Tune of the Day: Vande Mataram
“Vande Mataram” (“I do homage to the mother”) is a poem from the 1882 novel Anandamatha by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay. It is a hymn to the goddess Durga, identified as the national personification of Bengal, and it came to be considered the “National Anthem of Bengal”, playing a part in the Indian independence movement.
It is generally believed that the concept of Vande Mataram came to Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay when he was still a government official under the British Raj, around 1875. Chattopadhyay wrote the poem in a spontaneous session using words from Sanskrit and Bengali, and Jadunath Bhattacharya was asked to set a tune for this song just after it was written.
The poem has since been set to a large number of tunes. The oldest surviving audio recordings date to 1907, and there have been more than a hundred different versions recorded throughout the 20th century. In 2002, the BBC conducted an international poll to choose the ten most famous songs of all time. “Vande Mataram”, in a version by A.R. Rahman, arrived second.