Just like majority Indians, Jana Gana Mana is that one tune that gives me goosebumps whenever I hear it. Purpose fulfilled. That’s what a national Anthem means to be. Recently I came across an interesting symbolic reference in the lines. And what you will read below was also an “Ahaa moment” for me.
Me being me, was always curious about one aspect of India’s national Anthem. The order in which the geography of India was described in it. Why did it move from Punjab to Bengal? Was it to meet the tune and rhythm? Or did it have any other meaning behind it. And I was fortunate to get an explanation from a retired IAS officer. According to him there was a hidden symbolism in it when Tagore wrote it. To know that let me summarize a small part of India’s history. On a high level if you look back, you will see an interesting pattern. This timeline is a concise form of British East India company annexation of India. Below is the pattern.
Bengal: East India company started with the annexation of Bengal, through the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Thought it was defined as a Battle. In hindsight it was skirmish that happened in a day. Which all went wrong when rain played spoil sport for the Nawabs men. It gave the British a tactical advantage because they were prepared with tarpaulin to cover their gunpowder. So, Battle of Plassey and its defeat gave Bengal, Assam and few Northeast territories to the company.
Bihar & Orissa: After acquiring Bengal they moved down to Bihar & Orissa. The erstwhile land of the Mauryans, Guptas, Harshas in Orissa and Kalinga in Bihar. Hiring Indians as spies was the ground tactic. And thus, Battle of Buxar (1764) sealed the fate of Bihar and Orissa under British.
South India: After annexation of Bihar and Orissa, the moved down south. The continued with their intervention into the ongoing Carnatic wars. Converting Hyderabad as a Princely State, under them, they chased down opposing leaders like Velu Thampi, Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and his nemesis. The southern region was eventually converted by 1790’s, barring Travancore and Cochin which also moved into princely state status.
Maratha – Gujarat region: With support of local factions like Mahars, Nawab and other local regiments, the British aimed to take control of Maratha region. The battle of Bhima-Koregaon (1818) and Battle of Khadki (1817) sealed the deal once again for the East India company in this region.
Punjab: Post Maharashtra – Gujarat they moved to the Punjab region. They were waiting for an opportunity since, the Lion of Punjab, Maharaj Ranjith Singh had a strong Army and were also fierce fighters. Post his death (1839) the Anglo-Sikh war kicked off and the Company gained gradual control over the Punjab region through various battles.
This continues to the northern areas defeating Nana Sahib, Rani Laxmibai, Bahadur Shah Zafar, etc. By then we reach 1857 through Sepoy Mutiny and the East India Company gaining control over almost all the subcontinent.
If you look at this pattern they moved clockwise in the Indian Map. Starting from: Bengal – Bihar/Orissa(Utkal) – South India (Dravida) – Maratha/Guajarat – Punjab/Sind provinces.
Years later when the great poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote Bharat Bhagya Bidhata, he symbolically freed India in the anti-clockwise direction – opposite of how it was annexed by British. Thus you have the famed verse in the following order: Panjaba-Sindhu-Gujarata-Maratha Dravida-Utkala-Banga!
Wishing everyone a Happy Independence Day.