At a time when India is trying to once again ‘Make In India’, The Perspective would like to remind its readers a sweet historical fact about the Indian flag and its origin. As the Indian flags in every nook and corner of the country unfurl today on the occasion of the 70th Independence Day, let us see how the present Tricolour evolved into what it is now.
While many may contradict the historical etymology of the Indian flag, saying the official flag of the country was weaved and hoisted in 1906, it is important to also acknowledge the fact that though a flag, meant for India, was not the official one but the creator had equal goodwill towards the idea of freedom of the country from the clutches of British Raj.
Between 1904 and 1906, Irish disciple of Swami Vivekananda, fondly remembered as Sister Nivedita, designed the first Indian flag. This flag comprised red and yellow colours. Red signified the freedom struggle and yellow was a symbol of victory. It had the words “Vande Mataram” in Bengali written on it. The flag also contained a figure of ‘Vajra’, weapon of God ‘Indra’, and a white lotus in the middle. The ‘Vajra’ is a symbol of strength and lotus depicts purity. This flag was also called Sister Nivedita’s flag.
However, the flag was not that famous and in the year 1906, a tricolour with three equal strips of blue (top), yellow (middle) and red (lower) was made. In this flag the blue strip had eight stars of slightly different shapes. The red strip had two symbols, one of sun and the other of a star and a crescent. The yellow strip had ‘Vande Mataram’ written on it in Devanagari script.
This too failed to gain importance and another flag in the same year was made. It was also a Tricolour but its colours were different. It had orange, yellow and green and came to be known as the ‘Calcutta flag’ or ‘Lotus flag’, as it had eight half open lotuses on it. It is believed to be have been designed by Sachindra Prasad Bose and Sukumar Mitra. It was unfurled on August 7, 1906 at the Parsi Bagan Square, Kolkata. The day was being observed as the “boycott day” against the partition of Bengal and Sir Surendranath Banerjee hoisted this flag to mark the unity of India.
A year later in 1907, came the Madame Bhikaji Rustom Cama’s flag. The flag was collectively designed by Madam Bhikaji Cama, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (Veer Savarkar) and Shyamji Krishna Varma. The flag was unfurled by Madam Cama on 22 August 1907 at Stuttgrat, Germany, and attained the status of the first Indian flag to be hoisted at a foreign land. From this event onwards it was also referred to as ‘Berlin Committee flag’. The flag consisted of three colours-the topmost being green followed by golden saffron in the middle and the red colour at the bottom.
As long as nine years later, in 1916 Pingali Venkayya, a writer and a geophysicist, designed a flag with the intention to bring the whole nation together. He met Mahatma Gandhi and sought his approval. Mahatma Gandhi suggested him to incorporate a charkha as a symbol of economic regeneration of India, in the flag. Pingali created the flag from hand spun yarn ‘Khadi’. The flag had two colours and a ‘Charkha’ drawn across them but Mahatma Gandhi did not approve of it as he was of the opinion that red represented the Hindu community and green Muslims, but the other communities of India were not represented in the flag.
Before Pingali’s flag could attain a place as the Indian flag, in 1917 bal Gangadhar Tilak adopted a new flag. The Home Rule League formed by Bal Gangadhar Tilak adopted a new flag in 1917, as at that time the Dominion status was being demanded for India. The flag had the union jack at the top, near the hoist. The rest of the flag contained five red and four blue strips. It had seven stars on it in the shape of ‘Saptarishi’ constellation which is supposed to be the sacred one for Hindus. It also had a crescent moon and a star at the top fly end. This flag did not gain popularity among the masses.
It was only in 1921 when the Tricolour started gaining momentum towards what it is now. Mahatma Gandhi wanted all the communities of India to be represented in the flag of the nation, a new flag was designed. This flag had three colours. At the top was white then green and at the bottom was red. White symbolised minority communities of India, green Muslims and the red represented Hindu and Sikh communities. The ‘Charkha’ was drawn across all the bands symbolising the unification of these communities. The pattern of this flag was based on the flag of Ireland, another nation which was struggling to get its independence from Britain. Although the Congress Committee did not adopt it as its official flag but it was widely used as a symbol of nationalism in India’s freedom struggle.
It is often said that the true spirit of the country is in its compliance to differences. The interpretation of Mahatma Gandhi’s flag was not acceptable to many and thus, a new flag was designed which replaced red with ochre. This colour signified the combined spirit of both religions as saffron was the colour of Hindu yogis as well as Muslim darvesh. But the Sikh community also demanded a separate representation in the flag or the complete abandonment of religious colours. This resulted in another flag by Pingali Venkayya. This new flag had three colours. Saffron was at the top followed by white in the middle and green at the bottom. The ‘Charkha’ was placed at the centre. This flag was passed at the meeting of Congress Committee in 1931 and was adopted as the official flag of the Committee.
And then the final and the present flag of India till date came into existence. In 1947, when India got independence, a committee headed by Rajendra Prasad was formed to select the National Flag of India. The committee decided to adopt the flag of Indian National Congress, with suitable modifications, as the flag of independent India. As a result, the flag of 1931 was adopted as Indian flag but ‘Charkha’ in the middle was replaced by ‘Chakra’ (wheel) and hence our National Flag came into being.
On the occasion of the 70th Independence Day, The Perspective wishes all its free thinking readers a very Happy Independence Day. Happy reading ! But before you click out, here are a few interesting facts:
- The National Flag may be hoisted in educational institutions (schools, colleges, sports camps, scout camps, etc.) to inspire respect for the Flag. An oath of allegiance has been included in the flag hoisting in schools.
- A member of public, a private organization or an educational institution may hoist/display the National Flag on all days and occasions, ceremonial or otherwise consistent with the dignity and honour of the National Flag.
- Section 2 of the new code accepts the right of all private citizens to fly the flag on their premises.
- The flag cannot be used for communal gains, drapery, or clothes. As far as possible, it should be flown from sunrise to sunset, irrespective of the weather.
- The flag cannot be intentionally allowed to touch the ground or the floor or trail in water. It cannot be draped over the hood, top, and sides or back of vehicles, trains, boats or aircraft.
- No other flag or bunting can be placed higher than the flag. Also, no object, including flowers or garlands or emblems can be placed on or above the flag. The tricolour cannot be used as a festoon, rosette or bunting.