FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Nationalism over verse
Updated:Jun 11, 2015
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Khaled Ahmed
 
When poems become anthems.
 
In the last week of April, Abdul Majid Sheikh’s book, Lahore: 101 Tales of a Fabled City (2015), was released. It again brought to the forefront that Pakistan’s anthem was first written by a Hindu poet of Lahore, Jagannath Azad. Three other national anthems — of India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — were composed as poems by another great Hindu, Rabindranath Tagore.
 
Sheikh says, “The Lahore poet Azad was commissioned by Quaid-e-Azam to write Pakistan’s national anthem three days before the creation of Pakistan in 1947.” He claims that Muhammad Ali Jinnah actually approved the song by Azad and the text was publicised, but can quote only the two top lines: “Ae sarzameene paak/ Zarray hain tere aaj sitaron se tabnaak/ Roshan hai kehkashaan se kaheen aaj teri khaak/ Ae sarzameene paak (O, sacred land of Pakistan, the stars themselves illuminate each particle of yours/ rainbows illumine your very dust).” Azad thought the task was urgent and finished the poem in three days.
 
When the politicians surrounding Jinnah objected to the anthem’s authorship, Jinnah is supposed to have snubbed them. But after his death, the National Anthem Committee (NAC) apparently ignored his choice and commissioned it afresh. It finally chose the present anthem in 1954. Unlike Tagore, who wrote his work and then composed the music to it, Pakistan got another greatly talented man, Ahmed Ghulamali Chagla, to write the tune for it first. He was a member of the NAC. So was poet Hafeez Jullundhri, whose verse was finally chosen from 723 submissions. Needless to say, Jullundhri was greatly admired by the Muslims of India for writing a history of Islam in verse. Chagla had died in 1953, before the committee selected the verse to his music.
 
Interestingly, both Jinnah and Chagla were from Gujarat and wrote their names in the Gujarati tradition: Ghulamali instead of Ghulam Ali and Mohamedali Jinnah, instead of the current Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as appearing in his school register. Both were Shia and would be under great risk today living in Pakistan. The Taliban would have added both to the list of the Hazaras they have massacred in Quetta. Jinnah’s resthouse, not far from Quetta in Balochistan, has been blown up by Baloch nationalists and was recently reconstructed. Today, Jinnah would have been in the crosshairs of both the Baloch insurgents and the Taliban.
 
Jullundhri’s anthem was a work of genius. But for one preposition (ka) that makes the lyric Urdu, the lines are all in Persian, to lend gravitas to the message (Persian has always been a discourse of persuasion for South Asian Muslims). But today, under the new brand of Islam inherited teleologically by the state, he would have attracted the mischief of the Taliban for using “khuda” for god, instead of “allah”. The Taliban has killed for lesser transgressions. Most Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have changed the traditional goodbye word, “khuda hafiz”, to “allah hafiz”. “Khuda” has been rejected as a pagan word. Today’s Pakistan would have rejected the anthem.
 
In Bangladesh, the national anthem is, in fact, Tagore’s poem, “Amar Sonar Bangla (our golden Bengal)”, which he wrote in 1905, not as a national anthem to a nation, but “as opposition to division of east and west Bengal by the British”. Today, an internally divided Bangladesh is poised for a controversy over a national anthem “imposed on the state” by the founder of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
 
Of course, accidental anthem-writer Tagore, wrote what became the Indian anthem in heavily Sanskritised Bengali. Tagore wrote his poem in 1911. “Jana Gana Mana” was officially adopted by the Constituent Assembly as the Indian national anthem in 1950. Another poem by him about Sri Lanka was actually translated into Sinhalese and set to music by Sri Lankan genius Ananda Samarakoon, a Tagore pupil, in 1940; it became the national anthem of Sri Lanka in 1951.
 
One word about the irony of it all: Tagore was the non-Western genius who prophetically opposed nationalism that was to destroy not only Europe but also greatly damage the nation-states of South Asia. National anthems are unfortunately used by all nations as war songs.
 
He foresaw nation-states suffering from the disease of nationalism invented by demagogues to keep the nation united through fear of a designated external enemy.
 
Tagore set the tune to both the national anthems of India and Bangladesh; the tune for the Sri Lankan national anthem was also suggested by him. He didn’t know the poems would become the anthems of three nation-states that would often brawl with one another. The fourth state ignored its “national poet” Allama Iqbal while choosing its national anthem, but in India, a poem of his, “Saare Jahan se Accha”, is an unofficial national song. Thus the two great poets must mourn as they look down and see how the nations that loved their works are treating one another.
 
(The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek Pakistan’)
 
The Indian Express, June 12, 2015
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
Addressing entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, and academics December 7 at the Carnegie India Global Technology Summit in Bengaluru, India's Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar underscored the need to harness the power of technological change for faster economic development.
 
read-more
The strangest of the several barbs hurled hurdled at Pakistan during and after the recently concluded Heart of Asia conference at Amritsar, India,  was that Pakistan is trying to change perception about the Taliban writes Monish Gulati  
 
read-more
Actually, Modi is on to a long-term experiment in India. He and the government aim to re-engineer human souls and minds as much as socio-economic realities. writes Sudip Bhattacharyya for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
This has been a mind-boggling year for Europe. First Britain’s shock European Union referendum result and the ensuing backlash against immigrants seemed to signal the rise of the right in Europe. The certainty that the right was on a steady march to power seemed confirmed by the U.S. election result and was seized upon by right-w
 
read-more
Diplomacy can be quirky when not decidedly cold. Donald Trump has caused a flutter in the international roost weeks before his inaugural as the President of the United States of America. He himself has been left wondering how the  "US sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment, but I should not accept a congratula
 
read-more
The Heart Of Asia conference in Amritsar called for immediate elimination of terrorism to help the war-ravaged country in its political and economic transition. Access the full text here...
 
read-more
China on Monday said that it was opposed to any breach of the Iran nuclear deal, opening up another possible avenue of friction with the United States once President-elect Donald Trump enters the White House.  
 
read-more
It is accepted conventional wisdom the world over, ever since well-known military theorist, Carl Von Clausewitz, first articulated the aphorism in the late 18th century that “war is a continuation of politics by other means”.  
 
read-more
Column-image

An aching sense of love, loss and yearning permeate this work of fiction which, however, reads like a personal narrative set in an intensely disruptive period of Indian history, and adds to the genre of partition literature, writes Ni...

 
Column-image

This is a path-breaking work on India's foreign policy since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in May 2014 and surprised everyone by taking virtual charge of the external affairs portfolio. A man who had been denied visa by some count...

 
Column-image

The pattern of Chinese actions on the global stage demonstrates that it lives by the credo of might is right, a potent tool in its armoury for the pursuit of aggressive designs, writes Sudip Talukdar for South Asia Monitor....

 
Column-image

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and others of their ilk not only destabilise Pakistan and make it one of the world's most dangerous places but also threaten neighbouring Afghanistan and India -- and even far...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive