Had Rabindranath Tagore been alive, he would be quite excited, not to say amused, at knowing that his songs were played as national anthems of two countries during the Bangladesh vs India match at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday.
While cricket fans in green supporting the Bengal Tigers during the match chanted "Joy Bangla" in unison, Indian supporters in blue raised the slogan "Jai Hind" at the cricket ground, a scene captured on TV screens. India and Bangladesh, it may be noted, have for their national anthems songs that Tagore composed in the course of a long and illustrious literary career.
While India adopted the song "Jana Gana Mana" as its anthem in 1950, Bangladesh, soon after Liberation in 1971, decided that the Nobel Laureate's "Amar Shonar Bangla" would be its national anthem. On Thursday, it was a beautiful coincidence that India and Bangladesh, ranged against each other, heard the two anthems emanating from the pen of a poet revered in the subcontinent as also in the rest of the globe. One wonders, though, if Kobiguru, as Tagore is popularly known, would have taken sides at the cricket match.
Tagore did not live to see the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. Neither was he around when India achieved independence in 1947. He died in 1941 at the age of eighty.
The poet composed 'Amar Sonar Bangla' [My Golden Bengal] in 1905 as a protest against the partition of the province of Bengal by the British colonial power. On the other hand, "Jana Gana Mana", written in highly Sanskritised Bangla, is the first of five stanzas of a Brahmo hymn composed by Tagore in 1911.
It was initially misunderstood by anti-British activists that the song had been written and first sung in praise of King George V and Queen Mary on their visit to India in 1911.