The song ‘Vande Mataram’ was composed by Bankimchandra Chatterji (Chattopadhyay) on November 7th, 1875 in a mixture of Sanskrit and Bengali words. Jadunath Bhattacharya was asked to set tune to this song just after it was written in Raga ‘Desh Malhar’. It was sung by Gopal Chandra Dhar of Hooghly District in Raga ‘Desh Malhar’ for the first time in 1876. It was incorporated in Bankimchandra Chatterji’s famous novel ‘Ananda Math’ in 1882. In 1885, Prativa Devi, niece of Rabindranath Tagore, made a notation of the song which was published in ‘Balak’ magazine. Later the song was set to tune by Rabindranath Tagore and sung for the first time before a political gathering at the 12th annual session of the Indian National Congress held in 1896 at Beadon Square in Kolkata. Jyotindranath Tagore accompanied Rabindranath Tagore on piano during the singing of the song.
Vande Mataram provided great inspiration during the freedom struggle and the British government had even put a ban on its singing in Bengal. From 1901 onwards, it became the song of the Indian National Congress. The contention of the few that the song was adopted as the National Song at the Varanasi session of the Congress party on September 7, 1905 is a matter of dispute.
Sri Aurobindo Ghosh translated the National Song into English (‘Mother, I bow to thee!’) in 1909. The All India Radio composed a tune of Vande Mataram in 1940s in ‘Raga Des’ but the name of the composer of this tune remains unknown. Vande Mataram was adopted by the Constituent Assembly as the National Song on January 24, 1950 and given an equal status as the National Anthem.
The following is the text of its first stanza :
Sujalam, suphalam, malayaja shitalam,
Phullakusumita drumadala shobhinim,
Suhasinim sumadhura bhashinim,
Sukhadam varadam, Mataram!
The English translation of the stanza rendered by Sri Aurobindo in prose is :
I bow to thee, Mother,
cool with the winds of the south,
dark with the crops of the harvests,
Her nights rejoicing in the glory of the moonlight,
her lands clothed beautifully with her trees in flowering bloom,
sweet of laughter, sweet of speech,
the Mother, giver of boons, giver of bliss