Sanskrit: vande maataram

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by Qureshpor, Dec 7, 2012.

  1. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    I would like to ask forum members, especially those conversant with Sanskrit language and its grammar, to kindly explain the meaning of the two words vande maataram. My understanding is that the first word is a verb (with grammatical person incorporated in it) while the second one is a noun meaning "mother".

    I am of course familiar with the origin of these words. They form the opening line of a song contained within Bankim Chandra Chaterjee's Bengali book "Anandmath". What connotations does "mother" have in the song?
  2. greatbear Banned

    India - Hindi & English
    The original song is in Bengali, and the first word is "bande" rather than "vande" - "vande" is the Hindi/Sanskrit equivalent.

    Anyway, your understaning is correct. "Mother" means motherland in the song. It could mean specifically Bengal, more widely the Indian subcontinent. The song was a source of inspiration for several freedom fighters during the Independence struggle, in particular in the Bengal region.
  3. hindiurdu Senior Member

    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    My understanding is that -
    - vande is a form of vandanaa, which means "a hail or a salute" - source: Practical English-Sanskrit Dictionary
    - maataram or maatar = mother - in this context, the motherland

    So the term means 'Hail Motherland'. Sometimes, this can suggest the personification of the nation as a mother figure ("Bhaarat Maataa"), though I feel that explicit imagery associated with this has fallen into disuse now. It used to be more prominent (see YouTube "Door hato aye duniya walo hindustan" - towards the end, standing in front of the giant map - kind of reminds me of the Soviet Motherland statue, actually). Some Hindus seem to almost deify this personification, but I think it is quite uncommon and probably the vast majority don't. Afaik there isn't ever actual worship of any such motherland-related figure. Nowadays, I think it is "motherland" in the abstract, although the notion of the homeland as a nurturing mother is still there. If you YouTube for "Vande Mataram - Revival - A.R.Rahman" after around 0:30, she makes the gesture of a Namaste followed by touching her nose (subcontinental gesture language for a 'woman' or 'wife' or 'mother', I think it indicates the nose-pin or something).

    BTW off-topic: I just realized that Bhaarat is always masculine ('Bhaarat karegaa'), then how come it becomes Bhaarat Maataa? :)

    Disclaimer: I am not that conversant with Sanskrit or Bengali. I think the song itself is in Sanskrit if I am not mistaken.

    Update: This actually made me curious about the "degrees of respect in greeting" in various languages. How did people greet each other in Sanskrit? Vandan (salute) or Naman (??) or Stuti (worship)? This namaste thing feels like a late-stage worshipful switch. Something over-refined that has become routinized in language over time.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  4. gagun Senior Member

    Telugu-TS, Deccani-TS
  5. greatbear Banned

    India - Hindi & English
    I think the construction means rather "Bhaarat kii maataa", hence the possibility. I am not well-versed in all these fatherland and motherland notions, though.

    The song itself is in Bengali, HU, and it forms part of a Bengali novel.

    "Stutii" means eulogy, rather, as far as I have understood the term. Of course, many hymns and the like praise God, hence stutii becomes a natural way to worship God. In any case, it's the name for a way of worshipping, so I don't see how can the word itself be used in greeting people. I don't know what used to be used for greeting in Sanskrit, but in many parts of south India people greet each other every morning with "Namaskaara(a)", which to me is a clue: a lot of Sanskrit vocabulary has been retained in south Indian customs and languages. "Namaste", meanwhile, is hardly used in the south; it's the purer form, "Namaskaara(a)" that is used (by people from all walks, including uneducated people or people engaged in petty trades).
  6. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Thank you everyone for the helpful replies. If I am not mistaken, the song is a mixture of Sanskrit and Bengali. The song was written before the Benglai novel was penned and it was incorporated into the book afterwards.

    Regarding "Bhaarat" (des/desh) being masculine and the compound "Bhaarat-maataa", I think we should understand it as "Bhaarat is maataa" and hence the gender of the word becomes immaterial.

    I would still like to have clarification for the word "vande". If someone knows Sanskrit, it would be really helpful. Does it really mean "Hail" or does it have other meaning/s? What is the link between "Durga-Devii" and "maataram"?

    As a side note (and a guess), I wonder if the Sanskrit "stuti" and the Persian "situudan" (verb: to praise) are linked. From this verb one gets the nound "sitaa'ish" (praise).
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2012
  7. hindiurdu Senior Member

    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    I found a definite close cognate relationship in the word for Avestan. It's stuiti (Avestan) ↔ stuti (Vedic). It's along a regular pattern: paiti ↔ pati (lord), anumaiti ↔ anumati (agreement).
    Reference: An Avesata grammar in comparison with Sanskrit. From "Zoroastrian rituals in context", it seems like the modern situudan is descended from a different word, corresponding to Avestan 'staoma' and Sanskrit 'stoma', which also means 'praise'. "The Artful Universe: An Introduction to the Vedic Religious Imagination" claims that 'stuti', 'stotra' and 'stoma' are related terms.

    From "History of u-stems in Greek", it seems that Avestan and Sanskrit shared "vand" (though it is specifically indicated here only in the context of Sanskrit) from which the Sanskrit adjective 'vandaru' meaning 'praising' and the Avestan adjective 'vandru' meaning 'desiring' were formed. In general, scouring references is returning a meaning of salute, greeting, with a connotation of praise.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  8. gagun Senior Member

    Telugu-TS, Deccani-TS are southern India ,we lost our pure Dravidian words by the influence of small group of people who(some of Aryan rulers AND PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN SANSKRIT) spoke Sanskrit(Prakriti) and they used their sanskrit vocabulary in Dravidian languages like Telugu,Kannada,Malayalam and we lost our pure words.At last our alphabet's number changed to 56 from 36.

    in southern india

    actual words for mamaste
    but tamil did not adopt sanskrit vocabulary.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  9. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    I was hoping that perhaps Chandragupta Bharatiya Jii, a native speaker of Sanskrit, might come to our assistance but in his absence, this is what I have managed to find out about "vande" if it is linked to "vandana" as has been suggested by hindiurdu SaaHib.

    vandana, n. Praise (RV.) respectful salutation, homage, obeisance

    (A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary: Arthur Anthony Macdonell)

    Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary provides meanings ranging from praise, adoration, reverence (esp. obeisance to Brahman or a superior by touching the feet) to worship.

    (Type vandana in the Advanced Search [top box] and you will get all the definitions)

    (RV= Rig Veda, MBh= Mahabharata, Mn= Manu-Smriti)

    Sri Aurobindo Ghose translated the 6 stanza song in 1909. He translates the opening words as, "I bow to thee Mother". We have talked about "maataram" being the "Motherland" (Bharat-Mata or Mother India) but in the sixth stanza, this mother concept is equated with the goddess Durga..

    "For thou art Durga holding her ten weapons of thee I bow..the Mother
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  10. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    As far as I know there used to be a deification of the idea of the motherland, as it is the case with this song/poem. Let it be noted that I witnessed this song sung as a bhajan in religious circumstances, with no references to any patriotic connotations. maataram is the accusative form of Sanskrit word maatr and in the context of this song it clearly refers to the Mother Goddess.
  11. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Thank you for your insight, marrish SaaHib.

    In his letter to Subhash Chandra Bose (1937), Rabindranath Tagore 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 Mussulmans show signs of stubborn fanaticism, we regard these as intolerable. When we too copy them and make unreasonable demands, it will be self-defeating."
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  12. hindiurdu Senior Member

    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    I read the additional stanzas in the poem, which I never had before and they are clearly about Durga. I also read an article by AG Noorani that quotes from the book itself, which makes it even more apparent. To me this is a classic case of evolution where the author meant thing A and it now means thing B. Taken as words 'Vande Mataram' means 'Respectful Salutations, Mother'. It's linguistically correct for mother, grandmother, Planet-Mother Earth, Country, State, Region, religious deity or any motherly figure. In a different time and place, this could easily be an awkward greeting created by some bureaucrat in a government department as a recommended Sanskritized greeting for Mother's Day (please don't take offense anyone - just talking word meanings here). It boils down to who the mother being talked about is. There is no doubt that the author meant Bengal personified as Durga. There is also no doubt that the modern popular media view has nothing to do with either Bengal or Durga.

    I think the modern meaning is India personified as an abstract and non-religious Motherland. All the media seems to point to it but I am open to seeing examples that correct me. I think in general the idea of deifying the country seems to be receding over the past 50 years. I can't visualize the kind of thing that can been seen in the first video I had posted (see YouTube "Door hato aye duniya walo hindustan" - towards the end, standing in front of the giant map) being depicted in a movie today. Tastes and beliefs change and I think that whole meme belonged to two generations ago and would seem bizarre today. Maybe this is westernization setting in. So, as I see it, there are three different things (a) what the author meant (b) what people thought it meant in, say, 1950 and (c) what most people mean by it now.

    BTW I am purely looking at meanings and language usage. This is completely separate from whether anyone should use this phrase or not (my opinion: no one should do anything they don't want to do). In reading about this, that seems like a debate distinct from the purpose of this forum. My 2 cents, yours might differ for very legit reasons. As another issue, reading about this made me realize how aware Bengalis were about being a separate nation or nationlike entity earlier. That has declined a lot. I ended up reading Amar Sonar Bangla also and it is interesting that they were writing patriotic songs and songs specifically about Bengal a century ago. Interesting.
  13. souminwé Senior Member

    Vancouver, Canada
    North American English, Hindi
    I think it's significant that it says vande mātaram and not pūje mātaram. In Modern Hindi you can given someone your naman aur vandan, but giving someone your pūjā is quite a different matter. I am not completely sure how vandana was understood by Sanskrit speakers, but in Hindi it means salutation, and that's how most people interpret it.The confusion is expounded by mantras like Sarasvati vandana - a mantra in which the line brahmācyutaśaṅkaraprabhr̥tibhirdevai: sadā vanditā is often replaced by brahmācyutaśaṅkaraprabhr̥tibhirdevai: sadā pūjitā, suggesting to some that they are synonymous (I'm assuming the connotations of pūjā are settled upon). However, there is also the mantra Sarasvati namastubhyaṁ, where the use of namastubhyaṁ is like vandana; I feel that if namaste wasn't in common use, namaḥ could also be misinterpreted as meaning pūjā.

    hether the mātr̥ of the song is devi/śakti/Durgā; I'd say it can be, doesn't have to be. It's not of greatest importance that Tagore wrote it with the former intentions. Yes, vande mātaram can be used as a bhajan and yes, India is deified and conflated with devi/śakti/Durgā by many Hindus, but we can't say that is the only meaning when: 1) India is generally seen as a non-divine "motherland" (as opposed to fatherland), and 2) India is secular and vande mātaram is its rāṣṭragīt. Whether you hear "mother" as "motherland" or "mother-goddess" is as per your religious beliefs (or lack thereof). We do have the Urdu translation penned as taslīmat māṁ.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2012
  14. drkpp

    drkpp Member

    Mumbai, India
    India - Marathi, Hindi, Sanskrit
    vande maataram [वंदे मातरम्] literally translates to "I salute mother".

    Word by word technical analysis follows:

    वंदे - Root verb is वंद् 1st conjugation Atmanepada meaning is to salute/pay homage/greet with respect
    वंदे is its first person singular form meaning "I salute/pay respect to"

    मातरम् - Root word is मातृ [maatri] meaning 'mother'.
    Applying grammatical rules, In active voice, subject is in Nominative case, object is in Accusative case
    and verb confirms to Subject in person and number.
    Here the word मातृ is object of sentence [I salute mother]
    Hence Accusative case singular is used which is 'maataram'.

    Just like mother nourishes child on her lap,
    this land nourishes population living on it by giving them grains and water.
    Hence land is lovingly referred to as 'mother'.

    Please let me know if further info is required.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2012
  15. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    In this forum, as well as your goodself there appear to be at least four persons who have included Sanskrit in the “other languages” section of their personal profiles. This is of course very beneficial for the rest of us. We are even more fortunate for having drkpp and Chandragupta Bharatiya as native speakers of the language. I am grateful to you and to drkpp for your valuable inputs and I respect the knowledge you bring to the forum.

    The “Bande Maataram” song by Bankim Chatterjee (not Tagore) is in Sanskrit and Bengali. We know that “vande” and “maataram” are both Sanskrit words and this has been confirmed by drkpp’s kind grammatical explanation. For this reason I don’t believe there is any real necessity to bring in either Hindi or Urdu into the discussion.

    I have already quoted entries for “vandana” from two of the most respected Sanskrit-English dictionaries and I shall quote them again. The compilers of the dictionaries have mentioned the texts from which they have taken this word and the meanings associated with it in those (con)texts. I have mentioned these texts in a previous post.

    A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary: Arthur Anthony Macdonell

    vandana [ 1. vánd-ana ] m. N. of a protégé of the Asvins; n. praise (RV.); respectful saluta tion, obeisance, homage.

    A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Monier Monier-Williams

    f. praise , worship , adoration
    n. reverence (esp. obeisance to a ब्रह्मन् or superior by touching the feet &c ) , worship , adoration

    One can see that “salutation” is only one of several meanings of this word. Amongst others are “praise”, “obeisance” and “worship”. “Obeisance” implies bowing and Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, a well known personality of some considerable intellect and linguistic ability, decided to choose this meaning when he translated the song. Here is his translation of the full song.


    I bow to thee, Mother,
    richly-watered, richly-fruited,
    cool with the winds of the south,
    dark with the crops of the harvests,
    the Mother!


    The first two stanzas are clearly describing one’s land, be it Bengal or India but in the third stanza one can detect this land gradually taking on the image of a mighty being, which in the fifth stanza is what “..we raise in every temple”. Without further ado, this image is given a name in the sixth stanza and that is Durga, the Mother, in all her manifestations including her dark hue. The song writer is equating the Land with the Divine goddess, Durga. For me, ultimately it matters not which meaning is selected for “vandana”. When one says or sings “Vande Maataram”, its meaning is:

    I salute the Mother/ I pay homage to the Mother/ I bow to the Mother/ I worship the Mother…and the Mother is none other than Durga. Pardon the pun, but the song is hardly portraying a “secular” image! Please take a read of this short article by Kavita Krishnan entitled “Selling the nation for a Song”.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 31, 2012
  16. Shounak Senior Member


    With all due respect to the senior members of the forum বন্দে মাতরম্৷वन्दे मातरम् means "I worship you, Oh Mother". In old Sanskrit hymns there are lot of examples of the word "vande". Whenever, we spell out the word "vande" we actually put our hands in the gesture of "namaskar" and close our eyes in front of God. There are numerous examples of the word 'vande' like वन्दे देवं उमा पतिम

    'I am worshiping the Lord, who is Goddess Uma's husband". In Bengali there is a word called 'puja' পূজা. Vande or vandana (वंदना) is something like that.

    If you read Bankim Chandra's "Anandamath" you will understand that the entire group is worshiping Goddess Kali (Durga) who is the feminine form of Lord. She is the protector, she is the fighter, helping the entire troop to fight against all evils. The entire song is written keeping 'Ma' or 'mother' is the creator and protector of everything, the Nature.

    सुजलां सुफलाम्
    'sujalam' -- with wonderful water (jal)
    'suphalam' -- with good fruit (phal)
    'malay' - wind
    'shitalam' cold
    'shasya' - crop
    shyamalam -green
  17. Dib Senior Member

    Bengali (India)
    While "vand-" does not suggest "worship" in itself to me, it can be, and often is, a part of worshipping. To me it specifically suggests very sincere and devout - probably ritualized - praising or complimenting.

    I checked the occurrence of this verb in the first two kāṇḍa-s of the Rāmāyaṇa, just as a quick sample study. In all cases it has been used towards humans, but with extreme devotion, probably combined with bowing and touching feet, as "pādau vand-" (i.e. 'vand'-ing the feet) is very commonly used. It is usually a part of the customs of greeting or taking leave from a respected person in these samples.


    In the original Anandamath, the song "vande mātaram" occurs as a hymn in the worship of the motherland in an explicitly Hindu ritualistic way. She is also equated with Durga in the 5th stanza of the song. However, the Indian national song consists only of the first two stanzas, which don't actually evoke any Hindu ritualism, except possibly for the word "vande".


    Even after providing all this context, the exact sense of "vande" probably still remains elusive. :(
  18. Dib Senior Member

    Bengali (India)
    I found a very interesting corroboration of my feeling recently. Mir Mosharraf Hossain writes in his celebrated "বিষাদ-সিন্ধু"/"Bishad-Shindhu" (Sea of Sadness):
    "কাসেদ ঈশ্বরের গুণানুবাদ করিয়া দামেস্কাধিপতির বন্দনার পর অতি বিনীতভাবে আব্দুল জব্বারের হস্তে শাহী-নামা প্রদান করিলেন।" - মহরম পর্ব্ব, দ্বিতীয় প্রবাহ
    "The qāsid (قاصد, messenger) first praised the God, then "vand"-ed the master of Damascus (i.e. Mu3awiyya I, معاوية), and then rendered the royal message very politely into Adbu'l-Jabbār's hands." - Muharram Episode, 2nd "stream" (that's how he names the "chapters")

    The "vand-" here clearly means "customary/ritualized praising", exactly what it suggests to me as well, and not worshipping, as that would make no sense here. However, admittedly, it is only highly Sanskritized Bengali, but not Sanskrit itself. I believe, it is still relevant because Bishad-Sindhu and Ananda-math were composed in the same time period, and in similar style of Sanskritized Bengali.
  19. tarkshya Senior Member

    May be the difficulty is arising because everybody is imagining a sharp distinction between ritualized praise and worship, which probably does not exist. May be both these acts simply transition into each other smoothly and unfussily.

    Is it possible that the whole hairsplitting about the exact meaning of "Vande" is an attempt to look at the word from the prism of alien concepts of shirk etc., which is meaningless in this case. The word after all predates such concepts.

    Food for thought.

Share This Page