Rise of the Tricolour
The soul of the Indian nation, the Tricolour flag has a long and varied history that played out before it was finally immortalised in its current form
A flag is a necessity for all nations .Millions have died for it. It is no doubt a kind of idolatry which would be a sin to destroy". These words of Mahatma Gandhi hold true for all national flags.
The national flag of any country is an emblem of its culture, civilisation ,society and politics. It is also a manifestation of the philosophy and disposition of the inhabitants of that country. Our Indian National Flag, the cherished Tricolour, also has a history of its own. When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the Tricolour on August 15, 1947, it was not just an announcement of political freedom; it was the deliverance of the very soul of our beloved motherland.
The National Flag of India is a horizontal rectangular tricolour of Indian saffron, white and Indian green,with the Ashoka Chakra, a 24 spoke wheel, in navy blue at its centre. The three colours of our National flag represent different features and qualities. Saffron stands for 'courage and sacrifice'; white stands for 'peace, unity and truth; green stands for 'faith and fertility'. The Ashoka Chakra signifies the movement of life and its blue colour goes after the sky and the sea. It was adopted in its present form during a meeting of the Constituent Assembly held on July 22, 1947. The flag was subsequently retained as the National Flag of the Republic of India. The basic framework of the design of the flag is accepted to be done by Pingali Venkayya. But before arriving at its final stage of being the National flag of our country, the Tricolour has an episodic historical journey. Before Independence, flags standing for unitary feelings have been designed and have been exhibited in different forums. However, everywhere the purpose was to display our nationalism. During the days of the British Raj, when the Union Jack would fly high to diminish our desire for freedom, we did not cow down. Instead, we also thought of our own identity of a nation and sought to express it through our own flag. It was in Calcutta in 1906 that a flag,named as Indian National Flag was hoisted for the first time. It was named as the 'Vande Mataram' and was used at the annual session of the Indian National Congress. This was followed by the hoisting of the Tricolour for the first time outside India which was done in 1907 by Madame Bhikaji Cama in Stuttgart, Germany. Dr Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak hoisted the Indian National Flag during the Home Rule Movement in 1917. It needs mention here that the flags kept on changing in their colour and in design. The flag of 1906 had the display of green at the top, yellow in the middle and red at the bottom with the image of eight lotuses at the top suggesting eight provinces, and crescent moon and sun at the bottom. At the centre was written 'Vande Mataram'.In the Congress session of 1906, another flag was presented which was conceptualised by Sister Nivedita, where the flag consisted of a thunderbolt in the centre and a hundred and eight lamps for the border, with the 'Vande Mataram' caption split around the thunderbolt. In the flag hoisted by Madame Bhikaji Cama there was a display of orange at the top, yellow in the middle and green at the bottom. The top strip had one lotus and seven stars denoting the 'Saptarishi' and crescent moon and sun at the bottom strip. The flag of 1917 had five red and four green horizontal stripes arranged alternately, with seven stars in the 'Sapatarishi' super-imposed on them. It also had the Union Jack in the upper left corner. In 1921, during the Congress session Gandhiji approved of a flag made up of two colours — red and green, representing the two major communities, the Hindus and the Muslims. This flag had the image of the 'Charka' in the middle.
In the All India Congress Committee meeting of 1923, a flag movement was endorsed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sarojini Naidu and was led by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Soon the idea of fostering the cause of a national flag became inseparable from the struggle for independence. In 1931, the Indian National Congress adopted a flag popularly known as the 'Swaraj' flag. The design of the flag had the colour of saffron at the top, white in the middle and green at the bottom.The image of the 'charka' is in the middle.The flag movement and its growing impetus among the masses frightened the ruling British class and they issued directives of withdrawing financial aid from educational institutions and local bodies of Government that encouraged display of the 'Swaraj' flag. Finally, we had our National Flag in
1947 with some modifications of the flag which was adopted by the Congress in its session in 1931.
Governor-General Lord Louis Mountbatten proposed a Union Jack in the flag, to be adopted in 1947. It was turned down by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru with the argument that the inclusion of the Union Jack would be antagonistic to the sentiment of the entire nation. It was no mean task to adopt a National Flag for a nation so diversified in terms of ethnicity and language. The words of Mahatma Gandhi stand very relevant in this regard "It will be necessary for all to whom India is their home to recognise a common flag to live and die for". The context of this observation was pertinent that the National Flag of independent India should epitomise the feelings of all, living under the sky of India. Extreme care was taken not to hurt or disregard the sentiment of any particular community so that everyone would feel the spirit of liberty and fraternity.
The adoption of our National Flag did not go uncriticised. The RSS mouthpiece, 'The Organiser' had published scathing words after the National Flag was adopted on July 22, 1947. In the issue of August 14, 1947 'The Organiser' featured the statement "The word three in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to the country." However, this was not the general feeling and the people of the land accepted the Tricolour and even today we fervently wish our National Flag to fly higher and higher as a show of our country's rich legacy and prospective prosperity.
The writer is an educator from Calcutta. Views expressed are personal