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Only a few would be aware today that Independent India's radio broadcasting on August 15,1947, was heralded by a rendering of Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya's Vande Mataram by Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, music maestro, from the Delhi station of All India Radio (AIR).More so, the little known fact is that the rendering had a Bhavnagari connection. A proud son of Bhavnagar was in the small party that rendered the song that morning.
Pandit Balwantrai, the oldest living disciple of Omkarnath, had accompanied Omkarnath on tanpura. Balwantrai says that Vande Mataram was sung with a unique devotion of heart by Omkarnath in an unusual raag.
Vande Mataram, sung in the classical mode,is still there in the archives of AIR, although in a bit damaged form. Pandit Vishun Digambar Paluskar had originally composed Vande Mataram in raag Bangiya Kaphi.
The more popular version of Vande Mataram that we sing today is in such a simple manner that masses too could sing it easily. However, Omkarnath evolved a special rendering of it with such depth and innovation that it became incomparable and could not even be effectively copied by others. It was so difficult that it was destined to remain beyond the pale of common people.
Nevertheless,it had always been an enchanting and uplifting rendering that it became a classic by itself. Omkarnath had turned down many requests for its rendering by him on numerous occasions. Subhas Chandra Bose wrote to him to sing it at the 1938 Haripura Congress. Omkarnath, who had very strong views on the song, would never agree unless the organisers pledged to have the full version of Vande Mantaram and not an abridged one.
Pandit Balwantrai,now in his eighties, hails from Bhavnagar, and presently lives in Varanasi,having been associated with music faculty at the Banaras Hindu University for years. A blind pupil, Balwantrai joined Omkarnath at the tender age of seven and stayed with him for more than three decades, following him like a shadow, singing with him and providing accompaniment on the tanpura.
Recalling how Omkarnath came to sing on AIR in 1947,Balwantrai told me some years ago that in August of that year, the master was travelling in south India and had gone to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. "As usual, I was with him. Arrangements were being finalised in those days for the formal transfer of power by the British. As if out of the blue, we got a message from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who was then the home minister and minister of information and broadcasting too, that Omkarnath should sing Vande Mataram from the Delhi station of AIR."
Omkarnath once again expressed his desire to render the full version of Vande Mantaram. The Sardar agreed to this. "We reached Delhi on August 14. I remember there was a Kannad disciple, Laxmanacharya Puranik with us. At 5.30 a m the next morning, we went to the radio station. On the dot of 6.30 a m, the announcer told the listeners that Pandit Omkarnath Thakur would now offer tributes to the motherland on this first morning of Independent India by singing Vande Mataram.' "
Says Balwantrai: " I was, with a tanpura, on the left of Omkarnath and Puranik on the right.There was one more person, whose name I have forgotten, with a sarangi. We all stood as a mark of respect to the occasion and Omkarnath sang. As his full throated Vande Mataram issued forth, as if pouring out the Guru’s soul, sonorously, melodiously, the listeners and musicians all were in a trance. The full version created a divine atmosphere. After all, it was a maestro's master tribute to his country."
Later, at the time of the silver jubilee of Independence, a copy of the recording made then was buried in a Time Capsule, along with other mementoes, at the advice of the then Prime Minister,Ms Indira Gandhi. Still later,the capsule was taken out for different reasons.
In 1987, on the occasion of 40 years of Independence, duirng the prime ministership of late Mr Rajiv Gandhi, a request was made to replay the old recording. But authorities rejected saying the recording with the archives had been damaged. Balwantrai says: "I had pointed out that a disc recording of the national song was available and the undamaged portion was enough." Nothing came of it.
About the damage to the original recording, Balwantrai says this raises many questions about how we preserve documents and records of our historic events.
A record company, HMV, put out a few years ago a cassette containing cassical vocal recording of Omkarnath that features Vande Mataram. It is not a full form.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features

(The Editorial Team is happy to bring to the readers a famous song by Late Jhaverchand Meghani,Mor Bani Thangat...,welcoming the onset of the monsoon.Water is life and the rains provide a promise of a better tomorrow. It is a highly acclaimed translation of a song in Bengali by poet Rabindranath Tagore.Meghani himself had watched Gurudev  Tagore sing the original song of his in Bengali in 1920  during the Varsha Mangal festival at his house in Kolkata. It has been translated into several languages including English and Gujarati. . We also bring to you the English translation of the lyric.It is worth noting that Meghani's translation has been highly popular and few know that it is a translation. The input for this has been provided by Mr Jayant Meghani,Bhavnagar).

નવી વર્ષા

મોર બની થનગાટ કરે
મન મોર બની થનગાટ કરે.
ઘનઘોર ઝરે ચહું ઑર, મારું મન મોર બની થનગાટ કરે

બહુરંગ ઉમંગનાં પીંછ પસારીને
બાદલસું નિજ નેનન ધારીને
મેઘમલાર ઉચારીને આકુલ પ્રાણ કોને કલસાદ કરે.
મન મોર બની થનગાટ કરે

ઘર ઘરર ઘરર મેઘઘટા ગગને ગગને ગરજાટ ભરે
ગુમરી ગુમરી ગરજાટ ભરે.
નવે ધાન ભરી સારી સીમ ઝૂલે
નદીયું નવજોબન ભાન ભૂલે,,
નવ દીન કપોતની પાંખ ખૂલે.
મધરા મધરા મલકાઇને મેડક મેહસું નેહસું બાત કરે.
ગગને ગગને ગુમરાઇને પગલ મેઘઘટા ગરજાટ ભરે
નવ મેઘ તણે નીલ આંજણીએ મારાં ઘેઘૂર નેન ઝગાટ કરે
મારાં લોચનમાં મદઘેન ભરે.
વન-છાંય તણે હરિયાળી પરે
મારો આતમ લહેર-બિછાત કરે
સચરાચર શ્યામલ ભાત ધરે.
મારો પ્રાણ કરી પુલકાટ ગયો પથરાઇ સારી વનરાઇ પરે,
ઓ રે! મેઘ આષાઢીલો આજ મારે દોય નેન નીલાંજન-ઘેન ભરે.

ઓલી કોણ કરી લટ મોકળીયું ખડી આભ-મહોલ અટારી પરે
ઊંચી મેઘ-મહોલ અટારી પરે!
અને ચાકમચૂર બે ઉર પરે
પચરંગીન બાદલ-પાલવડે
કરી આડશ કોણ ઊભેલ અરે!
ઓલી વીજ કેરે અંજવાસ નવેસર રાસ લેવા અંકલાશ ચડે,
ઓલી કોણ પયોધર સંઘરતી વીખરેલ લટે ખડી મે’લ પરે!

નદી-તીર કેરાં કૂણા ઘાસ પરે પનિહાર એ કોણ વિચાર કરે,
પટકૂળ નવે પાણી-ઘાટ પરે!
એની સૂનમાં મીટ સમાઇ રહી,
એની ગાગર નીર તણાઇ રહી,
એને ઘેર જવા દરકાર નહીં.
મુખ માલતીફૂલની કૂંપળ ચાવતી કોણ બીજા કેરું ધ્યાન ધરે!
પનિહાર નવે શણગાર નદી કેરે તીર ગંભીર વિચાર કરે!
ઓલી કોણ હિંડોળ ચગાવત એકલ ફૂલ બકુલની ડાળ પરે!
ચકચૂર બની ફૂલ-ડાળ પરે!
વીખરેલ અંબોડાના વાળ ઝૂલે,
દિયે દેહ-નીંડોળ ને ડાળ હલે,
શિર ઉપર ફૂલ-ઝકોળ ઝરે.
એની ઘાયલ દેહના છાયલ-છેડલા આભ ઊડી ફરકાટ કરે,
ઓલી કોણ ફંગોળ લગાવત એકલ ફૂલ બકુલની ડાળ પરે!

મોર બની થનગાટ કરે
આજે મોર બની થનગાટ કરે
મન મોર બની થનગાટ કરે.
તમરાંને સ્વરે કાળી રાત ધ્રૂજે,
નવ બાદલને ઉર આગ બૂઝે,
નદીપૂર જાણે વનરાજ ગ્રુંજે.

હડૂડાટ કરી, સારી સીમ ભરી, સરિતા અડી ગામની દેવડીએ,
ઘનઘોર ઝરે ચહું ઑર, મારું મન મોર બની થનગાટ કરે.
મન મોર બની થનગાટ કરે.   
New Rain  

[Tagore’s rain-song Nababarsha is very fondly sung in Bengal. This is a translation of the poem by William Radice, lecturer in Bengali at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.]

It dances today, my heart, like a peacock it dances, it dances.
It sports a mosaic of passions
Like a peacock’s tail,
It soars to the sky with delight, it quests, O wildly
It dances today, my heart, like a peacock it dances.
Storm-clouds roll through the sky, vaunting their thunder,
their thunder.
Rice-plants bend and sway
As the water rushes,
Frogs croak, doves huddle and tremble in their nests, O proudly
Storm-clouds roll through the sky, vaunting their thunder.

Rain-clouds wet my eyes with their blue collyrium, collyrium.
I spread out my joy on the shaded
New woodlands grass,
My soul and the kadamba-trees blossom together, O coolly
Rain-clouds wet my eyes with their blue collyrium.

Who wanders high on the palace-tower, hair unravelled, unravelled –
Pulling her cloud-blue sari
Close to her breast?
Who gambols in the shock and flame of the lightning, O who is it
High on the tower today with hair unravelled?
Who sits in the reeds by the river in pure green garments,
green garments?
Her water-pot drifts from the bank
As she scans the horizon,
Longing, distractedly chewing fresh jasmine, O who is it
Sitting in the reeds by the river in pure green garments,
green garments?

Who swings on the bakul-tree branch today in the wilderness,       wilderness –
Scattering clusters of blooms,
Sari-hem flying,
Hair unplaited and blown in her eyes? O to and fro
High and low swinging, who swings on that branch in the wilderness?
Who moors her boat where ketaki-trees are flowering, flowering?
She has gathered moss in the loose
Fold of her sari,
Her tearful rain-songs capture my heart, O who is it
Moored to the bank where ketaki-trees are flowering?

It dances today, my heart, like a peacock it dances, it dances.
The woods vibrate with cicadas,
Rain soaks leaves,
The river roars nearer and nearer the village, O wildly
It dances today, my heart, like a peacock it dances.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features