Raghupati Raaghava Raaja Raam
Raghupati Raaghava Raaja Raam,
Patita paavana Siita Raam,
Siita Raam, Siita Raam,
Bhaj pyaare tu Siita Raam,
Ishwara Allah Teero Naam,
Sab ko Sanmati de Bhagavaan.
For every Indian, the last two lines of the verse above are as much a part of the Bhajan as the ones preceding them. I was of the same opinion. That changed when my dad played an old cassette from his collection. It contained the ‘original’ Bhajan sung beautifully by Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. The original did not have the last two lines. It was a bhajan only for Lord Ram. It was Gandhi who added those lines. Dad also told me that many people (him being of the same opinion) were not too happy with what Gandhi had done to the original. This happened many months ago, and at that time I was not quite able to figure out the whole thing.
Enlightenment struck last Sunday when dad played the same cassette again.
Gandhi sang the song during the Dandi march and made all his followers sing it too. It caught on and so the message it carried reached the people. Uniting Hindus and Muslims was one of his primary objectives in the mission of achieving freedom from the Britishers. It is important here to note that unlike today, when means to spread a message are abundant, during the 1940s the word of mouth was perhaps the only means to do so. Hence, choosing the right song was very important. But one question remains: why not write a song yourself? I believe he did that because this bhajan was already quite popular. As the wikipedia entry linked above tells, Vishnu Digambar Pulaskar was a well-known singer. He had travelled the North of India extensively and planned to set-up a music school in Lahore. He was also the first artist to give a public concert, which was a strict no-no in those days. Only the kings and the elite of the society got to listen to good singers.
In essence, all Gandhi did was this: He took a popular bhajan, rejigged it a bit and used it as a means to promote a message of peace.
Smart man. Definitely ahead of his time. Hats off!