Dancers, both classical and folk, produced a visual rendition of the five verses from the original Bengali version of Jana Gana Mana here on Tuesday marking the celebration of the completion of a hundred years since the first time the song, the first stanza of which was later adopted as the national anthem, was performed in public.
On December 27, 1911, the song, written and scored by the Rabindranath Tagore, was sung at the 26th session of the Indian National Congress held in Calcutta.
A century later, a packed audience, including West Bengal Governor M.K. Narayanan and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, stood up in reverence to the song performed at the Town Hall, the 19th century monument that has been witness to several important meetings and gatherings.
A commentary of the events that preceded and followed the composition of the song interspersed with extracts from Tagore's reminiscences, writings and songs traced “the ideation and evolution of Jana Gana Mana.”
Directed and narrated by noted filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh, the hour-long performance concluded with The Silent Indian national anthem, a rendition of the song in sign language by children with hearing and speech disabilities. With this, the evening ended on an emotional note and later drew a special mention from Mr. Narayanan. “The last scene where we saw a very special group of people responding to the national anthem was perhaps one of the most moving moments in my life,” Mr. Narayanan said.
Opening with verses from the Vedic texts, the presentation highlighted the spiritual environment that Tagore grew up in. It was followed with a glimpse of the fervour of the Nationalist movement, quoting a passage from Tagore's Ghaire Baire (The Home and the World) that speaks of power of Bande Mataram as a cry for freedom.
It also addressed one of the major controversies surrounding the song, that the “Bharat bhagya vidhata” (the dispenser of India's destiny) in the song is a reference to King George V, who had held the Imperial Durbar in New Delhi just days before the first public performance of Jana Gana Mana.
A letter written by the poet himself in 1937: “He who has age after age held steadfast the reins of India's chariot through rise and fall, that Lord of Destiny, that Reader of the Collective Mind of India, that Perennial Guide, could never be George V, George VI, or any other George,” was read out to lay the controversy to rest.