Vande Mataram: the seven crore question

In the Calcutta Telegraph, Ashok Mitra deconstructs Vandemataram:

What is of much greater significance, the mother hailed with such fervour in Vandemataram is, without a shred of doubt, not Mother India, but Mother Bengal. Consider, for instance, the 8th, 9th and 10th lines in the song: “saptakotikantha-kala-kala-ninadakarale,/ dvisaptakotibhujairdhritakhrakalabale/ abala kano ma at bale”. A rough translation would be: “seven crore voices roar their oath to you, seven crore pairs of arms with raised swords keep vigil for you, why should then one dare to call you powerless?” The population of Bharat, that is India, was surely a goodly number more than seven crore circa the 1880s, despite heinous oppression by foreign rulers, including denial of food to their subjects….
….The early nationalists who latched on to the song and wanted to project it as India’s national anthem were not unaware of the restricted horizon Bankim had in mind. An embarrassment was involved in the assumption that the song as originally written was not a hosanna to Mother India. In the first decade of the 20th century, leaders of the Indian National Congress were advised by some zealots to do a smart piece of editing: just cross out the reference to “seven crore” and substitute it with “thirty crore” (trimsa koti) and, similarly, replace “twice seven crore of arms” by “twice thirty crore” (dwitrimsa koti).





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