The poem, then, is the work of a Hindu idealist who personified Bengal under the form of a purified and spiritualised Kali. Of its thirty-six lines, partly written in Sanskrit, partly in Bengali, the greater number are harmless enough. But if the poet sings the praise of the “Mother”
“As Lachmi, bowered in the flower
That in the water grows.”
he also praises her as “Durga, bearing ten weapons,” and lines 10, 11 and 12 are capable of very dangerous meanings in the mouths of unscrupulous agitators. Literally translated these run, “She has seventy millions of throats to sing her praise, twice seventy millions of hands to fight for her, how then is Bengal powerless ?” As S. M. Mitra points out (Indian Problems, London, 1908), this language is the more significant as the Bande Mataram in the novel was the hymn by singing which the Sannyasis gained strength when attacking the British foroes.
During Bankim Chandra Chatterji's lifetime the Bande Mataram, though its dangerous tendency was reoognized, was not used as a party warcry ; it was not raised, for instance, during the Ilbert Bill agitation, nor by the students who flocked round the oourt during the trial of Surendra Nath Banerji in 1883. It has, however, obtained an evil notoriety in the agitations that followed the partition of Bengal. That Bankim Chandra himself foresaw or desired any such use of it is impossible to believe. According to S. M. Mitra, he composed it “in a fit of patriotic excitement after a good hearty dinner, which he always enjoyed. It was set to Hindu music, known as the Mallar-Kawali-Tal. The extraordinarily stirring character of the air, and its ingenious assimilation of Bengali passages with Sanskrit, served to make it popular.”
Circumstances have made the Bande Mataram the most famous and the
most widespread in its effects of Bankim Chandra's literary works.