Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was moved after hearing a group of Greek students singing “Vande Mataram,” the national song of India.
Modi lauded the Greek highschool students from the region of Ilia on his monthly radio address to the Indian people called “Mann Ki Baat,” or “Inner Thoughts.” The program is released on the last Sunday of each month.
In a tweet posted on his radio show’s official account, Modi wrote that he would be discussing something “which has come from far away, across the borders” on his radio program. “It will amaze you,” he wrote of the video from Greece.
"मेरे प्यारे देशवासियो, ‘मन की बात’ में, अब मैं आपको कुछ सुनाने जा रहा हूँ, जो सरहद के पार, कहीं बहुत दूर से आई है |
ये आपको आनंदित भी करेंगी और हैरान भी कर देगी!"
— Mann Ki Baat Updates मन की बात अपडेट्स (@mannkibaat) December 26, 2021
Indian PM Modi amazed by Greek students singing Indian national song
In a video of the radio program, the Indian Prime Minister expressed his amazement at the Greek students’ rendition of the song, stating:
“The way students have sung Vande Mataram is amazing and commendable. Such efforts bring the people of the two countries closer. My greetings to the people of Greece and their teachers.”
As Modi notes, the song “Vande Mataram” is extremely important to the Indian people. Written in Bengali and Sanskrit by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya in the 1870s, Vande Mataram, or “Mother, I Bow to Thee,” became the national song of India in 1950.
The song praises Mother India, and became an important catalyst during the country’s fight for independence from British colonial rule.
Figures in the independence movement first sang the song for political purposes in the 1890s, and activists continued to draw inspiration from the beautiful song throughout their fight for independence.
The song and the novel “Anandamath,” in which the song was first written, were banned by the colonial government due to their political implications and used by activists.
Countless activists defied the ban however, and continued to sing the song to bring awareness to the country’s fight for freedom. The ban on the song was overturned when the country gained independence in 1947.
Three years later, the song was officially designated as the national song of India, which is not to be confused with the Indian national anthem “Jana Gana Mana.”
Ancient connections between India and Greece
The interaction of the two great ancient civilizations of Greece and India, which began with the invasion of Alexander the Great in 326 BC and lasted for more than two centuries, has been the subject of numerous books by Indian and western scholars over the years.
While visiting Greece in 2018, Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, praised the contributions of Alexander the Great to the history of his nation.
“The most famous Greek to come to India was of course Alexander the Great. He arrived at the head of an invading army in 326 BC – but he left as a friend,” Kovind wrote on Twitter.
The historical presence of Greeks in India and how the two civilizations interacted has always been controversial, says Dr. Richard Stoneman, a scholar and the author of book on the subject in an interview with Greek Reporter.
His work delves not only into Alexander’s invasion of the Indus Valley in 327 BC — the first large-scale encounter between Greek and Indian civilizations — but also into the era which followed, when Hellenic-style successor kingdoms ruled by strongmen rose and fell in northwest India and Bactria, its neighbor to the west.
The presence of these Hellenic states in that region of the world, and their occasional forays even further east, created a zone of Greco-Indian contact, influence, and exchange, as well as occasional conflict, stretching from Central Asia to the Ganges.
Stoneman argues that the two civilizations influenced each other in the arts and philosophy, but as he points out “in many ways the influence primarily went the other way, from India to the Greeks, although of course there are many instances where Greek influences are very perceptible.”