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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Historic journey of the Tricolor

Tricolor or Tiranga refers to independent Bharat’s National Flag.

A flag occupies a pride of place for any community or organization. When it comes to a national flag, it is not merely pride. It evokes a collective confidence and reverence. For many countries, deciding the national flag might have been simple. But for Bharat, to bring about this unifying symbol has been quite a journey. Let us take a look at it.

7 Aug 1906, Lotus Flag or Calcutta Flag

The first national tricolor was hoisted in the Parsee Bagan Square (Green Park) in Calcutta (now Kolkata). It had green, yellow, and red bands – respectively sacred to Muslims, Buddhists and Sikhs, and Hindus. The top band had eight lotuses, perhaps embroidered by Madame Bhikaiji Cama. On the middle band was inscribed Vande Mataram in Devanagiri script. The lower one had the sun and crescent in the hoist and fly, respectively.

Lotus Flag or Calcutta Flag

22 Aug 1907, Saptarishi Flag

The second tricolor was hoisted by Madame Cama and her band of exiled revolutionaries in Stuttgart, Germany, at the International Socialist Congress. Similar to the first tricolor, this one had the first band in orange or Kesari with one lotus and seven stars denoting the Saptarishi

Saptarishi Flag

1904-5, Vajra Flag or Sister Nivedita Flag

The third flag had scarlet background with the symbol of the Vajra in yellow placed in between the words, Bande and Mataram in Bengali with 108 jyotis or flames embroidered along the outer periphery. 

Vajra Flag or Sister Nivedita Flag

Sister Nivedita was most proactive in the invention of a national flag and envisioned the Vajra flag as the national emblem during a visit to Bodh Gaya, in the company of Jagadish Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Jadunath Sarkar, Swami Sankarananda and Mathuranath Sinha.

The idea was inspired by the ancient symbol of the Vajra – a symbol of Buddha that implies ‘The Selfless Man’. It was the weapon of Bhagwan Indra. The thunderbolt is the symbol of renunciation and service. According to legend, Vajra was created from the bones of Rishi Dadhichi as a symbol of supreme sacrifice.

Vajra is also associated with Devi Durga. Sister Nivedita devised a distinctive pan-Indian National Flag to rally around. She wrote on 13 Sep 1905:India appears to be waking up in these days. The people are feeling their power. I think Curzon has broken the British Empire. The Modern Review newspaper illustrated in an article: The Vajra as a National Flagin Nov 1909.

1917, Home Rule Movement Flag

The fourth flag was hoisted by Dr. Annie Besant and Lokmanya Tilak during the Home Rule Movement when our political struggle had taken a definite turn for independence. This flag had five red and four green bands. On the top left corner was the Union Jack in red and blue. The seven white stars were in Saptarishi Mandala formation. 

Home Rule Movement Flag

The political compromise due to the Union Jack made the flag generally unacceptable and became unpopular. 

1921, Swaraj Flag or National Flag

The fifth flag that was used during the early phase of freedom struggle. The tricolor as approved by Gandhiji had white, green, and red, emblazoned with Charkha in dark blue symbolizing the nation’s progress. Though not formally adopted by the Indian National Congress, it was widely used.

Swaraj Flag or National Flag

A youth from the then independent native state of Hyderabad (now Telangana), designed a flag and took it to Gandhiji when they met during the All India Congress Committee in 1921 at Bezwada (now Vijayawada). The flag had red and green bands, representing the two major communities – Hindu and Muslims.

Gandhiji requested a white band representing other communities, and Charkha, the traditional spinning wheel, symbolizing his goal of a self-reliant Bharat. Though not officially accepted, Gandhiji’s approval made the tricolor sufficiently popular. 

The youth was Pingali Venkaiah born on 2 Aug 1878 in the Krishna District in Andhra Pradesh to Hanumantha Rayudu and Venkatarathnamma. He lived with his maternal grandparents and was sent to Hindu High School in Machilipatnam, then a big center for fishing and textiles.

Still in his teens, he mastered the art of cultivating good cotton. This knowledge, in his later life, resulted in a new indigenous hybrid variety of cottonseeds, for which he received an honorary membership in the Royal Agricultural Society of London. He had become famous as ‘Patti (cotton) Venkaiah’ to everyone around. 

Venkaiah grew up to become a polymath — with interests in geology, agriculture, education, and languages. Pursuing his academic interests, he studied Geology at Cambridge and was awarded Doctorate. At the age of 19, Venkaiah joined the military services with a patriotic zeal.  He was posted in South Africa to take part in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) when he met Gandhiji and a built a rapport that lasted for more than 50 years.

After returning to Bharat, he became a member of the secret revolutionary units fighting against the British Raj. Venkaiah was appointed as a member of the executive meeting for his impressive work.  In the Indian National Congress session of 1906 in Kolkata, presided by Dadabhai Naroji, four famous resolutions of Swadeshi, Boycott, National Education and Swaraj were passed. Deeply inspired by the resolutions and equally hurt seeing the Union Jack hoisted during the meeting, Venkaiah decided he would do something about it. 

Returning home in Eluru, he pursued his passion for designing a national flag for Bharat.  He studied the flags of other countries and published a book titled, ‘A National Flag for India’ in 1916, offering thirty designs for our national flag. Between 1918 and 1921, in every Congress session, Venkaiah persisted having our own flag.

Gandhiji wrote in his journal, Young India: ‘We should be prepared to sacrifice our lives for the sake of our national flag. Pingali Venkaiah, who is working in Andhra National College, Machilipatnam, has published a book describing the flags of countries and designed many models for our own national flag. I appreciate his hard struggle during the sessions of the Indian National Congress (INC) for the approval of the Indian national flag.’

On 13 Apr 1923, the Swaraj flag designed by Pingali Venkaiah, was hoisted during a procession by nationalists in Nagpur commemorating the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. This event resulted in a confrontation with the police. On May 1, Jamnalal Bajaj-led Flag Satyagraha gained national attention and marked a significant point in the flag movement and was finally endorsed as the National Flag on Jul 23. 

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel managed the flag movement supported by public processions and flag displays by common people. Gandhiji’s discourses, writings, news reports, letters to editors, editorials of the time attest to the development of a bond between the flag and the nation. 

Soon, the concept of preserving the honor of the national flag became an integral, inseparable component of the independence struggle. The British Indian government threatened to withdraw funds from municipalities and local governments that encouraged the display of the flag. Over 1500 people were arrested across the country. 

The Bombay Chronicle reported that the movement drew from diverse groups of society including farmers, students, merchants, laborers and ‘national servants’. Enthused women who were hitherto passive became active participants in the independence movement. Muslims were still wary of the Swaraj flag as the national flag.

Long before the Congress officially adopted it, this flag had become the symbol of Bharat’s independence movement. In 1931, a landmark resolution was passed in the history of the tricolor, declaring the Swaraj Flag as our National Flag by clearly stating the tricolor was of not any communal significance. 

22 Jul 1947, Tiranga or The Tricolor

The Constituent Assembly members resolved that the Swaraj Flag designed by Pingali would be the National Flag of Bharat with some modifications. Since then, the Tricolor in its present form has served as the National Flag of the Republic of Bharat. 

The sixth flag is a horizontal tricolor of deep saffron (Kesari) at the top, white in the middle, and dark green at the bottom in equal proportion. In the centre of the white band is a navy-blue wheel, 24-spokes Ashoka Chakra that appears on several of Emperor Ashoka’s edicts, prominent being the abacus of the Sarnath Lion Capital of Ashoka. 

Tiranga or The Tricolor

The Constituent Assembly was formed to select a flag for independent Bharat on 23 Jun 1947, barely a month before independence. The committee was headed by Rajendra Prasad and members included Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sarojini Naidu, C. Rajagopalachari, K. M. Munshi, and B. R. Ambedkar.

On 14 Jul 1947, the committee recommended that the flag of the INC be adopted as the National Flag of Bharat with suitable modifications and without any communal undertones, thus making it acceptable to all parties and communities.

According to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the 24-spokes Chakra represented the law of dharma that ought to be the controlling principle 24 hours of the day in all our work and dealings. The wheel also represents the dynamic and peaceful progression of life. Gandhiji was initially not very pleased but later accepted it.  

Did you know?

The design and manufacturing process for the national flag is regulated by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). 

Khadi or hand-spun silk or cotton cloth is the only material allowed to be used for the flag. 

The ratio of width of the flag to its length is two to three.

Two kinds of khadi used: The first is the khadi-bunting for making the body of the flag. The second is the khadi-duck, a beige-colored cloth that holds the flag to the pole. The khadi-duck is an unconventional type of weave that meshes three threads into a weave – is extremely rare and there are fewer than twenty weavers in Bharat professing this skill.

There should be exactly 150 threads per square centimeter, four threads per stitch, and one square foot should weigh exactly 205 grams (7.2 oz).

The first centre to obtain the license for making hand-woven khadi for the National Flag was established in 1954 by few freedom fighters. It was called Dharwad Taluk Kshetriya Seva Sangh at Garag in Dharwad district. Currently, Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samyukta Sangha in Hubli is the only licensed flag production and supply unit in Bharat. 

The Khadi Development and Village Industries Commission grants permission to set up flag-manufacturing units. The BIS can cancel the licenses of units that flout guidelines. 

Usage of the flag is governed by the Flag Code of India and other laws relating to the national emblems.

National Flag Protocols

The Tricolor National Flag is an integral part of Bharat’s structure and a symbol of our nation’s unity and pride. Millions have died for it. 

The original flag code of Bharat did not allow private citizens to fly the national flag except on national days such as Independence Day or Republic Day. Following Supreme Court’s directive, the Union Cabinet of India amended the Indian Flag Code with effect from 26 Jan 2002.

Subsequently, a new trend of using the flag liberally on these two national festivals began. Not only is it incorrect to make flags made of paper and plastic, but also disrespectful to dispose these off in the dustbins, on the roads, burn with garbage. This way, we insult the flag. 

The Flag Code laid down certain rules consistent with the dignity of the flag. 


Maintain proper respect towards our National Flag.

Hoist the flag at a height and in a suitable manner.

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 the 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. 

Take care to see that the flag does not get crumpled or trampled.

The flag has to be destroyed in a whole in private, preferably by burning or by any other method consistent with the dignity of the flag.


Not to let small children play with the National Flag as a toy.

Not to buy or use plastic flags.

Not to let the flag fall on the ground.

Not to join cloth pieces to resemble the National Flag.

Not to use the flag as a banner or for decoration

Not to be used as drapery in any form whatsoever except in State, Military, Central Para-military Forces funerals. 

Not to be printed on any clothing, handkerchiefs, napkins, cushions, nor pinned up on clothing, etc.

Not to be used as a curtain in any household. 

Not to write or print anything on the National Flag. 

Not to be used in any form of advertisement nor shall an advertising sign be fastened to the pole from which the flag is flown. 

Not to cast aside or disrespectfully dispose off any damaged or soiled flags.


By – Narayani (Independent writer. Commitment: ‘Sanatana Dharma that is Nationalism.’)

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