H C Singh

Origin of Flag in Ancient Times and India’s National Flag – Its History in Brief

 It is now well established historically that flag originated in ancient India more than 5000 years ago and was called Dhvaja. In the Rig Veda which world over is regarded as oldest book (4000-5000 BC) there is mention of Dhvaja hoisted on an elephant being ridden by Devraj Indra. It is only in 12th century BC that in China Chau dynasty used a flag, and that too, a white. Flag mentioned in Rig Veda was triangular of black colour and had some inscription in white. Use of flag came into vogue all over the world after 600 BC. Besides India and China, flag became a symbol of monarch in Egypt and middle eastern countries besides India and China. In war times all the nations of importance during and after 600 BC started having flags with distinct emblems. Thus Greeks Turkish Persians and Romans had their own flags. Even Prophet Muhammad adopted a flag for his army- a black flag as black was considered colour of vengeance. Flags of Muslim countries, almost all, had black colour flags with crescent and one or more stars. The Roman and European flags were of tricolours with different emblems. By 13th and 14th century AD most of European countries adopted cross as known symbol of Christianity.

Latest development in flags was the meeting in 1864 held in Geneva of 12 known countries representatives and decided to have Red cross as symbol of ambulance. However India and China, oldest countries with flags were ignored because India was dominated and conquered by Muslims and then by British and Portuguese then predominant countries having control of seas Maharashtra under Shivaji and Sikhs under Ranjit Singh were first indigenous Indian sovereign in parts of India to hoist Indian flags in their Kingdoms in parts of Maharashtra and Punjab. Rajput rulers also used flag as symbol of royalty.

Epic religious books Ramayan and Mahabharata of Hindus and of entire India also parts of Asia, refer to use of flags. During war against Lanka, Lord Rama’s warriors had distinct flag of crimson colour with motif of three leaves of an Indian tree then known as ‘sham vriksha’ but some scholars state that it had figure of Lord Surya, their family deity. On the other side Ravana’s flag showed human skull (Kapala).State flag Dhvaja was often used as a decorative device in royal ceremonies of Ancient India.

 Indian “ national” flag was hoisted first in Calcutta on August 7, 1906 by Sir Surindranath Banerjee demanding freedom for India from British rule.

But in August 22, 1927 Madam Cama, an Indian Parsi lady who had embroidered herself the same tricolour of India of green, saffron and red with 8 lotus flowers at the top, Vande Mataram in the middle and in the red portion below there was crescent on one side and sun on the other. Madam Bhikaji Cama had gone to Stuttgart Germany to attend International Socialist Congress where thousands of delegates from all over the world had come. Madam Cama in her eloquent speech demanded Indias Independence. At the close of her fiery speech she unfurled the flag saying “This is the flag of Indian Independence.”

On August 5, 1931, report of the National Flag Committee was presented. The Flag committee which had a dozen members including Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad was presided over by Sardar Patel. It was of the same three colours but instead of Vande Mataram in the centre, it was Charkha or spinning wheel. Gandhiji welcomed the flag and praised it saying “It will be defended with our live. If we will die for the flag, let us learn to live for the flag. The Congress working committee while adopting the flag declared August 30 as Flag-day, to be celebrated by hoisting the flag throughout India. Thus flag of Indian National Congress continued to be national flag till August 1947. In 1941 Netaji Subhash Chnadra Bose hoisted the tricolour but instead of spinning whole, charkha, a tiger in the center to make Indian National Army (INA) fearless and valiant who laid down their lives for India’s freedom form British 6 years before India’s independence.

As Independence Day was approaching, it was imperative to finalize the National Flag which will be hoisted on 15th August 1947. Accordingly Flag committee was constituted on June 23, 1947 under Chairmanship of Dr Rajendra Prasad, Chairman of Constituent Assembly was, which included, besides the Chairman, Abdul Kalam Azad, K M Panikar, Sarojini Naidu, C Rajgopalachari, K M Munshi and B R Ambedkar. The only change recommended on July 14, 1947 by Flag Committee of Constituent Assembly was “The emblem of the flag should be exact reproduction of the wheel as on the capital of Ashoka’s Sarnath Pillar, super imposed in the middle of the central white band.” On July 22, 1947 Jawaharlal Nehru presented a sample of the tricolour for adoption as National Flag. Sarojini Naidu said under this flag there is no difference between a prince or a peasant, between the rich and the poor, between man and woman. Dr. S Radha Krishna’s remarks as clarification on colours of the tricolour are most significant; ‘Bhagwa or the saffron colour 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 wheel in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of Dharma, truth or satya, Dharma or virtue ought to be controlling principles of all those work under this flag.’

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who was interim Prime Minister of India before Independence, while accepting the national flag as approved by Constituent Assembly of India clarified: some people having misunderstood the significance, have thought of it in communal terms and believe that some part of it represents this community or that. But I may say so, that when the flag was devised there was no communal significance attached to it.

Independence Day, 15th August 1947, is the most significant day in India’s history, since ambiguity, when India became one nation, despite partition, with one National Flag. National Flag was hoisted at 10:30 AM by Pandit Nehru and Union Jack, symbol of British colonization of India, was lowered by none other than the British Governor general of India Lord Mountbatten himself. While Jawaharlal Nehru P.M Dr Rajendra Prasad, Chairman of Constituent Assembly, and all Indians were jubilant, Mountbatten was emotionally depressed. National Flag was hoisted after lowering Union Jack on the flag most of Constituent Assembly (now Parliament House) and two National Flags each on North and South blocks (Secretariat).

March 5, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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