A Big History Of The Indian National Flag

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The Indian National Flag

Every free nation of the world has its own flag. It is a symbol of a free country. The National Flag is a symbol of the Nation’s respect and pride. There is liberal use of the flag on Independence Day and Republic day.

The National Flag of India is a horizontal rectangular tricolour of India saffron, white and India green; with the Ashoka Chakra, a 24-spoke wheel, in navy blue at its centre.

In India, the term “tricolour” refers to the Indian national flag. The flag is based on the Swaraj flag, a flag of the Indian National Congress designed by Pingali Venkayya.

It was discovered or recognised during our national struggle for freedom. The National Flag of India was adopted in its present form during the meeting of Constituent Assembly held on 22 July 1947, a few days before India’s independence from the British on 15 August, 1947.

The flag is made of KHADI, a special type of hand-spun cloth or silk, made popular by Mahatma Gandhi.

The manufacturing process and specifications for the flag are laid out by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

The right to manufacture the flag is held by the Khadi Development and Village Industries Commission, who allocates it to regional groups.

Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samyukta Sangha (KKGSS) located in Garag village near Hubli in Dharwad district, Karnataka has been the sole manufacturer of the flag. Gandhi first proposed a flag to the Indian National Congress in 1921.

In the center, spinning wheel, symbolizing Gandhi’s goal of making Indians self-reliant by fabricating their own clothing, between a saffron stripe for Hindus and a green stripe for Muslims.

 

Subsequently, to avoid sectarian associations with the color scheme, the three bands were assigned new meanings: courage and sacrifice, peace and truth, and faith and chivalry respectively.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Final Selection Process Of The Indian National Flag

A number of flags with varying designs were used in the period preceding the Indian Independence Movement by the rulers of different princely states; the idea of a single Indian flag was first raised by the British rulers of India after the rebellion of 1857, which resulted in the establishment of direct imperial rule.

The first flag was based on western heraldic standards, which was similar to the flags of other British colonies, including Canada and South Africa; its red field included the Union Jack in the upper-left quadrant and a Star of India capped by the royal crown in the middle of the right half. 

All the Indian princely states received flags with symbols based on the heraldic criteria of Europe including the right to fly defaced British red ensigns.

In the early twentieth century, around the coronation of Edward VII, a discussion started for a heraldic symbol that will be a representative of the Indian empire.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The symbols that were in vogue included the Ganesha, advocated by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Kali, advocated by Aurobindo Ghosh and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, or the cow, or Gau Mata (cow mother). All these symbols were Hindu-centric and did not suggest unity with India’s Muslim population.

The partition of Bengal in 1905 resulted in the introduction of a new flag representing the Indian independence movement that is The Vande Mataram flag, part of the Swadeshi movement against the British, comprising Indian religious symbols represented in western heraldic fashion.

 

The tricolor flag included eight white lotuses on the upper green band representing the eight provinces, a sun and a crescent on the bottom red band, and the Vande Mataram slogan in Hindi on the central yellow band. The flag was launched in Calcutta bereft of any ceremony and the launch was only briefly covered by newspapers.

 

Around the same time, another proposal for the flag was initiated by Sister Nivedita, a Hindu reformist and disciple of Swami Vivekananda. The flag consisted of a thunderbolt in the centre and a hundred and eight oil lamps for the border, with the Vande Mataram caption split around the thunderbolt. It was also presented at the Indian National Congress meeting in 1906.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 1909, Lord Ampthill, former Governor of the Madras Presidency, wrote to The Times of London in the run-up to Empire Day pointing out that there existed “no flag representative of India as a whole or any Indian province… Surely this is strange, seeing that but for India there would be no Empire.”

In 1916, Pingali Venkayya submitted thirty new designs, in the form of a booklet funded by members of the High Court of Madras to keep the National flag existence alive.

The same year, Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak adopted a new flag as part of the Home Rule Movement. The flag included the Union Jack in the upper left corner, a star and crescent in the upper right, and seven stars displayed diagonally from the lower right, on a background of five red and four green alternating bands.

The flag resulted in the first governmental initiative against any nationalistic flag, as a magistrate in Coimbatore banned its use. The ban was followed by a public debate on the function and importance of a national flag.

In November 1920, the Indian delegation to the League of Nations wanted to use an Indian flag, and this prompted the British Indian government to place renewed emphasis on the flag as a national symbol.

In April 1921, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi wrote in his journal “Young India” about the need for an Indian flag, proposing a flag with the charkha or spinning wheel at the centre. The idea of the spinning wheel was put forth by Lala Hansraj

Gandhi commissioned Pingali Venkayya to design a flag with the spinning wheel on a red and green banner, the red color signifying Hindus and the green standing for Muslims. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Gandhi wanted the flag to be presented at the Congress session of 1921, but it was not delivered on time, and another flag was proposed at the session. 

Gandhi later wrote that the delay was fortuitous since it allowed him to realize that other religions were not represented; he then added white to the banner colors, to represent all the other religions. 

Finally, In 1929, Gandhi moved towards a more secular interpretation of the flag colors, stating that red stood for the sacrifices of the people, white for purity, and green for hope.

On 13 April 1923, during manifesting by local Congress volunteers in Nagpur felicitate the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the Swaraj flag with the spinning wheel, designed by Pingali Venkayya, was hoisted. This led in a confrontation between the Congressmen and the police, after which five people were imprisoned. Over a hundred other protesters continued the flag procession after a meeting. 

On the first of May, Jamnalal Bajaj, the secretary of the Nagpur Congress Committee, started the Flag Satyagraha, gaining national attention and marking a significant point in the flag movement.

Finally, at the All India Congress Committee meeting in July 1923, at the insistence of Jawaharlal Nehru and Sarojini Naidu, Congress closed ranks and the flag movement was endorsed. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The flag movement was managed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel with the idea of public processions and flag displays by common people. By the end of the movement, over 1500 people had been arrested across all of British India. 

While the flag agitation got its impetus from Gandhi’s writings and discourses, the movement received political acceptance following the Nagpur incident. News reports, editorials and letters to editors published in various subsequent developments of a bond between the flag and the nation. 

Soon, the concept of preserving the honour of the national flag became an integral component of the independence struggle. While Muslims were still wary of the Swaraj flag, it gained acceptance among Muslim leaders of the Congress and the Khilafat Movement as the national flag.

Detractors of the flag movement, including Motilal Nehru, soon hailed the Swaraj flag as a symbol of national unity. Thus, the flag became a significant structural component of the institution of India. 

In contrast, to the subdued responses of the past, the British Indian government took greater cognisance of the new flag, and began to define a policy of response. 

The British parliament discussed public use of the flag, and based on directives from England, the British Indian government threatened to withdraw funds from municipalities and local governments that did not prevent the display of the Swaraj flag. 

The Swaraj flag became the official flag of Congress at the 1931 meeting. However, by then, the flag had already become the symbol of the independence movement.

A few days before India’s Independence in August 1947, the Constituent Assembly was formed. To select a flag for independent India, on 23 June 1947, the assembly set up an ad hoc committee headed by Rajendra Prasad and including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sarojini Naidu, C. Rajagopalachari, K. M. Munshi and B. R. Ambedkar as its members.

On 14 July 1947, the committee recommended that the flag of the Indian National Congress be adopted as the National Flag of India with suitable modifications. 

The spinning wheel of the Congress flag was replaced by the Chakra (wheel) from the Lion Capital of Ashoka. According to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the chakra was chosen as it was representative of dharma and law. 

Jawaharlal Nehru explained that the change was more practical in nature, as unlike the flag with the spinning wheel, this design would appear symmetrical. Finally, our Indian Flag got its existence in our INDIA.

Description Of Indian National Flag

The flag was proposed by Nehru at the Constituent Assembly on 22 July 1947 as a horizontal tricolor of deep saffron, white and dark green in equal proportions, with the Ashoka wheel in blue in the centre of the white band. Nehru also presented two flags, one in Khadi-silk and the other in Khadi-cotton, to the assembly. The resolution was approved unanimously.

It served as the national flag of the Dominion of India between 15 August 1947 and 26 January 1950, and has served as the flag of the Republic of India since then.

Don’t Insult Our National Flag

There is a new trend of selling flags made of paper and plastic, which is incorrect. It is not a thing to sell. With a sense of national pride, people enthusiastically buy such flags but the very next day, these flags are trampled upon on the roads, in dustbins and elsewhere. 

By allowing this to happen, people forget that they are insulting the flag. Often, these flags are burnt along with garbage. It is the duty of every individual to maintain proper respect towards our National Flag. The original code prohibited use of the flag by private citizens except on national days such as Independence Day and Republic Day. 

The National flag, which is a symbol of the Nation’s pride, is respectfully hoisted on National festivals like Independence Day and Republic Day. Some rules have been laid down regarding the usage and hoisting of the National flag in order to prevent its denigration. 

The Ministry of Home affairs has set up the ‘Flag code of India’, which governs the usage of the National flag by the citizens. Very few people, however, are aware that such a flag code exists. 

We commonly see people waving the National flag proudly during national, cultural and sporting events. However, once the program or the event is over, we see the flags strewn all around the place. This disrespect must be stopped. Stop using flags made up of plastic.

Flag Code of India

  • The National flag should be hoisted at a height in a suitable manner. 
  • Whenever the flag is hoisted, it should occupy the position of honor and be distinctly placed. 
  • Where the practice is to fly the flag on any Government building, it should be flown on that building on all days including Sundays and holidays from sunrise to sunset, irrespective of the weather conditions. 
  • The flag should always be hoisted briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. The hoisting and lowering should be simultaneous with the bugle calls.
  • When the flag is displayed horizontally or at an angle from the window or balcony, of a building, the saffron band must be uppermost. 
  • When the flag is flown during a public meeting, the speaker should face the audience and the flag should be displayed behind and to the right of the speaker or flat against the wall above and behind the speaker. 
  • When used on occasions like the unveiling of a statue, the flag shall be displayed distinctly and separately. 
  • When the flag is displayed on a car, it should be attached to a staff, which should be affixed firmly on the bonnet of the car. 
  • When the flag is carried in a procession or a parade, it should be held in the right hand. If there is a line of other flags, the National flag should be in the middle.
  • The flag should not be stopped downwards in respect to any person or thing.  
  • No other flag should be hoisted higher than the National flag. 
  • The flag should not be used to cover or decorate the speaker’s desk during any meeting. 
  • The National flag should never be displayed with the saffron band down. 
  • The flag should not be allowed to touch the ground or trail in water. 
  • The flag should not be displayed or fastened in a manner which might damage it.

To Prevent Misuse of The National Flag

  • The flag should not be used as a drapery in any form whatsoever except in State, Military, Central Paramilitary Forces funerals. 
  • The flag cannot not be draped or stuck over any vehicle, train or boat. 
  • The flag should not be used as a curtain in any household. The flag should not be printed on any clothing or over handkerchiefs, napkins, cushions etc.
  • Nothing should be written or printed on the National flag. 
  • The flag should not be used in any form of advertisement nor shall an advertising sign be fastened to the pole from which the flag is flown.
  • Only on Independence Day and Republic Day flower petals are kept inside the flag before it is unfurled. 
  • During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering of the flag, all persons present should face the flag and stand at attention. Those present in uniform should render the appropriate salute. 
  • During a parade, when the flag is in a moving column, persons present will stand at attention and salute as the flag passes by them. A dignitary may take the salute without wearing a cap.

Disposal of Damaged Flag

When the Flag is in a damaged or soiled condition, it shall be destroyed as a whole in private, preferably by respectful burning or by any other method consistent with the dignity of the Flag. – Flag Code of India 2002, Section II, Point 2.2 (xiii).


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