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Maulana Azad and the Indian National Anthem

By : Maulana Azad and the Indian National Anthem

February 22, 2023

Mohiuddin Ahmad, better known as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, ranks high in the political and intellectual history of modern India. His role in the Indian Freedom Struggle, especially as the Muslim will coexist in a secular India, is well known. He was, at the same time, one of the foremost Islamic intellectuals and scholars of contemporary times. He was also a remarkable journalist and ideologue whose career closed with a long tenure as India’s first Education Minister.

His mother was an Arab woman who did not survive the family’s return to India in the mid-1890s when they settled in Calcutta. His father, Khairuddin Dihlawi, was a Sufi pir of the Qadiri and Naqshbandi orders whose disciples included a number of wealthy merchants of the Surati Nakhudar community in Calcutta, Bombay, and elsewhere. Azad was educated at home by his father in a strictly traditional manner but later rebelled against his father’s stern discipline. He liked to think of his pen name ‘Azad’ (free) as indicating his break from the religious tradition of his family, although he too aspired to the religious leadership of a different, and vaster, order.

Maulana Azad was a scholar thoroughly trained in the traditional Islamic sciences, with great intellectual abilities and eloquence of pen and speech. In addition to this, he had a remarkable openness to modern western knowledge even as he opposed western rule over India. He took charge of the Office of Member of the Council of Governor-General in the year 1948.

Here is the rare find from the attics of the National Archives of India (NAI), Original and Translation:

Maulana Azad, in the year 1950, conceptualized the practice of the National Anthem of the Country to be learned by all the children in the schools:

“In almost all the countries of the world it is the practice that the National Anthem of the Country is learned by all the children in the Schools and all of them sing it with great éclat and enthusiasm… Such a practice could not be introduced in the Indian Schools because, during the British regime, no National Anthem was adopted… But now that the Govt. has adopted Tagore’s ‘JANA GANA MANA’ as a National Anthem there is no reason why our schools should remain deprived of the pleasure and effect of the tune. I don’t know whether the State Govts. Or the Universities have taken any suitable step in this direction, but because the matter is of great importance from a National point (of) view, I am of the opinion that such a matter could not be left to the discretion of the State Govts. It is therefore imperative that the Central Govt, should make a decision and a uniform system should be adopted throughout the length and breadth of the Country. A right procedure in this direction would be that the Govt. of India should draw the attention of all the State Governments and Universities to this matter by means of a Resolution. The following points should be stressed in this Resolution:-

  • it is a common practice in all the Countries of the World that School boys are taught the National Anthem from the very beginning and this forms the foundation of their national outlook in life.
  • Not that ‘Jana Gana Mana’ has attained the status of a National Anthem it is necessary that it should be regularly taught to all the pupils in the schools and colleges and they should properly practice(d) sing it in the same tune which has been adopted for it.
  • All the schools introduce the system that all the children stand in a circle before the beginning of the classes and all of them sing the National Anthem in chorus. In the end, it should be impressed upon them that not only the teachers and a few students should sing and the rest simply listen by heart and should be able to sing it in its proper tune in a Chorus.

Secretary may please take necessary action in this direction.
Sd: Azad
11-7-50 (?)”

This is reflective of his vision for independent India, where Azad contemplated the possibilities of shaping the future of India through the means of a united approach.

Early in his career as a minister, Azad envisaged the possibilities for India and stated:

Today India is free…. She can have any kind of mental mould she pleases. Will it be exclusive….or will it be all-inclusive, which has been characteristic of Indian culture throughout the ages?... In the advancement of nations, there is no greater hindrance than narrowmindedness. It is our duty to keep ourselves free from this disease in the new era of independence.

For more on Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, read:

For more on Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s visit to Maudaha in 1937, read:

Source: Transfer of copyright in Jana Gana Mana from Vishva Bharati to the Government of India. Ministry of Education. Original: F. No. 49-111/50-D3. Translation: F. No. 15-6/51-A2.

Douglas, Ian Henderson. 1988. Abul Kalam Azad: An Intellectual and Religious Biography. Edited by Gail Minalut and Christian W. Troll. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

The National Archives of India (NAI).

Special thanks to the NAI from Dr. Divya Sethi