Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Hindu Poet Who Wrote Pakistan’s First National Anthem

Jagan Nath Azad

Pakistan’s first national anthem, Tarana-e-Pakistan, was written by a 30-year-old Hindu poet, Jagan Nath Azad. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was acquainted with Jagan’s work in Urdu poetry but he had not met the poet. In the first week of August 1947, Jinnah asked his staff to bring Jagan before him. Their meeting happened on August 9. 

Jagan had no clue why he had been brought before Jinnah. He was taken by surprise when Jinnah asked him if he had a song that could be used for Pakistan’s national anthem. He had such a song which he recited. Jinnah liked the song and he decided on the spot that it would be Pakistan’s national anthem. On the night of August 14, 1947, immediately after Pakistan became independent, Jagan’s Tarana-e-Pakistan was broadcast on Radio Lahore. 

In 1954, Pakistan officially adopted a different national anthem, “Qaumi Tarana,” written in Persian language by Hafeez Jalandhari in 1952. Jagan’s Tarana-e-Pakistan was forgotten. At the time of independence, the district where Jagan was born (the small town of Isa Khel in Mianwali District, Punjab) went to Pakistan. He migrated to India and settled in Delhi where he became a government servant.

In his Foreword to the 1993 book, Jagan Nath Azad – Hayat Aur Adabi Khidmaat, Dr Khaliq Anjum (author and general secretary, Anjuman Taraqqi-e-Urdu Hind), writes: 

“Not many people know that, while still in the land of his birth, Azad sahib wrote Tarana-e-Pakistan at the behest of the people with authority in Pakistan… What can be a greater honour, particularly for a non-Muslim, than having his Tarana broadcast from Radio Lahore immediately after the announcement of Pakistan's establishment on the night of 14 August 1947?”

Why did Jinnah award the momentous task of composing Pakistan’s first national anthem to a non-Muslim? There can be two reasons: first, by using a song composed by a Hindu, Jinnah was sending a signal to the world that he was a modern secular leader and thinker, not a religious fundamentalist; second, he got confused by Jagan’s surname “Azad,” which is used by both Hindus and Muslims—Jinnah might have believed that Jagan was a Muslim.

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