The Morning Song of India

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 PMNov (Literature, Music, Poetry)

“The composition consisting of the words and music known as Jana Gana Mana shall be used for official purposes as the national anthem of India, subject to such alterations in the words as the Government may authorise as occasion arises and the song Vande Mataram, which has played a historic part in struggle for Indian freedom, shall have equal status with it,” announced Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the then President of the constituent assembly of India sixty years ago, on 24 January 1950 and thus Jana Gana Mana officially became the national anthem of India.

In the celebratory mood of sixty years of republic India, the nation seems to have forgotten the sixty years of its national anthem being officially declared. However the history of Jana Gana Mana goes back to almost a hundred years i.e. 1911(27 December) when Rabindranath Tagore sang the song on the second day of the Indian National Congress session held at Calcutta.

A day before Tagore sang Jana Gana Mana the cong Vande Mataram was sung as usual, which then had become a popular song of the freedom struggle. The song Vande Mataram was first published in 1882 as a part of the novel Anand Math by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. The song was sung at the 1886 session of Indian National Congress. It was set to music by Tagore and had a universal appeal during the anti-partition movement in Bengal. Gradually the song became the rallying cry of India’s freedom movement.

The sentimental attachment people had and have for Vande Mataram was respected by the then President and gave it an equal status to that of Jana Gana Mana. But still many in the country, still argue saying Vande Mataram be declared as the national anthem and not Jana Gana Mana which is believed by the mass as a prayer written in praise of King Emperor George who happened to be on a visit to India when the song was written.

Controversy surrounding Jana Gana Mana had risen when it was sung for the very first time. The objection was to the identity of the ‘Dispenser of India’s destiny’, ‘King of Kings’, ‘Eternal charioteer’ etc, to whom the song is addressed. Many thought it was referring to King Emperor George. Tagore had denied any such interpretation saying, “I should only insult myself if I cared to answer those who consider me capable of such unbounded stupidity as to sing in praise of George IV or George V as the eternal charioteer leading the pilgrims on their journey countless ages of the timeless history of mankind.” After the initial controversy over the song Jana Gana Mana, it was first published in the year 1912 in Tattvabodhini Patrika which was edited by Tagore himself, who later translated it into English in 1919 under the title ‘The Morning Song of India’.


Narahari Govind Ganpuley was sent to Germany in 1922 to purchase printing machinery for Gandhi ji’s Navjivan press. Mr. Ganpuley stayed back in Germany when the proposal for printing machinery was dropped. He joined India Information Bureau, an organization active in Germany under Virendranath Chattopadhyay, brother of Sarojini Naidu. In 1935 Mr. Ganpuley met Subash Chandra Bose when the latter visited Berlin following his visit to Austria. The two met again in February 1939 in Mumbai (Then Bombay) and Mr. Ganpuley, on the insistence of Mr. Bose, arranged for a meeting with the senior German officials posted there. As a result of the nightlong meeting, starting Indo-German Cultural Society in Berlin was proposed and the preliminary work was entrusted on Mr. Ganpuley.
In the year 1941, Mr. Bose escaped from the heavily guarded residence in Calcutta (Now Kolkata) and surfaced in Germany where with the help from Germany he organized Free India Centre and then the India Legion (Name of the Indian National Army in Germany) in order to fight the battle for India’s freedom from outside the country.

In the very first meeting of Free India Centre on 2 November 1941 where four major resolutions were taken which was with regard to the war cry- Jai Hind, the title of the national hero- Netaji, our national anthem- Jana Gana Mana and our national language- Hindustani.

India then did not have a recognized anthem and in its absence some song or the other was sung at the beginning and close of a meeting according to the choice of the organizer. After the turmoil of the Bengal partition the extremist group began to dominate the national movement and Vande Mataram began to be sung at the Congress and other political meetings, but it was hardly sung with the spirit and emotion of a national hymn and the singing was because it appealed to the religious sentiments.
It was argued intensely in the Berlin meeting that Jana Gana Mana be adopted as the national anthem because it defined India as the union of all provinces and religions. And this national Anthem was played and sung for the first time with full orchestra accompaniment on the occasion of the opening ceremony of Indo-Germa Cultural Society in Hamburg in 1942 on 11 September. The song was played under the band leader Dr. Eigel Kruttke and was composed by Ambik Majumdar, who in the opinion of Wilhelm Lutz- a member of the Indian legion-, only done the ‘codification’. According to Dr. Kruttke the song Jana Gana Mana was not sung but just played. The music given by Mr. Bose for the song, according to Dr. Kruttke, was not appropriate form for reproduction by the chamber orchestra. Hence he then had a playable codification of the hymn written by Walter Girantis, a member of the Music Department of Hamburg Radio Station, a day earlier on 10 September 1942.

After Mr. Bose shifted to Southeast Asia from Germany in 1943, he with the help of Mumtaz Hussain, a writer with the Azad Hind Radio and Colnel Abid Hassan Saffrani of the I.N.A., had rewritten Tagore’s Jana Gana Mana into Hindustani for being used as the national anthem:

Shubh sukh chain ki barkha barse
Bharath bahaag jai jaaga
Punjab Sindhu Gujarata Maratha
Dravid Utkala Banga
Chanchal saagar, vindhya himachal
Neela Yamuna ganga
Tere nit gun gaayen
Tujh se jeewan paayen
Sab jan paayen aashaa
Suraj banker jag per chamke
Bhaarath naam subhaaga
Jai ho, jai ho, jai jai jai jai ho.
Bharath naam subhaaga
Sabke mann mein preet basaaye
Teri meethi vaani
Har saboo ke rehane waley
Har mazhab ke praani
Sab bhed aur farq mithaake
Sab goad mein teri aake
Goonthey prem ki maala
Suraj banker jag per chamke
Bharath naam subhaaga
Jai ho, jai ho, jai jai jai jai ho.
Bharath naam subhaaga
Subha savere pankh pakheru
Tere hi gun gaayen
Baas bhari bharpoor hawayein
Jeewan mein rutu laayen
Sab milkar hind pukaaren
Jai azaad hind ke naaren

Pyaara desh hamaaraa
Suraj banker jag per chamke
Bharath naam subhaaga
Jai ho, jai ho, jai jai jai jai ho
Bharath naam subhaaga.

India got its independence on 15 August 1947 and the issue of national anthem was unsettled then. The them prime minister Pandith Jawaharlal Nehru speaking at the constituent assembly on 25 August 1947 acknowledged the adaption of Jana Gana Mana as the national anthem by the INA under Netaji and its continued use in the same form by people and on official occasions after independence. He went on to say, “The question of having a national anthem tune to be played by orchestras and bands became an urgent one for us immediately after 15 August 1947. It was important from the point of view of our defence services and our foreign embassies and legations and other establishments….. We were constantly being asked as to what tune should be played on such occasions. We could not give an answer because the decision could only be made ultimately by the constituent assembly.”

The matter of no-national anthem got quite serious in the occasion of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1947 in New York. The delegation of India was asked for the national anthem of India for the orchestra to play on a particular occasion. The delegation possessed a record of Jana Gana Mana and they gave it to the orchestra who practised it. “When they played before a large gathering it was greatly appreciated and representatives of many nations asked for the musical score of this new tune which struck them as distinctive and dignified,” said Mr. Nehru.

The practise grew for the defence service bands to play this tune and foreign embassies and legations also used it whenever occasion required and in Mr. Nehru’s words, “Various countries sent us message of appreciation and congratulations on this tune which experts considered to be superior to other national anthems.”

“Apart from the general appreciation with which this tune was received, there was at that time not much choice for us, as there was no proper musical rendering of any other national song which we could send abroad,” acknowledged Mr. Nehru and added “It was very clear that the wordings of Jana Gana Mana was not wholly appropriate and some changes would be necessary. What was important was the tune to be played by bands and orchestras and not the wordings.”

Mr. Nehru wrote to all provincial governors and asked their views about adopting Jana Gana Mana or any other song as the national anthem and except the Governor of Central Provinces signified their approval of Jana Gana Mana and the new premier of West Bengal informed that he and his government preferred Vande Mataram.

“It is unfortunate that some kind of argument has arisen between Vande Mataram and Jana Gana Mana. Vande Mataram is obviously and indisputably the premier national song of India with a great historical tradition; it was intimately connected with our struggle for freedom. That position it is bound to retain and no other song can displace it. It represents the passion and poignancy of that struggle, but perhaps not so much the culmination of it,” reacted Mr. Nehru and added “In regard to the national anthem this tune should be such as to represent the Indian musical genius as well as to some extent the Western, so that it might be equally be adaptable to orchestral and band music and for being played abroad… It was thought by some people that the Vande Mataram tune, with all its very great attraction and historical background, was not easily suitable for being played by orchestras in foreign countries and there was not enough movement in it.”

On 24 Jan 1950 the then President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad announced the final decision that Jana Gana Mana would be the national anthem of India, a choice determined by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on 2 November 1941 and played as the national anthem of free India first time on 11 September 1942 at Hamburg.

Mr. Ganpuley who was present during the meeting and first playing of national anthem had saved with him some photographs and an audio tape of music which he had deposited at the Karnataka Health Institute, Ghataprabha, Belgaum of which he was a patron since 1975. He had spoken about this recording to his friend R.R. Diwakar, a congress leader then. So soon after Mr. Ganpuley’s death on 2 January 1977, Mr. Diwakar wrote to L.K. Advani, the then union minister for information and broadcasting and to Station Director, All India Radio, Dharwad, to acquire the historical tape for the AIR archives. The latter with the permission of Dr. M.K. Vaidya, chief medical officer, KHI, recorded copies of the first ever playing of Jana Gana Mana and sent it to AIR, New Delhi.

Then started the odyssey by the AIR, lead by Chitra Narain, Cheif Producer, English features, AIR deputy programme officer, to authenticate the recordings on the tape as being that of the live playing of Jana Gana Mana tune in the function at Hamburg. Dr. Kruttke and Mr. Girantis heard the recorded copy of Ganpuley’s tape and both had no doubt about the authenticity of the recording being that of the national anthem played live at the function at Hamburg. Mr. Girantis was certain that the tape had originated from a disc made of the function, which had been lost.

This journey which also traced the journey of national anthem resulted finally in a radio documentary feature titled ‘A National Anthem Born In Exile,’ researched, written, produced and presented by Chitra Narain, which was aired by AIR, New Delhi on 23 January 1980, on the occasion of 83rd birth anniversary of Mr. Bose.


Reference: Anand Y.P. Dr., Birth of Free India’s National Anthem, National Gandhi Museum, Rajghat, New Delhi-02, 1997.

24 February 2010


  1. Praveen said,

    Good One

  2. V.S.SURY said,

    Where can I listen and download this song please? Pl reply to

  3. Sury Vemagal said,

    Where can I listen and download this song please? Pl reply to

  4. drsatish1134 said,

    Very informative.
    I didn’t know all this
    Thank you, sir

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    […] রচনা করেন। ক্যাপ্টেন আবিদ হাসান তখন ‘শুভ সুখ চ্যায়ন‘ নামের সঙ্গীত রচনা করেন , এটিই আজাদ […]

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