The Indian National Flag or the beloved tricolor that we unfurl every year proudly on Independence Day and Republic Day has come through a long process of several edits and reiterations. The Indian National Flag has a very interesting history behind its design, colour and significance. The National Flag is a banner, an ideal which depicts our sovereignty and our independence. The National Flag is the most respected national symbols and depicts the freedom of all Indian subjects and the country from any dominant foreign rule. The current flag that we use was designed by Pingali Venkayya who was an Indian freedom fighter and is one of the unsung heroes of Indian freedom struggle. The National Flag is popularly called the ‘Tiranga’ which means ‘tricoloured’ or made of ‘three colours’ and has evolved from several flags which were its predecessors.
The Indian National Flag represents India’s long struggle for freedom. The flag came into being in its present form at the meeting of Constituent Assembly held on July 22, 1947 and it became the official flag of the Dominion of India on August 15, 1947. The National Flag is based on the Swaraj flag, a flag of the Indian National Congress also designed by Pingali Venkayya. By law the National Flag should be made of khadi and was previously forbidden to be used by common Indian citizens other than on Independence Day and Republic Day. However, following an appeal from Naveen Jindal, the Supreme Court of India directed the Indian Government to amend the code to allow flag usage by private citizens.
Like our country, our National Flag also has a rich history that dates back to pre-independence era. Let’s look at some of the flags that were used during the pre-independence era and were the predecessor of our present National Flag. Pingali Venkayya 141st Birth Anniversary: Tributes Pour In For the Designer of Indian National Flag
1.Sister Nivedita’s Flag (1904-1906)
It was during 1904-1906 that the first Indian flag came into existence. It was made by Sister Nivedita, an Irish disciple of Swami Vivekananda. The flag came to be known as Sister Nivedita’s flag. The flag comprised of red and yellow colour and had a figure of ‘vajra’, the weapon of Lord Indra and a white lotus in the middle. The flag had the words ‘Bonde Matoram’ in Bengali written on it. The red and the yellow colour signified freedom and victory whereas the ‘vajra’ symbolized strength.
2.Calcutta Flag (1906)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
After Sister Nivedita’s flag, the Calcutta flag introduced the idea of a tricolor for the first time. The flag had three horizontal stripes of blue, yellow and red. It had eight differently shaped star aligned in a straight line on the top most blue stripe. ‘Vande Mataram’ was written on the yellow part and a sun and a crescent moon with a star was on the red stripe at the bottom.
3.Early Nationalist Flags (1906-1907)
In 1906 another flag came into existence which was hoisted on August 7, 1906 at an anti-partition rally in Parsee Bagan Square in Kolkata. This tricolor is believed to have been designed by Sachindra Prasad Bose and Sukumar Mitra. It had three stripes of green, yellow and red from top to bottom. The top most green band had eight lotus flowers representing the eight provinces, the middle yellow stripe bore the words ‘Vande Mataram’ and the lowermost band had a crescent moon on the left and a sun on the right side.
4.The Berlin Committee Flag (1907)
Source: Wikipedia Commons
The Belin Committee Flag was collectively designed by Madame Bhikaji Cama, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (Veer Savarkar) and Shyamji Krishna Varma. The flag was first unfurled in Stuttgrat, Germany by Madame Cama on August 22, 1907 and was the first Indian flag to be hoisted on foreign soil. The flag was also a tricolor but introduced the colour saffron for the first time. The top most band was of orange colour with eight lotuses, yellow was in the middle with words Vande Mataram and green at the bottom with symbols of the sun and moon.
Another version of the flag was also released with one lotus and seven stars. The seven stars signified the Saptarishi constellation.
5.The Home Rule Flag (1917)
The Home Rule Movement had a separate flag which was propounded by Bal Gangadhar Tilak to demand the status of a Dominion within the British Empire like Australia and New Zealand. The flag was a red-green striped one with the Union Jack at the upper left hand corner and seven stars in the middle. The stars were placed as the stars in the Saptarishi constellation. The flag also had a crescent moon and and a star at top right corner.
6.Mahatma Gandhi’s flag (1921)
In 1921, Mahatma Gandhi proposed a tricolour flag with the ‘charkha’ or a spinning wheel at its centre. The colours of the flag represented the dominant religions of the country with a message of promoting religious harmony. However, the colour of the flag was not agreed upon and further changes were sought. The lowermost stripe of red represented sacrifice, the middle green stripe represented hope and the topmost white stripe represented peace. The flag was introduced at the Indian National Congress meeting in 1921.
7.The Swaraj Flag (1923- 1947)
The previous flag was not well-liked by the public and the leaders since it was interpreted with a communal angle. The colours of the flag were changed to saffron, white and green. The saffron colour was chosen to showcase both the Hindu yogis and Muslim darvesh. The white band in the middle stood for other religious communities. It was the first official flag of India and was designed by Pingali Venkayya. The symbol of ‘charkha’ was retained to symbolize the Swadeshi movement.
8.The flag of sovereign India (1947)
When India attained Independence, a committee headed by Dr. Rajendra Prasad was formed to select the National Flag of India. The committee adopted the Swaraj Flag with a slight change as the flag of independent India. The ‘charkha’ in the middle was replaced by the Ashoka Chakra and hence our present National Flag came into existence. The significance of the colours was also changed. The saffron band came to denote courage and selflessness, the white stood for purity, peace and truth, the green stripe for faith, fertility and prosperity and the Ashoka Chakra symbolized the rule of dharma.