The historical journey of Tricolour

On the occasion of 73rd Independence Day, here is a look into the unknown history of India’s national flag that went through episodic changes before the present-day flag’s identity came to be officially accepted by the people of India

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 holds true for all national flags.

The national flag of any country is an emblem of its culture, civilisation, society and politics. The national flag in itself is the consecrated form of a nation's spirit and hence the adoption of the national flag is associated with the history of that respective nation. The Indian national flag, the cherished Tricolour, also has a history of its own. When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the Tricolur on August 15, 1947, it was not just an announcement of political freedom - it was the deliverance of the very soul of the Indians' beloved motherland.

The India flag was adopted in its present form during a meeting of the Constituent Assembly held on July 22, 1947 and it became the official flag of the Dominion of India on August 15, 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 to its final stage of being the national flag of India, the Tricolour has an episodic historical journey.

During the days of the British Raj, when the Union Jack would fly high to diminish people's desire for freedom, they did not cower down. Instead they also thought of their own identity of a nation and sought to express it through their 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 as national flag for the first time outside India, which was done in 1907 by Madame Bhikaji Kama in Stuttgart, Germany.

However, the flags kept on changing in their colour along with design. The flag of 1906 had green, yellow and red colour 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. 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 Hindus and the Muslims. This flag had the image of the 'Charkha' in the middle. This was considered to be the national flag then and became popular nationwide as the Charkha featured as a favoured icon.

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 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, Indians had their national flag in 1947 with some modifications of the flag, which was adopted by the Congress in its session in 1931.

The adoption of Indian national flag did not go without being criticised. 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. Even today, Indian citizens fervently wish their national flag to fly higher and higher, as the exhibit of their country's rich legacy and prospective prosperity.

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