I t is the typical history quizmaster’s question: “Have you heard the song “Shubh sukh chain ki barkha barse? Can you identify who composed it and when?” Moreover, do we know how this song became part of the continuing saga of the Indian National Army? In the 126th birth anniversary year of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, we recall these compositions, poems and songs made eternal as anthems.
It was the summer of 1942. Netaji was establishing the Free India Centre in Hamburg, Germany. He chose the poem ‘Jana Gana Mana’ penned by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore as the national anthem of the Centre. Since the long poem was written in Bangla, and in a Sanskritised style, Netaji later requested Abid Hasan, his personal secretary and interpreter, to translate the poem into Hindi to be easily understood by all.
Hasan was a poet himself, adept in different languages. He hailed from Hyderabad, carrying the family name of Zafrani. Before discovering the anthem Abid Hasan translated, let it be known that the setting could not have been more dramatic and historic. In 1943, Netaji and Hasan were on the German submarine that was stealthily making its way to East Asia from the shores of Germany. In the confines of the submarine, which Hasan described as ‘smelling of diesel oil’, the waves of creativity took over and the composition in Hindi of ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was born:
“Shubh sukh chain ki barkha barse, Bharat bhag hai jaga./Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Dravid, Utkal, Banga, Chanchal sagar, Vindhya, Himalaya, nila Jamuna, Ganga./Tere nit gun gayen, tujhse jivan paye, har tan paye asha./Suraj ban kar jag par chamke, Bharat nam subhaga, jai ho! Jai ho! Jai ho! Jai, jai, jai, jai ho! “Sab ke dil mai prit basae, teri meethi bani./Har sube ke rehne wale, har mazhab ke prani, sab bhed aur farak mita ke, sab god mein teri ake, gunthe prem ki mala./Suraj ban kar jag par chamke, Bharat nam subhaga,/ jai ho! Jai ho! Jai ho! Jai, jai, jai, jai ho!”
Its English translation is equally fascinating and interesting: “Rains of auspicious happiness fall, India has awoken!/All of Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Dravida, Utkala, Bengal, the wavy seas, the Vindhya, the Himalayas, the blue Yamuna and Ganges, sing your praises, get life from you, everybody gains hope!/Like the sun it shines over the world, the auspicious name of India/May you be victorious! May you be victorious!
May you be victorious! May you be victorious! “It is loved by everyone’s heart, your melodious voice. /People from every province and every religion, / removing their differences, come into your lap / and make garlands of love! / Like the sun it shines over the world, the auspicious name of India, / May you be victorious! May you be victorious!
May you be victorious! May you be victorious!” By 1943-44 in the Azad Hind Fauj, “Shubh sukh chain ki barkha barse, Bharat bhag hai jaga” came to be formally known as the Quami Tarana. Quami is an Arabic word difficult to understand as it refers, at one level, to a community or a race, and at another, goes beyond borders or ethnicity. Such a Quami Tarana or anthem was set to music by Captain Ram Singh Thakuri who was requested by Netaji to compose it in order to inspire the INA soldiers.
Captain Ram Singh is credited with composing Kadam Kadam Badaye Ja, the evergreen marching song of the Azad Hind Fauj which continues to be sung and played till date. Every occasion of national importance, every anniversary of Indian leaders, these compositions of the INA fill the air, fill our hearts with love for our countrymen. Stories about the Quami Tarana are the stuff that legends are made of.
It was in Delhi in 1946 when Captain Ram Singh had an opportunity to play the Quami Tarana in the presence of Mahatma Gandhi. He recalled in an interview, “We were imprisoned at Kabul line cantonment in Delhi. About 7 p.m. we were asked to get ready. Two or three cars stopped in front of our barrack. The flag of Army General was fixed on the first car. Bapuji stepped down from the General’s car. He was accompanied by Sardar Patel. We were all in queue. Mahatmaji said, ‘With the mercy of the British Government, I have got an opportunity to meet you people’. Then Bapuji asked about the name and village of each INA soldier. General Bhonsle of the INA made a plea to Sardar Patel that the INA soldiers wanted to play the Qaumi Tarana. Bapuji sought permission from the English Army General who readily gave it.
” Writing in the Harijan, on 21 April 1946, Gandhiji said, “The INA. men have shown great strength, heroism, and resourcefulness. But I must confess that their achievements have not dazzled my eyes. To die without killing requires more heroism. There is nothing very wonderful in killing and being killed in the process. But the man who offers his neck to the enemy for execution but refuses to bend to his will shows courage of a far higher type.”
The apostle of peace and ahimsa observed, “For the INA men there were two alternatives. They could serve free India as soldiers-in-arms or they could convert themselves into soldiers of non-violence if they were convinced that non-violence was the higher and the more efficacious way. They should make use of their training and discipline to introduce non-violent organization among the masses, learn spinning and become veteran constructive workers. If they did that, they would set a glorious example to the whole world.”
The paradoxes, and contradictions, in our freedom struggles continue to confront and baffle us. The INA in many ways reflected the amazing diversity of India. On 23 January 1970 Abid Hasan, the sole companion of Netaji on the historic submarine journey from Germany, was delivering a deeply moving Netaji Oration at Netaji Bhavan in Kolkata. The Oration was titled ‘The Men from Imphal’.
In just a few lines, he captured the character of the army of liberation to which he proudly belonged: “What a group we were and ours was but a unit among many of its kind in our army. I felt proud and I feel more proud today that I belonged to it. Baluchis were there among us, and Assamese, Kashmiris and Malayalis, Pathans, and Sikhs and Gujaratis, proud members of classes called the martial and those till then denied reputation for martial valour but who proved in battle that they could by their deeds claim equal honour. Every region in India was represented and every religion, and every caste, mixed inseparably together not only in bigger formations but even in small platoons and sections, each unit being a living tribute to the unity of India. We had our private faiths and we had our different languages, but in our purpose and in our political belief we were a well-knit determined and indivisible whole.”
Abid Hasan, in his own words, explained the essence of Netaji’s leadership. He said, “He (Netaji) was all we had, our leader to whom each one of us however humble meant something and who to us meant everything. He belonged to us, to us all of the Azad Hind Movement and entirely without any compromise.” For Netaji, ever since he was in Germany, had asked his followers to help him find a common national greeting. He wanted one that would be acceptable to all religious communities, devoid of any religious colouring. One day Abid Hasan heard Rajput soldiers greet each other with ‘Jai Ramji ki’. It seemed to have a musical quality. Hasan changed it to ‘Jai Hindustan ki’. When that did not quite work, its abbreviated form ‘Jai Hind’ (Victory to India) seemed perfect. That is how Abid Hasan Zafrani is credited with introducing the salutation which makes Indians raise their heads with pride and confidence: Jai Hind!