How Did ‘Bharatha Matha’ Come Into Being?

“Bharatha Matha ki Jai”- has been our patriotic slogan all through the struggle for independence and afterwards

Prof. K.V. Narayana Rao

How old is this integrative expression ‘Bharatha Matha’? Neither Vande Matharam nor Jana Gana Mana make a reference to Bharatha Matha.

Bharatha, the name of our country   is remembered  everyday for ages. The pious, in their daily Sankalpa prayer say “Bharat Varshe, Bharaha Khande, Meroh  Dakhina  Digbaghe….” indicating their location at the moment of the Sankalpa. Our respect and devotion to this land of ours also goes back to the Vedic period.

Matha Bhumih Puthroham Prithivyah (land is our mother and we are her sons) – this is what Prithvi Sooktha says. The importance of being born in this country is emphasised in a stanza in Sri Sooktham – Pradurbhutsosmii Rashtresmin (to me born in this country) Keertiim Riddhim Dadathu Me (may fame and plenty be given). This land is considered the Consort of Lord Vishnu and on waking up from the bed, one says “Visnupatni Namasthuubhyam, Padasparsam Kshamaswa Me” (pardon me for touching you with my feet)

The name of the country as well as our devotion to country as mother is thus established. The question is since when have we been giving expression to our latent feelings and emotions  of ourselves as the children of Bharatha Matha, the word which integrates the  country as well as our devotion to it? For this we have to go back by about one hundred and fifty years.

To understand its background, a reference has to be made to (1) the family of Maharshi Debendranth Tagore (1817-1905), who was the father of  Rabindranath Tagore, the author of Jana Gana Mana and (2) the Hindu Mela, held in Kolkata in 1867, a decade after the first war of independence and about two decades before the founding of the Indian National Congress.

Debendranath, was a Brahmo, but did not lack in love for Hinduism, the parent religion. He considered it his duty to protect the Hindu community against attackers from outsiders. If occasion demanded, he would assume the leadership of the Hindus. An instance of this was his campaign on behalf of the Hindu community to protest and prevent unclean tactics adopted by Alexander Duff to convert Hindus.

Ganendranath Tagore (1841-69) was son of Girindranath Tagore, second bother of Debendranah Tagore. Among other matters, he was imbued with inspiration for undertaking efforts to encourage the growth of nationalistic feelings among the Bengalis. In his efforts he was ably helped and assisted by Nabagopal Mitra (1840-1894). Mitra was a playwright, poet, essayist, and above all, a patriot. At different times, he set up different institutions-National Press, National Paper, National Society, National School, National Theatre, National Store, National Gymnasium and National Circus. These institutions earned him the sobriquet- National Mitra. In 1866, the National Paper, founded by him, published ‘The Prospectus of a Society for the Promotion  of National Feeling among the educated natives of  Bengal” by Raj Nrayan Bose. Inspired by the booklet, Mitra with the help of Ganendranath Tagore organised a fair – The Hindu Mela – in Kolkata on Chaitya Sankranti ,the last day of the Bengali year, which fell on 12 April 1867. (In the present year 2017, it fell on 14 March), Tagore was the Secretary of the Mela Committee and Mitra, the organiser of the Exhibition. From then on, it was to be a regular annual feature intended to help in fostering the spirit of nationalist sentiments through songs, staging of plays, it was also to popularise the indigenous goods produced by the country artisans through exhibition at the time of the Mela. This was thus a precursor of a positive Swadeshi movement.

The Hindu Mela was inaugurated with a patriotic song – ‘Malina Mukhochandra Ma Bharat Tomari (O! Mother Bharath, your moon face is gloomy) -composed and sung by Dwijendranath, the song thus, in public, not only established the ancient name of the country, but also expressed its devotion to the Mother. Further, it hinted that there was something wrong in the conditions in the country.

In the second Hindu Mela held next year, in 1868,  there was another patriotic song, again from the Tagore family. Satyendranath Tagore (1842-1923), younger brother of Dwijendranath, was the first Indian recruited to the Indian Civil Service, in 1864. He was in the Bombay cadre. He attended and composed a song for the second Hindu Mela. The song in Bengali begins thus- “Mile Sabe Bharatha Santhan, Ektan Man Pran, Gao Bharater Yasogan….. Hok  Bharater Jaya, Jaya Bharater Jaya.” It thus exhorts the Bharat Santhan (the people of India) to come together and sing Jaya Bharatha, the song contained several stanzas glorifying Savitri, Vasishta, Gautama, Vyasa, Valmiki, Bhima, Drona and Yudhishtira and other ancient heroes and heroines of the epics of India. Bankimchandra  Chatterjee (1838-94), who wrote ‘Anand Math’ later, praised this song.

These lines became the precursor of present “Bharatha Matha Ki Jaya (Jai)” a popular slogan in processions in the context of activities and agitations against the British commencing with the ‘Vande Matharam’ movement against the proposals for Partition of Bengal by Curzon.

Author: Prof KVN Rao taught Political Science at Sri Venkateswara University and other institutions. He is a reputed author and an authority on AP and Telangana politics. He lives in Tiruvanantapuram. His mail id: kvnrao2002(at)yahoo.com

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