India’s national anthem “Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka” was composed by Rabindranath Tagore on 11 December 1911 and was first sung later in the month on 28th December at the Calcutta session of Congress.
- Tagore, whose song “Amar Sonar Bangla” was later chosen by Bangladesh as its national anthem, saw controversy swirling about “Jana Gana Mana” not long after it was written.
- “Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka,” which was loosely translated as “the leader of people’s minds” by Amartya Sen was alleged to have been composed for a durbar in Delhi where George V was proclaimed Emperor of India.
- It was widely said that the national anthem of India dedicated to the Britishers.
The controversy should have ended there.
- Yes, George V, who was king-emperor of India was visiting India in 1911 for the Delhi Durbar. And yes, the song was sung on the occasion. But to say that the words paid tribute to King George V and Queen Mary is ridiculous.
- Tagore was just not the kind of person to have penned lines like these for the throne of England.
- You should get your answer from this: Tagore relinquished his knighthood after the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre in 1919. He could never have been reverent of the British crown, and he was deeply hurt at the English press in India for saying his poem was written in praise of the crown. He considered it slander.
- So, the lines adhinayak and Bharata Bhagya Vidhata did not mean the king of England nor is it sung in praise of the king.
- Of course not! It would be sacrilege to say that! If you are saying that the poem pays tribute to George V, no way! Tagore was totally opposed to British rule, especially after Jallianwalla Bagh.
- Tagore wrote a song, not for George V, but a song devoted to the ‘dispenser of human destiny’ — Bharata bhagya vidhata — God. The person in whose hands lies the destiny of this nation. Tagore, if you read all the five parts of the anthem, said it is vidhata who will show the way forward for India, who will light the way for India and its people.
- He did not mean idolatry, but a supreme being alluded to in the Upanishads.
In a letter Tagore wrote in 1937, he clarified that “Jana Gana Mana” was not composed for George V. Biswas’ essay quotes the following sentences from this letter:
“neither the Fifth nor the Sixth nor any George could be the maker of human destiny through the ages.”
“I had hailed in the song Jana Gana Mana that Dispenser of India’s destiny who guides, through all rise and fall, the wayfarers, He who shows the people the way..”
- During his lifetime Tagore was asked more than once about JGM being written in praise of the emperor. His reply was: “I should only insult myself if I cared to answer those who consider me of such unbounded stupidity as to sing in praise of George IV or George V as the Eternal Charioteer leading the pilgrims on their journey through countless ages of the timeless history of mankind.”
- Other aspects of Tagore’s life — such as setting up ashram-style schools at Shantiniketan, spearheading the anti-partition-of-Bengal movement and renouncing his knighthood after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre — leave no doubt of his commitment to India. Thus, the ‘pro-British’ allegation turns out to be silly.