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Founding of Indian Journalism
Back in the 1870s, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee had coined the term 'Vande Mataram' or 'Mother to thee I bow', through his poem. Only a few decades later, a newspaper with the same name was printed to propagate the feelings of nationalism. Being one of the first newspapers for Indians, by Indians, it holds a special significance in the country's history.
A Newspaper for Indians, by Indians; Image Source: Sri Aurobindo Culture Institute

First published on 6th August 1906

A Daily Organ for National Journalism, the slogan of the Bande Mataram perhaps describes this newspaper the best. Before we get to the newspaper, it is essential that the reader knows about its editor.

Sri Aurobindo, was a very famous yogi, maharishi, poet - you name it and he did it. Apart from practicing spirituality, he was also an Indian Nationalist from the 1910s. He was still a student in England when the problems of his own country began appealing to him.

The Bande Mataram’s origins has quite an interesting past behind it. Bipin Chandra Pal, Bengal’s most important nationalist leader was actually the person who laid the foundation of this newspaper.

The idea was to spread the idea of nationalism without it being filtered through the British officials. Bande Mataram, a newspaper ahead of its time, had its first issue released on this day in 1906.

Coincidentally, Pal had to depart for Calcutta (now Kolkata) on a political tour on that very day. This was where Aurobindo stepped in, a man who knew his way with words and also filled with nationalist sentiments, he was a perfect match for one of the newspaper’s chief writers.

Pal started Bande Mataram with only Rs. 500 on him,  he was bound to fall in financial trouble. Aurobindo suggested that the newspaper kept going as a joint-stock company. And so, it did and both Pal and Aurobindo became its co-editors.

A few weeks after that, Aurobindo’s supporters wanted to put forward a more openly revolutionary programme. Pal was thus forced to leave. The Bande Mataram, although never financially stable, became a huge success.

As more and more people began reading it, the newspaper began circulating weekly from June 1907. Aurobindo felt satisfied from being able to voice his opinions out, a joy which even money cannot provide anyone with.

The year went by and soon, the cold month of February in the year 1908 was here. Aurobindo had freshly returned from the Surat Congress Session and decided to resume the editing process for Bande Mataram. This continued until he was sent to jail for being involved in ‘waging a war against the British Raj’ in the Alipore Bomb Case, in May 1908.

The Government seized this opportunity to suppress the Bande Mataram under the Press Act of 1908, and just like that, the newspaper got wiped away from mainstream circulation.

Only a few copies of the Bande Mataram have survived the test of time. However, it was one of the earliest newspapers to publish opinions against the British Raj, which made it one of a kind and an inspiration to many newspapers thereafter.

Shruti Vashist Author
Last seen on ThisDay, quite some time ago.

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