“Bharat Mata ki Jai,” is often chanted after the singing of the national anthem. A patriotic slogan known for versatility, it is chanted at victory rallies and also at the cremation of fallen heroes. Be it apolitical meetings or election rallies, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ is that ubiquitous slogan which echoes with every Indian.

Hardly ever had the patriotic chant sparked controversially like it has after a remark by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the BJP’s attack on him.

Pinarayi Vijayan, taking on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological progenitor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), made a “revelation” about the origins of the iconic patriotic slogan.

Speaking at a rally in Kerala’s Malappuram, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and highlighted the contributions of Muslims to India’s cultural history and independence movement.

“In some programmes, we hear some Sangh Parivar leaders asking people to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. Who coined the slogan Bharat Mata ki Jai?,” asked Pinarayi Vijayan.

“I don’t know if the Sangh Parivar knows this. His name was Azimullah Khan. I don’t know if they know that he is not a Sangh Parivar leader,” added the Kerala Chief Minister, who is addressing rallies after rallies, while boosting the Anti-CAA narrative before the crucial Lok Sabha polls.


Azimullah Khan was the prime minister of the Maratha Peshwa Nana Saheb in the 19th century, who coined the term Bharat ‘Mata ki Jai’, according to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Vijayan also questioned whether the “Sangh Parivar” would continue to use it now that they knew it was coined by a Muslim.

Although the iconic symbol of Bharat Mata, or Mother India, was widely used during the Indian freedom struggle, as a spirit of resilience, unity, and sacrifice against British rule, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay is often credited with popularising it through painting and literature.

Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s 1882 novel ‘Anandamath’ popularised “Vande Mataram”.

The association of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ with Azimullah Khan, the 19th-century patriot, has, however, become a matter of debate.

BJP leader Shudhanshu Trivedi, slammed the Kerala CM and said that the idea of worshipping one’s mother in India has existed since the Vedic age.

While some say Azimullah Khan gave the slogan, “Madar-e-watan, Bharat ki Jai” during the First War of Independence in 1857, others claim that ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ was first mentioned in Kiran Chandra Bandopadhyay’s play from 1873.

“Historical records say that it was first mentioned in Kiran Chandra Bandopadhyay’s play in 1873,” said Anoop Antony, former BJYM National Secretary and BJP’s candidate for assembly elections.

It still does not become clear who coined ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ first and, if at all, it was Azimullah Khan who put the slogan first. Irrespective of the origin, who was Azimullah Khan, the Kerala CM referred to?


Azimullah Khan Yusufzai was a prominent leader of India’s First War of Independence (Revolt of 1857), who resisted the British in Kanpur, according to the Ministry of Culture.

“Azimullah Khan was involved in the Indian rebellion of 1857, primarily ideologically, influencing important nobles such as Nana Sahib,” noted MG Agarwal in his book Freedom Fighters of India.

Born in September 1830, Azimullah Khan’s early life was marked by adversity and exposure to the oppressive colonial machinery of the Raj, according to a piece by Amar Chitra Katha, which called Azimullah Khan, a “Krantidoot” (messenger of revolution).

Khan, who survived the severe famine of 1837, grew up with his mother in a British missionary in Kanpur (Cawnpore, then).

It was during this period that he began his education and mastered both English and French, which proved instrumental later on.

“He learnt English and French, no mean achievement for an Indian in the 19th century,” MG Agarwal wrote in his book Freedom Fighters of India.

First, hired as a translator by a British Brigadier, he went on to join the court of the Maratha ruler, Nana Saheb Peshwa II. His intellect and strategic acumen quickly garnered him favour, and he soon became an advisor to the Peshwa.

Nana Saheb’s pension disputes with the British landed Azimullah Khan in England in 1853.

Azimullah Khan’s trip to England to restore Nana Saheb’s 80,000-pound pension was noted as the Maratha Mission of 1853-55, noted MG Agarwal.

“A squat little woman in the sway of her German husband,” is how Khan described Queen Victoria, after meeting her.

Azimullah Khan’s Maratha Mission was a failure, but it planted a seed of revolt in him. Finding the British government “unsympathetic” to the Indian cause, Azimullah Khan started his voyage back home in 1855.

Convinced of the vulnerability of the British Empire, Khan began orchestrating activities against colonial rule.

Armed with a French printing machine, Khan disseminated literature advocating for Indian independence.

“He presented a more ambitious agenda for Nana, telling him, ‘Why worry about his measly stipend when he might annihilate the English and recover his throne,” MG Agarwal wrote in his book on freedom fighters of India.

Khan’s most important political exploit came during the Siege of Kanpur during the 1857 revolt. Employing his wit, and role as a negotiator, Azimullah Khan deceived a British Major General, named Sir Hugh Wheeler.

Azimullah Khan played a key role in ending the twenty-day-long Siege of Cawnpore, noted Saul Davidin in his book The Indian Mutiny.

Azimullah Khan is famously known for the revolutionary anthem “Hum hain iske malik, Hindustan hamara“, which became a war spirit in the minds of the people. The song says India belongs to the Indians, and not to the British who had annexed it through dishonesty.

Although, Azimullah Khan’s song, ‘Hum hain iske malik, Hindustan hamara’, became one of the first nationalist songs written during the early phase of the Indian freedom struggle, coining “Bharat Mata ki Jai” could not be found.


BJP MP Sudhanshu Trivedi, reacting to the Kerala Chief Minister’s claim of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai being coined by Azimullah Khan’ claim, said it was “beyond comprehension and an attempt to confuse the country”.

Trivedi, the National Spokesperson of the BJP on Tuesday, alleged that Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan went to the extent of creating a divisive mindset among the people of the country.

“I would like to say that these slogans were raised by an Indian, and not by a Hindu or a Muslim,” said the BJP Rajya Sabha MP, slamming Pinarayi Vijayan.

Trivedi, speaking to the media, added the idea of “the earth and the nation being one’s mother comes from the Rig Veda”.

Anoop Antony, former BJYM National Secretary also slammed the Kerala CM for “painting the ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogan in communal colours”, insinuating that it was coined by a Muslim.

“Historical records say that it was first mentioned in Kiran Chandra Bandopadhyay’s play in 1873,” said Anoop Antony, who was also a BJP candidate for assembly elections.

“We will continue to use it, as it transcends mere words; it embodies a profound emotion,” he added.

Published By:

Sushim Mukul

Published On:

Mar 26, 2024

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