Was the Indian National Anthem written to praise British emperor?

Was the Indian National Anthem written to praise British emperor?


There is controversy everywhere in India, somewhere somebody is always offended about either what has been said or written. The Indian national anthem is no exception to that. Recently, the most debated of all matters is nationalism and guess who got dragged into the controversy? Rabindranath Tagore’s compilations including the first five stanzas of the national anthem.

Ministers seems to have lost the whole cause of their position and instead of focusing on what needs to be done in order to take India to new heights, they are digging history and making issues out of things that is really none of their business.

The stanza, ‘Jana gana mana adhinayaka jaya he’ is being asked to be replaced by ‘Jana gana mana mangala jaya he.’ Another political group has a problem with the word ‘Sindh’ on grounds that it is no longer a state in India. After standing to honour the hymn every time it plays for the entire life, now we would be told to no longer stand up to Jana gana mana if and when it ceases to be the national anthem or gets replaced.


1. History: Jana gana mana was written by Rabindranath Tagore in the year 1911. Coincidently, or maybe purposely it was also the year when King George V and the Queen of England visited India. It is being said that Pandit Motilal Nehru wanted the five stanzas included in order to honor them. The destiny of India was apparently in their hands and as rulers, they were the ‘bhagya vidhata’ or the bringers of good fortune for the country back then.

2. Partial inclusion of states: It is worth a mention that the original Bengali version of the national anthem talks of only those provinces that were under the British rule in those days. Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha were only mentioned as the destiny of those provinces were in the hands of British emperor. The princely states that are now integral part of India, like Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Kerala were not mentioned. This makes it even more skeptical that the stanzas were actually dedicated to the Emperor and not our motherland.

3. What happened to our oceans? The Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea are not mentioned in the lines because they were directly under Portuguese rule those days. Emperor George is praised throughout the poem as being the master of our countrymen and on whom the destiny of our land depended.

4. Translation as some claim it to be: The direct translation of the five stanzas are clearly glorifying the Emperor’s rule.

Stanza 1: The people of India wake up remembering your good name (Emperor’s) and ask for your blessing while singing hymns of your glory.

Stanza 2: Around your throne, people of all religion come and give their love and anxiously wait to hear your kind words.

Stanza 3: Praise to the King for being the charioteer, for leading the ancient travelers beyond misery.

Stanza 4: Drowned in deep ignorance and suffering, this poverty stricken, unconscious country. Waiting for the wink of your eyes and our mother’s (the Queen’s) true protection.

Stanza 5: In your compassionate plans, the sleeping India will wake up. We bow down to your feet, O Queen, and glory of to the King.

5. Grief stricken picture: Not only does the anthem sings praise of the Emperor and the Queen but also paints a sad, poverty stricken picture of our country. It gives a hint that we were underdeveloped and backwards, looking upon the colonial rule for bringing us development and inventions that could make us a better nation. Bowing at the feet of the ruler, we are still singing the plea of mercy from those who ruled us and made us slaves for an entire century.


1. Just various interpretations: How is anyone supposed to know the true meaning of the stanzas that were written more than a 100 years ago? A poem when interpreted after the death of the poet usually gets various interpretations from people who read and deduce the poem from their own point of view. The interpretation with the context of praising the emperor is just one of them. There are other interpretations like the one that refers to praising God for good fortune in India and yet another one that talks about praises for the motherland.

2. Yet more historical facts: Tagore is said to have written the first draft of Jana gana mana in Bengali in the year 1908. That was far before the King and Queen planned their visit to India. It was sung at an assembly of Indian National Congress on 27 December 1911 while King George visited India on 30 Decemeber 1911.

3. States: The states that are mentioned in the stanzas are the ones that defined the borders of India back then. Sindh constituted the borders those days and those states were inside the lines. Those arguing about Tamil and Andhra not being included are totally ignoring the word ‘Dravida’ which implies the whole of Southern region. States like Andhra and Tamil were not formally recognized back then.

4. Situation back then: The poverty stricken picture that is painted in the stanzas is only depicting the situation that prevailed back then. Famine stricken nation with hopelessness was the scenario those days clearly.


When we hear the national anthem and stand to attention, it is not because we are moved by the meaning of each word but the symbolic significance that it holds for us. It stirs a feeling of unity. It stings our patriotism and the feeling of being together despite being different from each other.

Since Rabindra Nath Tagore is no longer alive, we know different interpretations will be there unconfirmed of its subject but fighting after some words without any confirmation is a sad thing to do.
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