The female personification of India is Bharat Mata and history of thousands of years has many references to this term. Most prominently it was seen during independence movement. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s in 1882 wrote a novel Anandamath and introduced the hymn “Vande Mātaram” which soon became the song of the emerging freedom movement in India. A R Rahman, a devout Muslim and celebrated musician, broke new ground with his interpretation of Vande Mataram as ‘Ma tujhe salaam’ in 1997.
The whole of India’s sacred geography, with its many tirthas- those inherent in its natural landscape and those sanctified by the deeds of gods and the footsteps of heroes- is a live geography, and not just a piece of land. As such it has been central for the shaping of an Indian sense of regional and national unity. The recognition of India as a sacred landscape, woven together North, South, East and West, by the paths of pilgrims, has created a powerful sense of India as Bharat Mata- the Mother India. The concept of Bharat Mata, in which all Indians are children of India and are expected to protect their mother without regard for personal hardship and sacrifice. The word ‘mother’ is so beautiful and all encompassing. India is a nation that hurls it happily at any elderly woman. “Mataji” and “Maaji” is a word of endearment and respect that is second nature to Indians.
It is not rare or unique in India. It has nor religious significance but it is related to the national pride. There are many such instances when the countries are known by a Goddess or female personification. Few examples are as below:
- Britannia of Britain
- Columbia is female personification of the United States of America. Statue of Liberty emerged from Columbia.
- Marianne is a national symbol of the French Republic, an allegory of liberty and reason, and a portrayal of the Goddess of Liberty.
- Mexico’s Virgin of Guadalupe
- Catalonia’s Virgin of Montserrat
- Mother Albania of Albania
- Hispania of Spain
- Mother Armenia of Armenia
- Mother of the World (Om El Donia)- Egypt
- Europa- Europe
- Georgia (Mother of Georgians)- Georgia
- Germania- Germany
- Bavaria- Bavaria, German
- Athena- Greece
- The Lady of the Mountains – Iceland
- Ibu Pertiwi- indonesia
- Italia Turrita- Italy
- Mother Macedonia – Macedonia
- Mother Norway – Norway
- Mother Russia- Russia
There are many such examples across the world where nations were called by a female personified name. So looking at such examples, there is no religious connection to this national personification but this was done to invoke national pride in each country across the globe.
This personification is used while teaching loyalty and devotion to the national society in the national homeland under the image of BHARAT MATA. During pre-independence era, the unity and solidarity to BHARAT MATA was thought to claim the highest sacrificial devotion by Indians.
When Indians, irrespective of their faith, respond by chanting the same with “Buddha namo” or “Jai Bheem (Babasaheb Ambedkar)” or “Salaam Aliakum” or “Sat Sri Akal”, there should be no problem with chanting “Bharat mata ki jai”. However this is not correct in the time when every word is twisted, every fact is tweaked to create confusion, animosity among Indians and create an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. That is the reason you can see many Indian politicians like MIM chief Owaisi and many Muslim leaders opposing the notion of “Bharat Mata” and published fatwas against chanting of “Bharat Mata ki Jai”! The issues have now become increasingly trivial and this waste of energy could be channeled for so much more meaningful activity. There is a growing suspicion that everyone with a mad hatter idea wants to air it in the hope of getting attention and quick fame.
People die for their motherland. They play sport for it. They watch their flag go up and what greater glory than to have it whip in the breeze as a tribute to Motherland. Our sweetest songs are those that speak of ‘patriotic’ thoughts. It is surprising and equally disappointing, under the name of intellectual discourse, our national pride is in question. Hope some sense previals among Indians and all will stood together chanting “Bharat Mata ki Jai”.