Before I start talking about the great sons and daughter of this land, I feel you should understand about our mother Bharat Mata. What or who is Bharat Mata? For us her children, she is our mother, and we worship her as a goddess. “Bharat Mata is the national personification of India as a mother goddess”. She is usually depicted as a “woman clad in a saffron sari holding a flag, and sitting on a lion. Since, we are celebrating Amrit Kaal till Century of Anniversary of our Independence till 2047, I thought I will talk about my mother. As it is said “Janani Janmabhumishcha Swargadapi Gariyasi” which means “mother and motherland are superior even to heaven” in Dev Bhasha Sanskrit, from our great epic Ramayana. I believe in this motto and think my mother and Bharat Maa are superior to heaven.
Aurobindo Ghosh who is one of the fathers of Hindu Nationalism replied with an answer which is especially relevant today in 2023. He pointed to a map of British India on the wall, and said “do you see this map? It is not a map but the portrait of Bharat Mata, her cities and mountains rivers and jungles form her physical body. All her children are her nerves, large and small…Concentrate on Bharat as a living mother, worship her with nine-fold bhakti”. The fact that Aurobindo considered Bharat Mata worthy of ‘navavidha bhakti’ or nine-fold worship is a good indicator as to how the image of India as a mother goddess had already taken origin in 1905.
The concept of worshipping ‘Bhoomi Devi’, or goddess of the earth, has always been part of Hinduism. However, modern forms of equating a nation with a mother goddess first arose in Bengal where ‘Shakto’ worship dominated and forms of the mother goddess such as Kali, Durga, and Chandi were popular.
“Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay transformed Bharat Mata into a fully-fledged Hindu goddess and the “symbol of India who is experiencing difficult times, but her children are indifferent to her sufferings, and they need to awaken to the dire conditions and act”. In 1875, Bankim Chandra composed Vande Mataram, a song about a benign goddess figure, which became an anthem for Indian nationalists in their struggle for liberation from British domination. The leader of the rebels in Anand Math showed Mahendra the three faces of Bharat Mata as three idols of goddesses, being worshipped in three consecutive rooms of the ashram — “What Mother Was – An idol of Goddess Jagadhatri”, “What Mother Has Become – An idol of Goddess Kali” and finally “What Mother Will Be – An idol of Goddess Durga”.
“Bharat Mata appeared in the book as a ten-armed idol in a marble temple”. Vande Mataram, contained within the novel, is a hymn to the goddess Durga and, as Tagore wrote, “Bankim Chandra does show Durga to be inseparably united with Bengal in the end.”
During the Swadeshi movement and the agitation to withdraw the ‘1905 partition of Bengal’, the idea of India and Bengal as a mother goddess was used widely in the popular realm. Vande Mataram, (praise the Mother), was the popular anthem of the time. Bharat Mata was a painted by the great painter, Abayindranath Tagore in 1905. “It represented an archaic spiritual essence, a transcendental idea of Universe as well as expressing Universal Hinduism and nationhood”. He portrayed Bharat Mata as a “four-armed Hindu goddess wearing saffron-colored robes, holding the manuscripts, sheaves of rice, a mala, and a white cloth”.
Bharat Mata has also been installed as a goddess in the traditional precincts of a Hindu temple during the British rule. There was a Bharat Mata temple built in 1936 whose “installed deity is a large map of the British Indian Empire”. Since the concept of Bharat Mata was first created in British India, the map of undivided Bharat is used. “Hindutva versions of Bharat Mata have her and her leonine mount floating above a map that almost always includes Pakistan and Bangladesh”. There are Bharat Mata temples in the Daulatabad Fort in Maharashtra as well as one in Haridwar, inaugurated by Indira Gandhi in 1983. There is a temple located in Calcutta and Bharat Mata (the Mother Land) is portrayed through the image of “Jagattarini Durga”. We can also see a Bharat Mata Temple in Kanya Kumari. Ramayana Mandir is inside the Bharat Mata Temple and it showcases the Valmiki Ramayana. So, Bharat Mata for me is a goddess which represents my country Bharat and she is my mother.