This comment is sequel to the recent controversy arising from Governor Kalyan Singh’s remark on the concealed meanings or implications of the words Adhinayaka and Bharata bhagya vidhata in the National Anthem of India. Mr. Singh appears to have been driven politically when he gave expression to his patriotic feelings or sentiments by saying that the author (Rabindranath Tagore) wrote the song Jana Gana Mana….to welcome, eulogize and pamper the visiting King George V and Queen Mary to Delhi Durbar of India in 1911 and to hail him as the maker of India’s destiny. Hence, his suggestion to replace the word ‘adhinayaka’ (super leader) by ‘mangaladayaka’ (welfare giver), the latter being more in tune with the current democratic values. I will show here in this post, through linguistic analysis, there is nothing in the song that proves this hypothesis incontrovertibly. I begin with the song’s first line which is:
Jana gana mana adhinayaka jaya hey, Bharata bhagya vidhata.
The first word jana in the above sentence means ‘animate being’. In Rigveda, it denotes a person, race, people or subjects. Often jana means a number of persons collectively, people as a whole, a mass, a herd. The second word is gana which means a flock, multitude, tribe, number, a class or body of followers. The word also refers to any association or assemblage of persons joined to promote a common object. Mana, like Manas, is used here in its widest sense and includes all the mental powers of humans (will, intelligence, perception, sense, conscience, etc.). Kalidasa, in his play Abhijnana Shakuntalam, uses this word in the sense of antahkarana that has no equivalent word in English. I translate jana-gana-mana to mean: the collective minds or consciousness of a nation, a culture or the humankind.
Now, adhinayaka is a composite word consisting of the indeclinable adhi which is prefixed to the noun nayaka. Here, the prefix adhi expresses ‘above, over and above, besides’. Nayaka means a lord, a leader, a chief, a guide. It also means ‘the central gem of a necklace implying a general as in mahanayaka.’ And we know from history, British India was called the ‘jewel in the crown (of the British monarch)’.
Jaya comes from the root ji and means conquest, victory, triumph, being victorious, conquering. Hey is, most likely, the corrupted form of the original Sanskrit word haye which is an exclamation equivalent to ‘O, ho!’.
Bharata refers to the Bharatas, i.e. all those who are descended from king Bharat, and all those who are related to the Bharatas (Rigveda). In Bhagavata Purana, the inhabitants of Bharatavarsha are called Bharata. The popular meaning of Bharata is the geographical region known by this name. In Rajatarangini, it means the story of Bharatas and their wars. The next word bhagya is used everyday to mean luck or fortune, the fate or destiny resulting from the accumulated merit and demerit earned from former existences. In Bhagavata Purana, the word has the meaning ‘reward’. Bhagya also means share, part or portion. The last word vidhata comes from the root verb vi-dha and carries the meanings of ‘a granter, giver, bestower’. Vidhata is also used to denote the creator Brahma who is the disposer of man’s fate. Folks personify it as the goddess of Fortune, Fate or Destiny. In Bhagavata Purana, vidhata is an epithet of Vishnu.
It is quite evident from the above analysis that there is nothing in the national anthem that tells clearly, emphatically or explicitly that the song, which became the national anthem of India on 24th January 1950, was written in praise of the British monarch on the occasion of his official visit to colonial India in the year 1911. Nonetheless, it is important to bear in mind that Rabindranath Tagore was awarded the coveted Nobel Prize for literature in the year 1913 i.e. about two years after the visit of King George the Fifth. My freehand translation of the cited part of the National Anthem is given below.
Hail to our Supreme Lord who presides over the collective consciousness of all the Bharatas and grants them their destiny.
By Dr. Sachidanand Das