The seven days starting from April 6 are observed as National Week in India to commemorate the widespread agitation against the oppressive Rowlatt Act passed by the British colonial government in 1919.  The Act sought to strangle personal and public freedom by stipulating a series of draconian measures.  The government action to quell all opposition culminated in the infamous Jallianwala Massacre in Amritsar on April 13, 1919, in which several hundred non-violent protestors were killed and wounded.

That was 96 years ago, a time when millions of Indians irrespective of caste, creed and gender, took part in anti-colonial protests.  Practitioners of Hindustani music also participated in the national movement, primarily by lending their voices to songs of nationalism, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism.  A classic example of one such song was Vande Mataram, which later became the National Song of India.  Originally contained in the novel Anandmath written by Bankimchandra Chatterjee (1838-1894), the words Vande Mataram became a mantra for the nationalist movement.

Vocalist and music educationist Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1972-1931) sang Vande Mataram at many sessions of the Indian National Congress.  Notwithstanding the continuing political and communal wrangles over the song-text in our times, it would be worthwhile to revisit a few interpretations of the song rendered by leading vocalists.

Master Krishna Rao

The first track features Krishnarao Phulambrikar alias Master Krishnarao (1898-1974), a disciple of Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale (1869-1922).  Bakhale had studied with gurus belonging to the Gwalior, Agra and Jaipur-Atrauli gharanas.  Thus, Master Krishnarao had also inherited repertoire and stylistic features of these gharanas.  Like Bakhale, Master Krishnarao was also associated closely with Marathi musical theatre.  Here, he sings Vande Mataram in a self-composed tune based on the Bilawal thaat or parent scale. The tune is set to Teentaal, a cycle of 16 time units or matras.  The orchestra plays in unison with the vocalist and restates the first line in the interlude.  Towards the end, Master Krishnarao decorates few words of the song-text with small melodic patterns.

Mogubai Kurdikar

Jaipur-Atrauli gharana exponent Mogubai Kurdikar (1904-2001) sings Vande Mataram to a tune composed by VD Ambhaikar.  It is based on the Jaipur-Atrauli interpretation of the raag Khambavati.  There is no percussion accompaniment on this track.

Omkarnath Thakur

The interpretation presented by Omkarnath Thakur (1897-1967), one of the chief representatives of the Vishnu Digambar Paluskar branch of the Gwalior gharana, is markedly different from the previous tracks given here.  His rendition is very similar in its melodramatic approach, as was his khayal presentation.  Although unaccompanied by any percussion instruments, he changes pace by slowing the enunciation of some words and at other times rushing them creating a sense of yearning and urgency.  He has chosen to present the song in its entirety, including the verses that are not heard as part of what has been defined as the National Song.

Pannalal Ghosh

To conclude, here is a rendition composed by the bansuri maestro Pannalal Ghosh (1911-1960).  Sung by Sudha Malhotra, Parul Ghosh and Manna Dey, for the film Aandolan released in 1951, the song is composed in the raag Mia ki Malhar and set to Teentaal.

For a previous series on Vande Mataram, click here.