Vande Mataram as Mantra, Bankim as Seer      

Vision of our Mother

The third and supreme service of Bankim to his nation was that he gave us the vision of our Mother.... It was thirty-two years ago that Bankim wrote his great song and few listened; but in a sudden moment of awakening from long delusions the people of Bengal looked around for the truth and in a fated moment somebody sang 'Bande Mataram'. The mantra had been given and in a single day a whole people had been converted to the religion of patriotism. The Mother had revealed herself. Once that vision has come to a people, there can be no rest, no peace, no further slumber till the temple has been made ready, the image installed and the sacrifice offered. A great nation which has had that vision can never again be placed under the feet of the conqueror...

CWSA > Bande Mataram > 16.April.1907 > 'Rishi Bankim Chandra' > Page 318

Sri Aurobindo came out with a new interpretation of Bankim Chandra's song, 'Bande Mataram', which now leaped out of its comparative obscurity within the covers of a Bengali novel and in one sweep found itself on the lips of every Indian man, woman or child.

Sister Nivedita

  • Sri Aurobindo in Amravati in January 1908
    Sri Aurobindo in Amravati in January 1908

Bande Mataram as National Anthem

He said that he would make this national anthem the subject of his speech. The song, he said, was not only a national anthem as the European nations look upon their own, but one replete with mighty power, being a sacred mantra, revealed to us by the author of Anandamath, who might be called an inspired rishi. He described the manner in which the mantra had been revealed to Bankim Chandra, probably by a sannyasi under whose teaching he was. He said that the mantra was not an invention, but a revivification of the old mantra which became extinct so to speak by the treachery of one Navakisan. The mantra of Bankim Chandra was not appreciated in his own day and he predicted that there would come a time when the whole of India would resound with the singing of the song, and the word of the prophet was miraculously fulfilled.

...The speaker then unfolded the meaning of the song. As with the individual, so with the nation, there were three bodies or Koshas, the Sthula, Sukshma and Karana Shariras. In this way the speaker went on clearing up the hidden meaning of the song. The manner in which he treated of love and devotion was exceedingly touching and the audience sat before him like dumb statues, not knowing where they were or whether they were listening to a prophet revealing to them the higher mysteries of life. He then concluded with a most pathetic appeal to true patriotism and exhorted the audience to love the motherland and sacrifice everything to bring about her salvation.

CWSA > Bande Mataram > 29.Jan.1908 > Speech at Amraoti > Page 845

Hymn to the Mother 

Translation by Sri Aurobindo

Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
Bright with thy orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Dark fields waving, Mother of might,
Mother free.
Glory of moonlight dreams
Over thy branches and lordly streams, -
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease,
Laughing low and sweet!
Mother, I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I bow.

        Who hath said thou art weak in thy lands,
        When the swords flash out in twice seventy million hands
        And seventy million voices roar
        Thy dreadful name from shore to shore?
        With many strengths who art mighty and stored,
        To thee I call, Mother and Lord!
        Thou who savest, arise and save!
        To her I cry who ever her foemen drave
        Back from plain and sea
        And shook herself free.

Thou art wisdom, thou art law,
Thou our heart, our soul, our breath,
Thou the love divine, the awe
In our hearts that conquers death.
Thine the strength that nerves the arm,
Thine the beauty, thine the charm.
Every image made divine
In our temples is but thine.

        Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen,
        With her hands that strike and her swords of sheen,
        Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,
        And the Muse a hundred-toned.
        Pure and perfect without peer,
        Mother, lend thine ear.
        Rich with thy hurrying streams,
        Bright with thy orchard gleams,
        Dark of hue, O candid-fair
        In thy soul, with jewelled hair
        And thy glorious smile divine,
        Loveliest of all earthly lands,
        Showering wealth from well-stored hands!
        Mother, mother mine!
        Mother sweet, I bow to thee,
        Mother great and free!

Translator’s Note

It is difficult to translate the National Anthem of Bengal into verse in another language owing to its unique union of sweetness, simple directness and high poetic force. All attempts in this direction have been failures. In order, therefore, to bring the reader unacquainted with Bengali nearer to the exact force of the original, I give the translation in prose line by line.

Bande Mataram

Translation in Prose by Sri Aurobindo

I bow to thee, Mother,
richly-watered, richly-fruited,
cool with the winds of the south,
dark with the crops of the harvests,
the Mother!
Her nights rejoicing in the glory of the moonlight,
her lands clothed beautifully with her trees in flowering bloom,
sweet of laughter, sweet of speech,
the Mother, giver of boons, giver of bliss!

        Terrible with the clamorous shout of seventy million throats,
        and the sharpness of swords raised in twice seventy million hands,
        who sayeth to thee, Mother, that thou art weak?
        Holder of multitudinous strength,
        I bow to her who saves,
        to her who drives from her the armies of her foemen,
        the Mother!

Thou art knowledge, thou art conduct,
thou our heart, thou our soul,
for thou art the life in our body.
In the arm thou art might, O Mother,
in the heart, O Mother, thou art love and faith,
it is thy image we raise in every temple.

        For thou art Durga holding her ten weapons of war,
        Kamala at play in the lotuses
        and Speech, the goddess, giver of all lore,
        to thee I bow!
        I bow to thee, goddess of wealth,
        pure and peerless,
        richly-watered, richly-fruited,
        the Mother!
        I bow to thee, Mother,
        dark-hued, candid,
        sweetly smiling, jewelled and adorned,
        the holder of wealth, the lady of plenty,
        the Mother!

CWSA > Translations > Page 465

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