Please stand up for the National Anthem !

This post is a month late but I did not have time around 26th Jan to write it up. And in any case the national anthem is relevant all year round 🙂

We have grown up listening to and singing the national anthem with varying degrees of enthusiasm…….

As students it marks the beginning of another long day in captivity for some (I totally loved every day of school and was surprised to find out that this was not a universal truth……).

It usually marks the end of functions like the sports day, prize day, awards ceremonies. We hear it after the Republic Day parade and on the Independence Day celebrations.


As Maharashtrians it has been marking the end of the trailers and the beginning of the main feature film for some years now. Does it trivialize the anthem to be played like this? Is it necessary? Does it make us more patriotic to hear it more often? Is that really needed at peace time? Does it make us better people? Does it increase efficiency, reduce violence against women, abandonment of old people? Make people less corrupt? More tolerant of the vast differences within our nation state?

Sigh……I don’t want to enter into that debate. There has been much said and done, including a poor Australian man of Indian origin as well as a disabled person being whacked on the head for failing to stand up when it was played in the theatres……

I don’t see movies in theatres that often and I must say that I have been pleasantly surprised by some very different renditions of the anthem. It has to be played at a certain speed (within 52 seconds) and the tune is of course famously set by Rabindranath Tagore. Last year some WhatsApp message came through saying that UNESCO has given it the ‘world’s best national anthem’ award (huh?!) and some trigger happy friends on such groups expressed delight without questioning the validity of the information. (But then these people also use ginger oil for kidney problems and sleep facing the north for longevity, and believe that the Turkish PM giving our PM an award for being the best world leader is a possibility………..)

When I read about that ‘award’ recently my first thought was whether every single nation does indeed have an anthem?! So I did some google searches and find that apparently not! It seems Scotland does not have one (but is it a proper nation??) Spain has only a tune, no words, Afghanistan didn’t have one till 1999 and what goes for the de facto anthem of Sweden is not an official anthem. The national anthem of Greece, which is based on Hymn to the Freedom by the poet Dionysios Solomos (1798-1857) is the longest in the world. It has 158 stanzas. However, if the criterion is music, rather than lyrics, then the longest national anthem is that of Uruguay. It is set to 105 bars of music.

The Japanese anthem with only 4 lines is the shortest.

It goes straight to the point and says “May Japan’s reign last for ten thousand years, till pebbles grow in to boulders lush with moss.” That’s it. Like a haiku.

Compared to the full- on story with the Indian one, which names almost every state and river in the country and has exaltations and declarations. Jana Gana Mana is the national anthem of India. Written in Bengali, the first of five stanzas of the Brahmo hymn titled Bharot Bhagyo Bidhata are attributed to Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. There is of course a lot of controversy over who the Bhagya Vidhata is– God or King George the Vth. Tagore refused the knighthood so it seem less likely that it praises the British King but nevertheless, the controversy rages on. Despite a letter dated 19th March 1939, in which Tagore wrote – “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 the Fourth or George the Fifth as the Eternal Charioteer leading the pilgrims on their journey through countless ages of the timeless history of mankind. That pretty much explains it.”

It is worth noting that Tagore is the only person in the world to have composed the anthems of two countries –India and Bangladesh.

Does a country need a national anthem ? Germany has had one which now survives only in its third para ( since the opening ones give some people bad vibes post WW II….) and they are one of the very few who address the anthem to the Fatherland….

Of course John Lennon would step back one more and ask if we needed nations at all….


Imagine…….but since our current reality is very, very far from that, here are some of the inspiring and moving renditions of the Jana Gana Mana that I have come across

In this one we see the herculean struggle of our Indian Soldiers raising the Indian Flag in the Icy Mountainous border region. Salute to those who keep our borders safe !


This one always moves me to tears. Deaf mute school children ‘singing’ the anthem with such expressive faces and hands and so much joy.

I came across this while searching for the other links. It has never made it to the movie halls but it is brilliant. The anthem sung by Transgenders. A reminder of the pluralistic society and all the enormous variety of different people who are all equally Indians.


There is a version featuring all the famous singers of India. Starting with the incomparable Lata and including the soothing notes from Jagjit Singh, the powerful voice of Bhimsen Joshi and of course the genius music composer A.R. Rahman.

There is one featuring all the famous actresses

Here is A.R. Rahman’s Instrumental version


And one from the often neglected North East

To round up the list of nationalistic songs, here is Vande Mataram which many feel should be the anthem.

This is the original version from Ananda math


This is AR Rahman’s version of Vande mataram

And as a bonus here are my top picks for patriotic songs from India

  1. Ae mere watan ke logon


2. Kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tan saathiyon


3. Mera rang de basanti chola


4. Ae watan ae watan, mujhko teri kasam

5. Mile sur mera tumhara, to sur bane hamara






3 thoughts on “Please stand up for the National Anthem !

  1. Loved this post. Brought tears to my eyes. I am such a softie when it comes to Nation and such stuff. Sometimes I wonder why – its a pretty crappy country, but it fills me with so much love. Weird.
    The Anthem has just about started playing before movies in Chennai. It was funny to sing the anthem just before Star Wars, but as usual, I choked up at the end.
    Loved the Japanese anthem. Lots of interesting information you had in this post. Thanks.

  2. Delighted to hear that ! I thought I was the only one who chokes up at the end of the Jaya He and my kids start slowly creeping away cos I am embarrassing them haha ! I have had some relatives in the army and we civilians have such an easy time of it compared to them and their families and maybe we take our freedom for granted ……….

  3. Pingback: The Year that was, on WordPress 2017 | that which i am

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