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"This belongs to the series of paintings titled 'Silent Songs'. They are my interpretation of the Hindustani Raaga Desh and a composition in it, which is India's national song Vande Matharam. The paintings are born more out of my desire for a 'nation of love', than a love for the nation or simply, patriotism. I don't believe in boundaries." -- Vidya Sundar
Vande Mataram ("I praise thee, Mother") is an ode to Bangamata (Mother Bengal), a personification of Bengal and of Bangladesh who represents not only biological motherness but its attributed characteristics as well – protection, never-ending love, consolation, care, and the beginning and the end of life. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, an orthodox Brahmin writer and one of the first graduates of Calcutta University, composed it ca. 1876 when he was a civil servant, as an alternative to “God Save the Queen,” the British royal anthem; he included it in “Anandamath,” his 1882 novel about the 1771 Sannyasi Rebellion, provoked by the executions of 150 ascetics by the British East India Company. Jadunath Bhattacharya was asked to set a tune for the poem soon after it was written, and Rabindranath Tagore first sang it in a political context at the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress held in Calcutta (Kolkata). Dakhina Charan Sen sang it again in 1901 at another INC session in Calcutta, and poet Sarala Devi Chaudurani sang it at the Benares session in 1905. Lala Lajpat Rai started a journal in Lahore called “Vande Mataram.” Hiralal Sen made India's first political film in 1905, which ended with the chant, Matangini Hazra's last words as she was shot to death by the Crown police. In 1905 the British divided Bengal into two parts, a Muslim east and a Hindu west, provoking new Bengali protests which transformed the INC into a mass movement opposed to British rule. In response, the British banned the utterance of the motto in public forums and imprisoned many independence activists for disobeying the proscription. In 1907, Bhikaiji Cama created the first version of India's national flag in Stuttgart, Germany, with “Vande Mataram” written on the middle band.
In 1929 “Kranti Geetanjali’ by Ram Prasad Dwivedi ("Bismil"), who had been executed in 1927 for his revolutionary looting of government funds two years earlier, was published in Lahore and Dehradun; it contained the first two (of six) stanzas of the Chattopadhyay poem and a ghazal with the same title by Bismil; the book was proscribed by the government. In 1937 the INC debated the status of the song and decided to adopt the first two stanzas as an anthem and to reject the last four because the motherland was likened to the Hindu goddess Durga. In 1947, due to Muslim claims that “Anandamath” had been anti-Muslim and that an ode to Mother Bengal violated their insistence on praying only to Allah, the new Republic of India chose as its national anthem “Jana Gana Mana,” the first five stanzas of which were written by Tagore, who also composed “Amar Sonar Bangla,” the Bangladeshi national anthem. ”Jana Gana Mana,” set to Raag Alhiya Bilawal meter, was first sung at a Calcutta (Kolkata) session of the INC. But in 1950, after Pakistan’s secession (including East Bengal, which later broke off to become an independent Bangladesh) the first two verses of “Vande Mataram” were given the official status of the country’s "national song" and granted equal status with the national anthem. The poem has been set to a large number of tunes. The oldest surviving audio recordings date to 1907, and more than 100 different versions were recorded throughout the 20th century. The tune set for All India Radio had a Desh Raga meter and was composed by Ravi Shankar, and a 1997 version by A. R. Rahman to celebrate 50 years of independence was also in Desh raga. In 1909 Sri Aurobindo Ghose, who called it the "National Anthem of Bengal," translated it into English: Mother, I bow to thee!Rich with thy hurrying streams,bright with orchard gleams,Cool with thy winds of delight,Dark fields waving Mother of might,Mother free.Glory of moonlight dreams,Over thy branches and lordly streams,Clad in thy blossoming trees,Mother, giver of easeLaughing low and sweet!Mother I kiss thy feet,Speaker sweet and low!Mother, to thee I bow.Who hath said thou art weak in thy landsWhen the swords flash out in seventy million handsAnd seventy million voices roarThy dreadful name from shore to shore?With many strengths who art mighty and stored,To thee I call Mother and Lord!Thou who savest, arise and save!To her I cry who ever her foeman droveBack from plain and SeaAnd shook herself free.Thou art wisdom, thou art law,Thou art heart, our soul, our breathThou art love divine, the aweIn our hearts that conquers death.Thine the strength that nerves the arm,Thine the beauty, thine the charm.Every image made divineIn our temples is but thine.Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen,With her hands that strike and herswords of sheen,Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,And the Muse a hundred-toned,Pure and perfect without peer,Mother lend thine ear,Rich with thy hurrying streams,Bright with thy orchard gleems,Dark of hue O candid-fairIn thy soul, with bejeweled hairAnd thy glorious smile divine,Loveliest of all earthly lands,Showering wealth from well-stored hands!Mother, mother mine!Mother sweet, I bow to thee,Mother great and free!
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