In 2003, BBC World Service conducted an international poll to choose ten most famous songs of all time. Around 7000 songs were selected from all over the world. According to BBC, people from 155 countries/island voted. Vande Mataram was second in top 10 songs.
"Vande Mataram" was the national cry for freedom from British oppression during the freedom movement. Large rallies, fermenting initially in Bengal, in the major metropolis of Calcutta, would work themselves up into a patriotic fervour by shouting the slogan "Vande Mataram", or "Hail to the Mother(land)!". The British, fearful of the potential danger of an incited Indian populace, at one point banned the utterance of the motto in public forums, and imprisoned many freedom fighters for disobeying the proscription. Rabindranath Tagore sang Vande Mataram in 1896 at the Calcutta Congress Session held at Beadon Square. Dakhina Charan Sen sang it five years later in 1901 at another session of the Congress at Calcutta. Poet Sarala Devi Chaudurani sang the song in the Benares Congress Session in 1905. Lala Lajpat Rai started a journal called Vande Mataram from Lahore. Hiralal Sen made India's first political film in 1905 which ended with the chant. Matangini Hazra's last words as she was shot to death by the Crown police were Vande Mataram
A number of lyrical and musical experiments have been done and many versions of the song have been created and released throughout the 20th century. Many of these versions have employed traditional South Asian classical ragas. Versions of the song have been visualized on celluloid in a number of films, including Leader, Amar asha and Anandamath. It is widely believed that the tune set for All India Radio station version was composed by Ravi Shankar.
Jana Gana Mana was chosen as the National Anthem of independent India. Vande Mataram was rejected on the grounds that Muslims felt offended by its depiction of the nation as "Mother Durga"—a Hindu goddess— thus equating the nation with the Hindu conception of shakti, divine feminine dynamic force; and by its origin as part of Anandamatha, a novel they felt had an anti-Muslim message (see External links below).
In 1937 the Indian National Congress discussed at length the status of the song. It was pointed out then that though the first two stanzas began with an unexceptionable evocation of the beauty of the motherland, in later stanzas there are references where the motherland is likened to the Hindu goddess Durga. Therefore, the Congress decided to adopt only the first two stanzas as the national song.
"Vande Mataram! These are the magic words which will open the door of his iron safe, break through the walls of his strong room, and confound the hearts of those who are disloyal to its call to say Vande Mataram." (Rabindranath Tagore in Glorious Thoughts of Tagore, p.165)
The controversy becomes more complex in the light of Rabindranath Tagore's rejection of the song as one that would unite all communities in India. In his letter to Subhash Chandra Bose (1937) Rabindranath wrote,
"The core of Vande Mataram is a hymn to goddess Durga: this is so plain that there can be no debate about it. Of course Bankimchandra does show Durga to be inseparably united with Bengal in the end, but no Mussulman [Muslim] can be expected patriotically to worship the ten-handed deity as 'Swadesh' [the nation]. This year many of the special [Durga] Puja numbers of our magazines have quoted verses from Vande Mataram - proof that the editors take the song to be a hymn to Durga. The novel Anandamath is a work of literature, and so the song is appropriate in it. But Parliament is a place of union for all religious groups, and there the song cannot be appropriate. When Bengali Mussalmans show signs of stubborn fanaticism, we regard these as intolerable. When we too copy them and make unreasonable demands, it will be self-defeating."In a postscript to this same letter Rabindranath says,
"Bengali Hindus have become agitated over this matter, but it does not concern only Hindus. Since there are strong feelings on both sides, a balanced judgment is essential. In pursuit of our political aims we want peace, unity and good will - we do not want the endless tug of war that comes from supporting the demands of one faction over the other."In the last decade Vande Mataram has been used as a rallying cry by Hindu nationalists in India, who have challenged the status of the current national anthem by Rabindranath.
On August 22, 2006, there was a row in the Lok Sabha of the Indian Parliament over whether singing of Vande Mataram in schools should be made mandatory. The ruling coalition (UPA) and Opposition members debated over the Government's stance that singing the National Song Vande Mataram on September 7, 2006 to mark the 125th year celebration of its creation should be voluntary. This led to the House to be adjourned twice. Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh noted that it was not binding on citizens to sing the song. Arjun Singh had earlier asked all state governments to ensure that the first two stanzas of the song were sung in all schools on that day. BJP Deputy Leader V K Malhotra wanted the Government to clarify whether singing the national song on September 7 in schools was mandatory or not. On August 28, targeting the BJP, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said that in 1998 when Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee of the BJP was the Prime Minister, the BJP supported a similar circular issued by the Uttar Pradesh government to make the recitation compulsory. But Mr Vajpayee had then clarified that it was not necessary to make it compulsory.
On September 7, 2006, the nation celebrated the National Song. Television channels showed school children singing the song at the notified time. Some Muslim groups had discouraged parents from sending their wards to school on the grounds, after the BJP had repeatedly insisted that the National Song must be sung. However, many Muslims did participate in the celebrations.
All India Sunni Ulema Board on Sept 6, 2006 issued a fatwa that the Muslims can sing the first two verses of the song. The Board president Moulana Mufti Syed Shah Badruddin Qadri Aljeelani said that "If you bow at the feet of your mother with respect, it is not shirk but only respect. Shia scholar and All India Muslim Personal Law Board vice-president Maulana Kalbe Sadiq stated on Sept 5, 2006 that scholars need to examine the term "vande". He asked, "Does it mean salutation or worship?
The most recent song inspired by Vande Mataram is in Lage Raho Munnabhai:
In Devanagari script
सुजलां सुफलां मलयजशीतलाम्
शस्यश्यामलां मातरम् |
शुभ्र ज्योत्स्ना पुलकित यामिनीम्
फुल्ल कुसुमित द्रुमदलशोभिनीम्,
सुहासिनीं सुमधुर भाषिणीम्
सुखदां वरदां मातरम्
In Bengali script বন্দে মাতরম্
সুজলাং সুফলাং মলযজশীতলাম্
শস্য শ্যামলাং মাতরম্ |
শুভ্র জ্যোত্স্ন পুলকিত যামিনীম্
ফুল্ল কুসুমিত দ্রুমদলশোভিনীম্,
সুহাসিনীং সুমধুর ভাষিণীম্
সুখদাং বরদাং মাতরম্
shujolang shufolang môloeôjoshitolam
shoshsho shêmolang matorom
shubhro jotsna pulokito jaminim
fullo kushumito drumodôloshobhinim
shuhashining shumodhuro bhashinim
shukhodang bôrodang matorom
Maataram, vande maataram
Shubhra jothsana pulakitha yaminim
Phulla kusumitat drumah dala shobhinim
Suhasinim, Sumadhura bhAshinim
sukhadaam varadhaam, maataram
My obeisance to Mother India!
With flowing beneficial waters
Filled with choicest fruits
''With Sandal scented winds
Green with the harvest
O mother! My obeisance to you!
Ecstatic moonlit nights
The plants blooming with flowers
Sweet speaker of sweet languages
Fount of blessings,
Mother, I salute you!