘Jana Gana Mana’ again, this time for the students who loved the song and began singing it as a prayer song. It was here that Tagore translated ‘Jana Gana Mana’ into English with the help of an expert in Western Music, Margaret Cousins.
In the days that followed, ‘Jana Gana Mana’ infused in the freedom struggle and was soon called ‘The Morning Song of India’.
However this was a time when the Independence movement in India was gaining momentum and ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was not the only song that aroused nationalistic feelings. ‘Vandemataram’ composed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay was yet another popular number recited during the freedom movement.
After India secured independence, there was a need to have a National Anthem for the country. ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and ‘Vandemataram’ were the top contenders out of which ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was chosen as the National Anthem of India on 24th January 1950. ‘Vantemataram’ was declared the National Song of India.
However since then a controversy erupted over the choice of ‘Jana Gana Mana’ as this song was claimed to be composed by Tagore in honor of the then visiting King George V and its relevance as National Anthem of Independent India has been questioned.
In spite of this controversy that has lasted for decades, “Jana Gana Mana’ has been the lifeline of India, uniting different communities and people groups with its all encompassing lyrics for 100 years now. Though the argument over ‘Jana Gana Mana’ continues, this song rouses every Indian to his feet in a call of duty and devotion to India.
Here are links to order your own mp3 of the National Anthem of India
AR Rahman's Jana Gana Mana (National Anthem )
"Jana Gana Mana" The National Anthem of India - Single