India’s various ethnic and cultural groups are honoured in the national anthem, and the melody is very reminiscent of Indian music as well. The music and words (including the English translation) were written by Rabindranath Tagore, the same composer of the music and words of the national anthem of Bangladesh. The poem originally was written (in Bengali) in 1911 with five verses, only the first verse is the national anthem.

The subject of the song is the Universal Spirit that guides India (God), possibly as a unifying link to the varying ethnic groups of the nation. It was first used as a national anthem by the “Free State of India” (Axis-controlled India) from 1943-1945. It was officially adopted as India’s national anthem two days before the republic was declared in 1950. At the time of adoption, another “national song” “Vande Mataram” was popular with the people and many government leaders, but the fact that Vandemataram personified India as a Goddess was offensive to the monothestic Muslim population and led to Jana-gana-mana’s adoption as the national anthem.