The ‘Morning Song of India’

National Anthem of the Republic of India


The controversy surrounding the composition adopted as the national anthem of India is well-worn by now. As many times as authoritative and fact-based rebuttals are issued to counter the blather that the poem had been composed in praise of King George V, it refuses to subside, rearing its head each time some fool discovers his voice and decides to make his ignorance public.

Painting ‘The Delhi Durbar’ (Source: Gallery and Archives, Bristol Museum)

But we will go into none of that here. With this piece we will instead try to understand the poem also known as the ‘Morning Song of India’, as it was named in the English translation of the song by the poet himself, which is still sung in that form as the prayer in the Besant Theosophical College in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh.

‘Jana-Gaña-Mana’, initially titled ‘Bhārata Bhāgya Vidhātā’, was meant as a hymn addressed to the Abstraction conceived as the Supreme Mover who is, in the poet’s own words, the ‘Dispenser of the destiny’ of Bhārata, the ancient realm of India. Essentially this construct itself imparts a sacred character to and implies deep reverence for the land of India.

An adherent of the Brahmo Samaj, Rabindranath Tagore saw the Divine as beyond form and name and looked upon his Motherland as the blessed ground, the conscious manifestation of the Supreme Energy in Her diverse forms and course through the ages.

The song was sung on December 28, 1911 at the Congress session in Kolkata, as also at the foundation day programme of the Adi Brahma Samaj, a reformist and renaissance movement of Hindu religion, in February 1912, and appeared in its official publication ‘Tatwabodhini Patrika’ in their collection of psalms.

With the term ‘Bhārata Bhāgya Vidhātā’ the masterly versifier invokes the immortal Grand Spirit of Bhārata to awaken a slumbering, unconscious nation (‘nidrta Bhārata jāge’). Composed in Sanskritised Bangla or Sādhu Bhāşa, the recondite metaphorical representations in the work still render its meaning unclear to most people, unless one looks at the signification through the entire composition. Below a translation is presented which is also an explication:


Jana-gaña-mana-Adhināẏaka jaẏa hē Bhārata-bhāgya-Vidhātā!

Paṅjāba Sindhu Gujarāṭa Marāṭhā Drāviḍa Utkala Baṅga

Vindhya Himāćala Yamunā Gaṅgā ućchala-jaladhi-taraṅga

Tava śubha nāmē jāgē, tava śubha āśiṣa māgē, gāhē tava jaẏagāthā

Janagañamaṅgaladāẏaka jaẏa hē Bhāratabhāgyavidhātā!

Jaẏa hē, jaẏa hē, jaẏa hē, jaẏa jaẏa jaẏa jaẏa hē!


O Thou Lord of the hearts of our people, hail the Dispenser of Bhārata’s destiny!

Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, the land of Maratha, Dravida, Utkala and Banga

The Vindhyas, the range of Himalayas, the Yamuna and the Ganges

The frolicking waves of the oceans lapping Thy shores

All arise at Thy auspicious name and crave Thy benediction

And sing Thy triumphal fame

Oh Thou Bestower of salubrity to our nation, hail the Dispenser of Bhārata’s destiny!

Glory be unto Thee!


Aharaha tava āhvāna praćārita, suni tava udāra vāñī

Hindu Baudha Sikha Jaina Pārasika Musalamāna Khr̥sṭānī

Pūraba Paśćima āsē tava siṁhāsana-pāsē

Prēma-hāra haẏa gām̐thā

Janagaña-aikya-vidhāẏaka jaẏa hē Bhāratabhāgyavidhatā!

Jaẏa hē, jaẏa hē, jaẏa hē, jaẏa jaẏa jaẏa jaẏa hē!


Unceasingly Thy summons resound

Hearkening Thy gracious call

The Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jaina, Parsi, the Muslim and the Christian

The East and the West converge; they press to Thy hallowed throne

The garland of love thus strung together

Thou art the Ordainer of unity, hail the Dispenser of Bhārata’s destiny!

Glory be unto Thee!


Patana-abhyudaẏa-bandhura panthā, yuga yuga dhāvita yātrī

Hē Ćirasārathi, tava rathaćakrē mukharita patha dinarātri

Dāruña viplava-mājhē tava śaṅkhadhvani bājē


Janagañapathaparićāẏaka jaẏa hē Bhāratabhāgyavidhātā!

Jaẏa hē, jaẏa hē, jaẏa hē, jaẏa jaẏa jaẏa jaẏa hē!


Decline and resurgence mark the undulating passage

The ground we have tread as pilgrims through the ages

Oh ‘Timeless Charioteer’, the wheels of Thy chariot resonate eternally on this path on days and at night

In the midst of these tremendous upheavals, Thy conch shell sounds

Thou Deliverer from distress and tribulation!

Oh Thou Illuminer in our trying journey, hail the Dispenser of Bhārata’s destiny!

Glory be unto Thee!


Ghōra-timira-ghana nibiṛa niśīthē pīḍita mūrchita dēśē

Jāgrta chila tava avićala maṅgala natanaẏanē animeṣē

Duḥsvapnē ātaṅkē rakṣā karilē āṅkē

Snēhamaẏī tumi Mātā

Janagañaduḥkhatrāẏaka jaẏa hē Bhāratabhāgyavidhātā!

Jaẏa hē, jaẏa hē, jaẏa hē, jaẏa jaẏa jaẏa jaẏa hē!


Through intense darkness and the bleakest of nights

As the afflicted land languished in a swoon

Abiding in Thy vigil with unfailing blessings

Eyes lowered and unflinching

In tormenting nightmares of terror didst Thou protect us in Thy lap

Thou art that Ever-loving Mother

Oh Thou Dispeller of suffering, hail the Dispenser of Bhārata’s destiny!

Glory be unto Thee!


Rātri prabhātila, udila ravićchabi pūrvba-udaẏagiribhālē

Gāhē vihaṅgama, pūñya samīrana navajīvanarasa ḍhālē

Tava karuñāruñarāgē nidrta Bhārata jāgē

Tava ćarañē nata māthā

Jaẏa jaẏa jaẏa hē jaẏa Rājēśvara Bhāratabhāgyavidhātā!

Jaẏa hē jaẏa hē, jaẏa hē, jaẏa jaẏa jaẏa jaẏa hē!


The night has passed and the Sun has arisen now

Casting its light on the horizon over the Eastern hills

The birds sing, an auspicious breath

Infusing the elixir of new life

To Thy compassionate-laden call

The slumbering nation awakens

At Thy blessed feet we bow our heads

Ever glorious Thou art the King of Kings, hail the Dispenser of the destiny of Bhārata!

Glory be unto Thee!


The song enumerates the physical identifiers of the land of Bhārata to evoke the vision of the nation before the eyes of its inheritors. In those dark times of our enslaved land, the poet describes the turmoil in his mind witnessing the grovelling obsequiousness of Indians before a foreign ruler, completely defeated and enslaved in mind and body. He seeks to remind them with this composition of their true nature, the Spirit from which they derive their bequest. In a letter to Pulin Behari Sen, Tagore elucidates the import of the song: “I pronounced the victory in Jana Gana Mana of that Bhagya Vidhata [ed. God of Destiny] of India who has from age after age held steadfast the reins of India’s chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved. 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.

Although being a Brahmo he did not believe in images of Gods, Tagore employs the vision of Śri Kriṣña in the Mahabharata to conceptualise this Ruler of the Destiny of Bhārata, as the eternal charioteer blowing the conch shell to guide the course of this nation. The same Divine Being is addressed as the Mother when he describes the nurturing and protective warmth of the Spirit, ever-watchful and full of love for Her Children. He describes Bhārata as a sacred landscape and its inhabitants who have traversed its length and breadth through time as the ‘pilgrims’.

Poet-Composer Rabindranath Tagore (Source: DNA India)

From its past glory, to the devastation of invasions, the abject slavery of a century, to a proud, growing nation today, it has been a long journey for Indians, which the national anthem of India captures beautifully in a single composition. It speaks of the country not merely as a landmass but of its spiritual essence, the living embodiment of which is Bhārata, its inhabitants and their collective experience. It addresses the truest part of our being underlying our sundry identities and motivations, our consciousness as a nation. It should be sung in that spirit with pride and an awareness of who we truly are, instead of cavilling about it from a superficial understanding.


Cover Picture: (Source: HT)



Author: Smita Mukerji, for ‘Jagrit Bharat’

Published: Aug 15, 2018


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