This Day in History (20-Dec-1876) – Bankinchrandra Chattopadhyay wrote “Vande Mataram”

Bankinchrandra Chattopadhyay  wrote many Bangali novels from 1865 to 1884, most famous novel being Anand Math (1880). Anand Math contained the song “Bande Mataram”, which was written in 1876. Anand Math started appearing in the magazine, Banga Darshan, during 1880 to 1882. Its concept itself generated ripples in people’s minds, as it was a novel, which speaks of revolutionaries who live and die for their motherland. 1883 saw a stage version of Anandmath, wherein the first singing of the song took place. Bankimda passed away in 1894. In the 1896 convention of the Indian National Congress a full-unabridged version of Vande Mataram was sung. None other than the great personality-Rabindranath Tagore sang it. In the 1901 Congress, again it was rehearsed, with Dakshanrajan Sen as the composer. Thereafter it became a norm to start the Congress convention with Vande Mataram.

The year 1905 was memorable to Vande Mataram in many ways. In this year the song crossed the boundaries of Bengal, spread like a jungle fire throughout the nation which would oust the British rule. No sooner than the Partition of Bengal was declared, thousands of angry Bharatiyas protested the decision in a unanimous voice: Vande Mataram. Indian freedom struggle had got it’s march song. The British government realized the potential and nuisance value of Vande Mataram. Saraladevi Chaudharani, niece of Ravindranath Tagore, sung it despite protest in the 1905 Congress convention.

It was translated into English by Shree Auribindo Ghosh to conform to its universality and eventually. The militant revolutionaries who faced the gallows recited Vande Mataram as their last words. This includes Madanlal Dhingra, Praful Chaki, Khudiram Bose, Suryasen, Ramprasad Bismil and many more. Even the great martyr Bhagat Singh addresses a letter to his father with Vande Mataram. Subhashchandra Bose had adopted this song for his Indian National Army. In 1937, the Congress leaders, owing to misconceptions from certain minorities, appointed a committee to interpret Vande Mataram. The first two stanzas were adopted as a national song. Other stanzas bearing reference of the nation as ‘Mother Durga’ were omitted.


This Day in History (1-Oct-1909) – Gandhiji wrote to Tolstoy regarding Passive Resistance movement

Nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been the bloodiest in human history, while Count Leo Tolstoy in Russia and Mahatma Gandhi from India, have been the two greatest leaders who preached non-violence, universal love, concern for the weakest, a moral stance in whatever we do, and a non-violent resolution of conflicts among individuals, groups, as well as nations.

Gandhi arrived from South Africa in London on 10 July, 1909. On 2 July, 1909, Madanlal Dhingra had assassinated Sir Curzon Wylie. In London, Gandhi met many Indians who propagated violent resistance as the only way to obtain India’s freedom. And then he came across a copy of Tolstoy’s ‘Letter to a Hindoo’, written in reply to the letter of Tarak Nath Das, an Indian who advocated the violent approach. Tolstoy’s letter explained why non-violent resistance and a resolve by Indians to become free were the only solution.

This prompted Gandhi to write to Tolstoy (1 October, 1909), apprising him about the Indians’ ‘passive resistance’ against racial oppression in Transvaal (South Afrika) going on for three years. He wrote that nearly half of the total Indian population of 13,000 in Transvaal had left Transvaal rather than submit to the degrading law, and ‘nearly 2,500 have for conscience’s sake allowed themselves to be imprisoned, some as many as five times.’ He sought the approval for printing 20,000 copies of his letter for distribution and having it translated. He had ‘taken the liberty’ to write the letter ‘in the interests of truth, and in order to have your advice on problems the solution of which you have made your life-work.’

Tolstoy promptly replied (7 October, 1909) that ‘same struggle of the tender against the harsh, of meekness and love against pride and violence,’ was rising in Russia too, ‘especially in one of the very sharpest of the conflicts of the religious law with the worldly laws—in refusals of military service.’ He wrote that he was happy with the proposed publication and translation of ‘Letter to a Hindoo’.

Tolstoy remained one of the main mentors of Gandhi till the end.