Vande Mataram is an emotion-laden patriotic song, written in Bengali by Bankim Chandra, circa 1875.Literally, the title means "I bow to thee, Mother", a salutation to the motherland. Vande Mataram was taken up by the entire Indian populace as a song of freedom, and was instrumental in the build-up of nationalist feelings in India during that period.Written in a moment of inspiration, Vande Mataram went on to become the war-cry of the nationalist Indian freedom struggle, and is the official National Song of India now.

The words are characteristic of the status quo of Bengali literature at the time, as exemplified by Tagore and others. Intense emotion and intrinsic musical nature is a common trait of the literature of that age. In Vande Mataram, references abound to the folklore of the simple Bengali fishermen, who regarded the Ganga River as their Mother Durga, and the ancient Indian tradition of imbuing the Mother with godliness, which along with a painfully beautiful description of an untouched India, make for a piece that is a veritable delicacy to the Indian mind.

The poem, written in Bengali.

Vande Mataram!
Sujalam, suphalam,
malayaja shitalam,

Phullakusumita drumadala
Suhasinim sumadhura
Sukhadam varadam,

The only known English translation is attributed to Sri Aurobindo Ghosh.

I bow to thee, Mother,
richly-watered, richly-fruited
cool with the winds of the south,
dark with the crops of the harvests,
The Mother!

Her nights rejoicing in the glory of the moonlight
her lands clothed beautifully
with her trees in flowering bloom
sweet of laughter, sweet of speech
The Mother, giver of boons,
giver of bliss!

The actual song has four stanzas more, but only the first stanza is known all over as Vande Mataram

The verse first appeared in a bengali novel by Bankim Chandra, titled AnandaMath. The novel, which depicts a struggle for freedom that took place in Bengal in 1773, was published in a newspaper run by him called Banga Darshan, during the period 1880 to 1882. The novel appeared in installments in the newspaper, and fascinated a large audience with the daringly political theme, the everpresent symbolism and a novel use of the language. The story is set against the background of a crippling famine that hit all of Bengal in 1773, and tells the story of Bhavananda, a sanyasin who dies a martyr at the end of the story, with the song on his lips. The novel gained much critical acclaim, apart from the very evident crowd appeal.

Vande Mataram was catapulted to national attention when it was sung at the 12th convention of the Indian National Congress in 1896, composed and performed by the magnificent Rabindranath Tagore. The performance made the song popular to the entire nation, and is still remembered in awe by many. After that, Vande Mataram quickly became the patriotic chant of choice for the masses in India. By 1905, the song had gathered a sizeable following outside the borders of Bengal, and the outcry at the declaration of the partitioning of Bengal brought it to the attention of the British rulers,who began to regard it as a threat of considerable proportion. So much as to ban the recitation of Vande Mataram at public gatherings. In the line of the non-violent civil disobedience followed by the leaders of the freedom struggle, the ban was broken all over the country, the song gaining more and more patriotic impact with each singing crowd being battered to a bloody pulp by the British police. Vande Mataram had become the war-cry that its author intended it to be, the preferred last words uttered by dying extremists. Sri Aurobindo, who led many a freedom march, later started an English daily of the name Vande Mataram at Calcutta in 1906. He produced the only acknowledged English translation of the song.Vande Mataram was eventually chosen as the official National song of free India, amidst controversy on not considering it for the National Anthem on grounds that it wasn't secular.

Today, Vande Mataram is remembered fondly in India by all who recollect the freedom struggle with awe, and is accorded a grudging respect even by the new generation.

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