| 'Vande Matharam' is a song written in the nineteenth Century and used by the Indian
fighters for Independence to kindle the patriotism of the citizens. It is not a prayer. The
language and the meaning was appropriate to reaffirm our love for the land we live in. But it
was not meant to give any godly powers to the Nation. Although Durga, the family deity's
name is applied to the Nation and India, there was no attempt to give the godly attributes of
Durga to the land. In other words, the term Durga was a metaphor to give importance to the
land as much as to a mother and God. Durga is worshipped by all Hindus living anywhere in
the world. But India is godly only to Indians and all Indians including those belonging to other
religions. All citizens of India are expected to express allegiance to the land known as India
that is Bharath regardless of their religious affiliations.
'Vande' means 'I salute'. 'Matharam' means mother. These are Sanskrit words. The
fact that India has a cultural history based on Sanskrit language and the Indian civilization
has developed from various spiritual doctrines, the people living in the entire country that is
Indian subcontinent are influenced by Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and of course Hinduism.
The Arabic language gained importance after the Moslem rulers appeared. The English and
other European languages were inducted after the Portuguese and other countries of Europe
established their rule in various parts of India. There is significant differences in the
perception of 'love for the nation'. We love India and we respect the Indian Nation. When we
express this 'love for the nation' the manner in which we do so, can create difficulties among
the people because of the differences in interpretation of the language used. The people
have to be educated to interpret the meaning of a National symbol correctly.
We have to recognize the correct interpretation of this National song and then keep it or
reject it. There is no confusion about the meaning of the 'Vande Matharam' song if we have
the will to take the patriotic nature of the words like Durga in the song. By denying its correct
meaning the historical importance of 'Vande Matharam' song will be reduced and one more
symbol of our National unity would have been relegated to antiquity. The leaders and
administration of India have compromised to a great extent by keeping only the first two
stanzas of the song as being relevant. These stanzas do not have the word Durga in them.
Therefore these two stanzas can be taken to be the entire National song and sung by the
citizens belonging to religions other than Hinduism. It is not possible to wipe out the
significance of this song of 'love for the nation' since it is bound to our history of struggle for
Independence and gives inspiration to the generations that have not witnessed the sacrifices
made by a large number of Indians belonging to all religions during our fight for
India is a conglomeration of many languages, traditions, religions, faiths, beliefs, etc., but
for the sake of unity as a Nation the citizens will have to come together and express their love
and respect for the Nation in one way or another. The National flag has three colours and
saffron colour is one of them. If a group of citizens oppose to this colour in the National flag
and declare that because of the presence of this colour in the flag, they will not salute the
flag, then it becomes an anti-national posture. The saffron colour is on the top and the green
colour is at the bottom. If a group of citizens demand that the colours be rearranged and the
green colour should be on the top then also it will be an anti-national posture. Just because
the 'Vande Matharam' song has some words that are against the sentiments of a small group
of citizens, the public campaign against singing of the song becomes an anti-national
posture. Our Constitution guarrantees freedom for each citizen to make a
choice to sing or not sing the National song. All Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and even Hindus
and others are free to declare that he or she is not going to sing the National song no matter
how important it is to sing it with others in a group or individually at home or in workplace.
And, that he or she is still a patriotic Indian and loves India, and respects India too. But no
one can stop him from singing it if he has the will to do so.
If a person orders another to not sing the National song then it is infringement of his or her
right under the Constitution. If a group of persons issues an order in the form of a binding
order or guidelines prohibiting the members of the group from singing the National song then
it becomes improper conduct on the part of the group and can not be justified as a legitimate
right under the Constitution. Not only that, such an order becomes suspicious as to whether it
is subversion and waging war against the Nation.
It is not practical to forget our past and change the symbols of National unity and integrity
totally free from spritual connotations. Secularism is not meant to demoralize the patriotism of
the people. The historical National symbols are necessary to be continuously and constantly
kept alive so that we tread on the same path laid down by the National heroes of yesteryears.
By Mohan Shenoy
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