Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Sri Aurobindo: On Vande Mataram

Sri Aurobindo

A nation is not merely geography; it is also history and culture. Therefore, nationalism ought to be historical and cultural (religious), not merely geographical. The nationalism that Bankim Chandra Chatterjee has preached in his 1881 novel Anandamath was founded on the ideal of union between geography of the Indian subcontinent and the religious values of the Hindus. 

In his song Vande Mataram, which is the centerpiece of Anandamath, Chatterjee delivers his message of union between geography and religion by likening the motherland with Goddess Durga: “twam-hi Durga dasha-praharana dharini…”

Bipin Chandra Pal was inspired by the song Vande Mataram. In 1905, he founded the journal called Bande Mataram. Sri Aurobindo became its editor. The journal served as the mouthpiece for two revolutionary nationalist movements operating in Bengal for Indian independence: the Jugantar Party and the Anushilan Samiti. The journal was very popular and it was read by many who were not part of the two nationalist movements. 

In his editorial in the 16th April 1907 issue of the journal, Aurobindo talked about the role that the song Vande Mataram had played in awakening nationalist sentiments in India: 

“It was thirty-two years ago that Bankim wrote his great song and few listened; but in a sudden moment of awakening from long delusions the people of Bengal looked round for the truth and in a fated moment somebody sang Bande Mataram. The mantra had been given and in a single day a whole people had been converted to the religion of patriotism. The Mother had revealed herself. 

“Once that vision has come to a people, there can be no rest, no peace, no farther slumber till the temple has been made ready, the image installed and the sacrifice offered. A great nation which has had that vision can never again be placed under the feet of the conqueror.”

In another essay titled, “The Mother and the Nation,” Aurobindo wrote: 

“When Bankim discovered the mantra Bande Mataram and the song wrote itself out through his pen, he felt that he had been divinely inspired, but the people heard his song and felt nothing. "Wait" said the prophet, "wait for thirty years and all India will know the value of the song I have written." The thirty years have passed and Bengal has heard; her ears have suddenly been opened to a voice to which she had been deaf and her heart filled with a light to which she had been blind.” 

P.S. (These days most people write Vande Mataram; in Sri Aurobindo’s time, Bande Mataram was the convention.)

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