Priceless Nuggets of Independence

On the occasion of India’s 75th Independence Day, it is a good time to recall some things “Essentially Indian”. These nuggets of Independence inspire us as a nation and impart a sense of national identity.

The Tricolour
First and foremost is India’s national flag. It is the symbol of our national pride and represents the hopes and aspirations of crores of Indians. The design of the national flag has evolved over the years, reflecting the political developments. The first national flag was hoisted on 7 August 1906 at the Parsee Bagan Square (now Green Park) in Calcutta (Kolkata) much before we gained freedom. It had three horizontal strips of red, yellow and green. More flags were designed and hoisted over the years, but 1931 was a landmark year as a resolution was passed adopting the tricolour as the national flag. It was a precursor to the present national flag but had Mahatma Gandhi’s charkha (spinning wheel) at the centre of the white band.

The Tricolour, also known as “Tiranga” was adopted in its present form by the Constituent Assembly on 22 July 1947, a few days before India became independent on 15 August 1947. Our flag – a symbol of nationalism and freedom, has three equal horizontal bands in saffron, white and green. The ratio of the width of the flag to its length is ‘two to three’. Made from hand spun khadi, the top band in deep saffron stands for courage and strength; the white band denotes peace and truth; and the rich green band at the bottom signifies prosperity, fertility and auspiciousness of the land. The navy blue wheel at the centre of the white band is the Ashoka Chakra – its design has been derived from the dharma chakra on the abacus of the Sarnath Lion Capital of Ashoka. The Chakra has 24 spokes representing Time – calling upon the citizens to serve tirelessly 24 hours of the day for the well being of the nation. It also represents the dynamism of peaceful progress.

After several years of Independence, the Indian flag code was modified on 26 January 2002, enabling the citizens of the country to hoist the national flag over their homes, offices and factories, on any day and not only on national days as was prescribed earlier. Of course, one has to follow the provisions of the Flag Code without causing disrespect to our national flag.

The national anthem
You immediately jump up and stand on attention when you hear this song. ‘Jana Gana Mana’— our national anthem inspires and strikes an emotional chord every time we listen to it. Recently, every Indian’s heart welled with pride when the Indian national anthem resounded in the Olympics stadium in Japan after javelin athlete Neeraj Chopra was decorated with the gold medal while the tricolour was hoisted atop.

Our National Anthem was penned by none other than the Nobel Laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore who has the rare distinction of creating the national anthems for two countries – India and Bangladesh! The original poem in Bengali, ‘Bharato bhagyo bidhata’ was publicly rendered during a convention of the Indian National Congress in December 1911. The Viswa Bharati Chorus is said to have recorded the full version of Jana Gana Mana as early as 1911-12. The song was sung by the bard himself in February 1919 at the Besant Theosophical College at Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh. Netaji Subhashchandra Bose selected it as the national anthem to be played at the inauguration of the German-Indian Society on 11 September 1942 at Hamburg in Germany. The anthems of these two nations were rendered at the meeting; the Indian anthem was played by the Hamburg Radio Symphony Orchestra. Even before Independence, the song was included in the Hindi film ‘Hamrahi’ which was a social drama. It was only on 24 January 1950 that the Hindi version of “Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka Jaya Hey” was officially declared as India’s national anthem. On the occasion of India attaining freedom, the Indian Constituent Assembly assembled for the first time as a sovereign body on the midnight of 14 August 1947, and the session culminated with a unanimous performance of the Indian national anthem. And when the members of the Indian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly gave a recording of ‘Jana Gana Mana’ as India’s national anthem in 1947, it was played by the house orchestra in the presence of representatives from all over the world. Do you know the officially prescribed time of the Indian Nation Anthem? It is 52 seconds. Put your heart and soul into it the next time you sing!

The national song
Vande Mataram – I bow to thee Mother, giver of boons, giver of bliss! The song in Sanskrit was an inspiration to many during the struggle for freedom. It was composed by Bankimchandra Chatterji in the 1870s and included in his Bengali novel ‘Anandamath’ in 1881. Its rendition by Rabindranath Tagore at a meeting of the Indian National congress in Kolkata in 1896 is very famous. There exists an old extant recording of the song in the bard’s own voice rendered in extremely slow tempo. The first two verses of the song were adopted as the National Song of India in 1937 by the Congress Working Committee. The British ban made the song all the more popular; Vishnu Digambar Paluskar sang it regularly in Kafi raga at the Congress conventions. Pandit Omkarnath Thakur rendered it in Parliament on 15 August 1947 in ‘Bangiya Kafi’ to celebrate India’s first Independence Day (you can listen to this version on the net) – this too is pretty slow and more suitable for a solo rendition as he has embellished it with his own creative vision.

Vande Mataram is one of the most popular songs in the country. Sujalaam, suphalaam, malayaja sheetalaam, Shasya shyaamalaam maataram, Vande maataram….. It is a beautiful paean to the flora and fauna of mother India. Here is an English translation of our national song by Sri Aurobindo:

Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
Bright with thy orchard gleams,
Cool with the winds of delight,
Dark fields waving, Mother of might,
Mother free.

Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease,
Laughing low and sweet,
Mother, I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low,
Mother, to thee I bow.

On the occasion of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav – 75 years of India’s Independence, let us revel with pride in things essentially Indian.

Jai Hind! Victory to India – our Motherland!


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