Just as a National Flag is very important for a country, so is its National Anthem. The word ‘anthem’ according to the dictionary means a hymn of praise or loyalty. It is a choral composition having a sacred or moralising text. Anthems of countries all over the world promote national integration and patriotism.  An anthem is undoubtedly a very important aspect of a country’s independent status and identity.

Interestingly, there is no international law that requires any country to adopt a national anthem. Yet every country formally adopts an anthem that aptly expresses what the nation stands for. Adoption of national anthem dates back to 14th century. The first national anthem as stated in history is the Dutch national anthem which is as old as 1568. However, the first national anthem which was officially adopted is the Spanish anthem in 1770.

national anthem

Though anthems of various countries are in different languages, they denote similar things and their purpose remains the same, to instil in its citizens, a feeling of patriotism and nationalism.  Anthems depict a story, a freedom struggle, a war and most often give out a message to stand and fight for the country’s glory.

Did you know that national anthems of most of the countries evolved from a song or a poem? For e.g. the national anthem of U.S, ‘The star Spangled banner’ was written in the 19th century as a poem. It was shortened and later put to the tune of an old English song.  Few anthems could be quite long and could take more than an hour to sing. The national Anthem of Greece is the longest in the world with 158 stanzas. On the contrary, the Japanese national anthem is the shortest with four lines in all.

India’s national anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was originally a Bengali song written by Rabindra Nath Tagore.  The song has five stanzas, however, only the first stanza of the song was adopted. It was translated into Hindi and was adopted by the constituent assembly as the National Anthem of India on 24th January, 1950.   The anthem has also been translated into English. A formal rendition of the Indian National anthem takes 52 seconds.

Let’s look at the English version of the Indian National anthem to unveil its meaning:

Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people

Dispenser of India’s destiny

Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sind, Gujrat and Maratha of the Dravida and Odisha and Bengal.

It echoes in the hills of the Vindhayas and Himalayas.

Mingles in the music of the Yamuna and is chanted by the weaves of the Indian sea.

They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise

The saving of all people waits in thy hand

Thou dispenser of India’s destiny victory, victory, victory to thee.

These are powerful words of praise, loyalty and devotion. They inspire one and all. Thus, the National anthem holds a significant and honourable place for our nation. It is always sung on special occasions. Citizens stand in attention while singing the national anthem as a mark of respect and honour. The Government of India issues instructions from time to time to ensure that the dignity and honour of the anthem is maintained.

Lately, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the national anthem. It is said that this song was actually written to praise George V, the king of England. Media reports of that time say that the song was written at the time of the King’s visit to India. Thus, the argument is that the song was written in praise of the king and not the motherland. However, the only historical evidence surrounding this fact is a few media reports of that time. Thus, people demand that our national anthem be changed or replaced with the national song – ‘Vande Mataram’.

On the contrary, there is an argument that the anthem truly reflects pluralism. It talks of the whole nation starting from Punjab, Gujrat, Maharashtra, Bengal, Odisha and south. It mentions our sacred Ganga and Yamuna.  It talks of India’s destiny.

This debate has become endless now. However, this does not give any person, group or community the right to disrespect our National anthem.  What we should remember is that whether the song was written in praise of the king or of the motherland, it is formally adopted as our country’s national anthem and it continues to inspire millions of Indians around the world. It is amazing how a song can bring together the whole nation in few seconds. Thus, let us take an oath to protect, preserve and honour its dignity at all times.

Read this in Hindi

Background music: Sunset (Kai Engel) / CC BY 4.0
National anthem
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