Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday said he did not understand what was the problem in singing "Vande Mataram", which meant "salutations to the mother", a song that had inspired millions during the country's freedom movement.
He recalled that Sister Nivedita, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, had opened a girls' school and tried to inculcate the nationalist spirit in the students by introducing "Vande Mataram" as a prayer song.
"She (Sister Nivedita) had introduced Vande Mataram as a prayer song in the school...now, some people have a problem with Vande Mataram also. What is Vande Mataram? Mata Vandanam, Amma Vanakkam -- that is Vande Mataram.
"After so many years, now we are discussing (if) Vande Mataram is good or not, nationalism and patriotism are good or not. Also, we feel shy to talk about all this," Naidu said.
He was speaking as the chief guest at an event to commemorate the 96th birth anniversary of nationalist poet Subramania Bharati, which falls tomorrow.
Paying rich tributes to Bharati, Naidu said the reformist poet wanted Indians to be proud of their heritage.
Like Sister Nivedita, Vande Mataram had inspired Bharati as well and he spread the spirit of the national song, the vice president said, while quoting a patriotic song penned by the poet.
Drawing similarities between Bharati attaching importance to cleanliness and Mahatma Gandhi's view -- cleanliness is next to godliness -- he said, "We see the renewal of the focus on cleanliness in Swachh Bharat."
Like Rabindranath Tagore, Bharati also wanted India to break the narrow domestic walls and break free from the caste system, Naidu said.
Bharati considered all living beings equal and to illustrate this, he had conducted the "Upanayanam" (thread ceremony) of a Dalit man and made him a Brahmin, he added.
Stating that the caste system of the yore was different and that it was about vocations, Naidu said the scenario, however, had changed today.
"We are one country and one people irrespective of caste, creed, sex, region and religion. India is one," he said, adding that no person was "low" or "high".
The vice-president said categories such as forward, backward, minority, majority were created for "other purposes" (to facilitate affirmative action), which the politicians were now using for their own ends.
Stating that Bharati fought for women's emancipation, he said all great people like him should be remembered throughout the country and their preachings should be part of the national curriculum.
Unfortunately, such personalities from different regions were not highlighted and "only a few names were promoted" by those who came to power (after independence)," Naidu said and referred to spiritual leaders Sri Narayana Guru (Kerala) and Sri Basaveshwara (Karnataka) among others.
Naidu presented the "Bharati Virudhu 2017" award to former CBI director D R Kaarthikeyan at the 24th annual Bharati Thiruviza (Bharati festival) here.
Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, state Culture Minister K Pandiarajan, Rajya Sabha MPs Navaneetha Krishnan (AIADMK) and L Ganesan (BJP) were also present on the occasion.