Written By Shravya NB (Grade 10)
Today, the tricolour flag with an Ashok chakra in the middle, has been recognised as the national flag of India, but there is a long story about the evolution of the national flag of India.
Going back to the Rebellion of 1857, when the idea of a single Indian flag was first raised by the British rulers of India. The flags of other British colonies and that of our first flag were alike and were designed based on western heraldic standards. The flag was painted red with the top-left quadrant covered with the Union Jack of Britain. In the mid of the remaining flag was placed a Star of India. The Star of India was a symbol of the Order of Chivalry created by Queen Victoria so as to represent India.
There were many proposals regarding the designs of the Indian Flag. William Coldstream, a British member of the Indian Civil Service campaigned to change the symbol of the Star of India which was rejected by Lord Curzon. Nationalists like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo Ghosh and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay advocated symbols that were in vogue, like the Ganesha and the Gau Mata. But these symbols received lukewarm responses as they were Hindu-centric.
An important event that shaped the designing of the national flag was that of the Indian Independence Movement which was the result of the Partition of Bengal in 1905. This flag sought to unite the multitude of castes and races of India. The flag designed during that time came to be known as the Vande Mataram Flag. The flag had three colours – the upper green band which consisted of eight lotuses representing the eight British provinces in India, the middle yellow band with the slogan Vande Mataram and the bottom band of red comprising of a moon and sun which represented the Hindu and the Muslim religion. Despite the multiple uses of the flag, it failed to generate enthusiasm amongst Indian nationalists.
In 1916 after Pingali Venkayya’s thirty designs for the national flag failed to keep the flag movement alive, Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak introduced a new design of the flag. The flag was covered with alternate red and green bands, with a union jack in the top left corner, a star and crescent in the top right and seven stars displayed diagonally from the bottom right. In the early 1920s, national flag discussions gained importance across most British dominions. In April 1921, Gandhiji commissioned Pingali Venkayya to design a flag of red and green bands, the red representing the Hindus and green standing for Muslims with a spinning wheel or charkha in the centre signifying the Gandhian idea of self-help. As the colours represented only Hindus and Muslims, Gandhiji decided to add a white banner to represent other religions. In 1929, Gandhi moved towards a secular interpretation of the flag colours, stating that red was for sacrifices of the people, white for purity and green for hope.
In July 1923, at the insistence of Jawaharlal Nehru and Sarojini Naidu, the flag movement was endorsed. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel managed the flag movement with the idea of public processions and flag displays by the common people including farmers, students, merchants and labourers. The movement received political acceptance and news reports, editorials and letters to editors published in various journals developed a bond between the flag and the nation. Soon, the concept of preserving the honour of the National Flag became an integral part of the Independence Struggle.
On 23rd June 1947, an assembly was set up which was headed by Rajendra Prasad including Sarojini Naidu, C. Rajagopalachari and B.R. Ambedkar as its members. On 14th July 1947, the committee recommended the flag of the Indian National Congress to be adopted as the National Flag of India with suitable modifications, such that the flag did not represent any religion or communal undertone. The spinning wheel of the Congress flag was replaced with the Ashok Chakra, the wheel from the Lion Capital of Ashoka. This chakra signified dharma-righteousness and law. The upper saffron band signifies the strength and courage of the country, the mid white band depicts purity with the blue Ashok chakra standing for dharma and the bottom green band represents the auspiciousness, fertility and growth of the country. This tricolour served as the national flag of the Dominion of India between 15th August 1947 and 26th January 1950 and has served as the flag of the Republic of India ever since.
Featured Image Courtesy – Pixabay