During India’s struggle for Independence, many a freedom fighter went to the gallows chanting the slogan “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.
But now the same slogan has been dragged into a controversy.
On March 3, reacting to alleged anti-India slogans on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus in New Delhi, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat said that today’s young generation must be taught to chant “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” (hail Mother India).
The RSS has been worshiping the portrait of Bharat Mata- mounted on a lion and holding a saffron flag, in all its events.
Reacting to Bhagwat’s statement, All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi said he would never chant the slogan even if someone forces him putting a knife at his throat. This prompted the Shiv Sena to ask him to leave India and settle in Pakistan.
While Owaisi has drawn condemnation from all quarters for his utterances, the RSS has also been accused of creating a controversy with a view to usurping the slogan for BJP’s political gains in the upcoming assembly polls.
In his farewell speech in Rajya Sabha on March 15, noted poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar condemned Owaisi and chanted the slogan thrice in the house.
He said that is his birthright to chant the slogan, subtly indicating that such slogans cannot be hijacked by some fringe groups to subjugate others.
On the next day, an AIMIM MLA was suspended from the Maharashtra assembly for his refusal to chant the slogan.
While the political fire keeps blazing, let us check 10 facts about this slogan:
1. The origin of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” can be traced back to India’s first freedom struggle in 1857, termed by the British as Sepoy Mutiny.
Since then, freedom fighters continuously used the slogan to ignite patriotic fervour among the people to mobilize them against the British till 1947, when India got its Independence.
2. The slogan found its place in the revolutionary literature of the time. It was used in Kiran Chandra Banerjee’s play famous “Bharat Mata” in 1873.
Noted Bengali author Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote the novel Anandamath in 1882, where he introduced the Sanskrit slogan “Vande Mātaram”, which meant the same as “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.
3. Later, freedom fighter Bipin Chandra Pal acknowledged as the father of revolutionary thoughts in India started uniting all freedom fighters with the slogan, which he elaborated as an expression of universal Hinduism and nationhood.
4. Artist and writer Abanindranath Tagore took it to another level by giving Bharat Mata a face – he portrayed her as a goddess in a saffron sari; her four arms holding manuscripts, sheaves of rice, a string of prayer beads, and a white cloth.
5. This image of Bharat Mata gave freedom fighters an idol, an icon to concentrate, to worship and to ignite their nationalist feelings.
6. Later, Sister Nivedita, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, recreated the painting as Mother India standing on green earth, against the backdrop of the blue sky.
With four lotuses at her feet, Bharat Mata had a white halo and big, compassionate eyes.
She was seen offering Shiksha (education), Diksha (initiation), Anna (food) and Bastra (clothes) to her children with her four divinely powered hands.
7. To freedom fighter from Tamil Nadu, Chinnaswami Subramania Bharathi, Bharat Mata was Adi Parashakti (the Eternally Limitless Power). He also found Mother India synonymous with the land of the holy Ganga river.
8. In 1936, Mahatma Gandhi inaugurated the first temple of ‘Bharat Mata’ on Kashi Vidyapeeth campus in Varanasi.
9. In 1983, former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi inaugurated another temple of ‘Bharat Mata’ in Haridwar.
10. The Indian Army still uses Bharat Mata Ki Jai as their war-cry.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.