The Indian Tricolour – An Overview
First published: Friday August 13th, 2021
As India prepares to celebrate her 75th Independence Day this 15th of August, numerous flags of all sizes can be seen all over the world – from tiny flag badges to paper flags, from normal-sized flags to extremely large flags.
The tricolour (Hindi: Tiranga) is the national flag of India. It is one of the most easily recognised flags in the world. It is a horizontal tricolour of India saffron, white and India green; with the Ashoka Chakra, a 24-spoke wheel, in navy blue at its centre.
A number of flags were used across the subcontinet before and during the colonial period. During the British period, the princely states were allowed to fly their own flags. The idea of a unified flag was proposed by the British, and the first unified flag for India was unfurled in 1880.
The growth of nationalist movements in the early twentieth century led to the creation of several new flags for an independent India. Elements used on such flags were often based on religions.
One such flag was the Calcutta Flag. It was designed by Sachindra Prasad Bose and Hemchandra Kanungo. The flag had three horizontal bands of equal width with the top being orange, the centre yellow and the bottom green. It had eight lotusses on the top stripe representing the eight provinces of India. The bottom stripe featured the sun and a crescent and star to symbolise religious harmony between the Hindus and the Muslims. Vande Mataram (transl. I do homage to the mother) was inscribed in the centre in Devanagari.
In 1916, Pingali Venkayya submitted thirty designs for an Indian flag. On Gandhi's suggestion, a spinning wheel was added and the Swaraj Flag was born. It was adopted by the Indian National Congress as its official flag in 1931. Motilal Nehru, an influential member of the Congress, soon hailed the flag as a symbol of national unity.
A few days before India gained her independence, a committee was set up by the Constituent Assembly of India. The committee recommended that the flag of the Indian National Congress be adopted as the national flag of India with suitable modifications, so as to make it acceptable to everyone. The spinning wheel was replaced by the Ashoka Chakra and the flag was proposed on 22 July, 1947. It has served as the national flag of India ever since.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who became India's first Vice President and second President, described its significance as follows:
The saffron denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to the soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends. The Ashoka Chakra in the centre is the wheel of the law of dharma. It denotes motion. India must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.
Manufacturing and Protocol
The design and manufacturing process for the national flag is regulated by the Bureau of Indian Standards. All of the flags are made out of khadi cloth of silk or cotton. The standards were revised in 1964 following the adoption of the metric system.
Khadi is the only material allowed to be used for the flag and flying a flag made of any other material is punishable by law. The woven khadi is obtained from two handloom units in the Dharwad and Bagalkot districts of northern Karnataka. The Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samyukta Sangha, Hubli is the only licensed flag production and supply unit in India.
The Flag Code of India governs the display and usage of the national flag. The original code had many stupid restrictions. Until 2009, for example, private citizens were not allowed to fly the flag except on national holidays. There are more rules, which are too boring to discuss. However, if you want to read them, you can do so here!
Seeing the flag fluttering in the winds of freedom makes me feel extremely proud and happy. Our freedom fighters have sacrificed a lot for the freedom of this land. Well, that's enough of ... patriotism, I guess.
Happy Independence Day! 🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳