Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Indian National Flag - a short refresher!

I don't know about you, but I have forgotten most of what I learnt in school about the Indian tri-colour (tiranga). Although we see the flag flying very often in Delhi, we don't really give it much thought. With Independence Day round the corner, I thought I'd write a little refresher. 

Indian National Flag, proudly flying on top of Parliament House, Delhi
The colours of the Indian flag are saffron (top band), white (middle band) and green (bottom band), with the Ashok Chakra (wheel with 24-spokes) in the middle

The Indian National Flag, our Tiranga (Tricolour)
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
The Indian flag is imbued with deep meaning that comes from our philosophies and belief systems. Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, second President of independent India, and also one of India's foremost scholars of comparative religion and philosophy, explained the colours beautifully: 

"Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to soil, our relation to the plant life here on which all other life depends. The Ashoka Wheel in the center of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principles of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it mus tmove and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.”

Flag colours on decorative display at North Block (Secretariat) in Delhi
Did you know that the flag was designed in Andhra Pradesh, in the 1920s, much before India got independence? The design came from Pingali Venkayya, a freedom fighter born in the Machilipatnam district. Venkayya met Gandhi in Africa during the Boer war, and their friendship lasted over 50 years. It was Venkayya who suggested at the Indian National Congress meeting in Kakinada (Cocanada session, 1923-24) that the India for which they were fighting should have a flag. Gandhi agreed and asked Venkayya to design the flag. The design went through several discussions and changes, before it was adopted in 1931.

Pingali Venkayya (Photo Source: Worthview)
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) defines the rules/standards for how the flag should look. For example, the ratio of length to breadth is defined by BIS as 3 : 2. The cloth with which the flag is made should be handspun and handwoven khadi (wool, cotton, silk). Currently, the only company which is certified to manufacture the flag is the Karnataka Khadi Gramudyog Samyukta Sangha. BIS has given them specifications for thread count, colour shades, and even the type of stitching, for example the four corners of the flag are to be reinforced with triangular buntings of the same construction and colour as those used for the flag. You can see the entire process here.

The Flag Code of India (originally created in 1950, amended in 2002) defines rules for how to use and respect the flag. For example, the code prohibits the usage of the flag on clothing, cushions, bags etc. The flag cannot be used as a receptacle for carrying anything (except flower petals, which are hidden inside it during the unfurling of the flag). It cannot be used to drape anything, except the ceremonial usage in state funerals. It cannot be flown at half-mast, unless there is a specific occasion with instructions from the government. It cannot be used to salute a person or thing, as it represents India. Most importantly, it cannot be flown upside down, so all of you, remember that Saffron is on Top!!! 
Patriotic running with the flag, Wagah border, Amritsar
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
You can see the full text of the Indian Flag Code here, on the website of the Ministry of Home Affairs. 


Google Web said...

The design went through several discussions and changes

Packers and Movers Delhi

Packers and Movers Gurgaon said...

Your blog is always so interesting. My husband and I are visiting India from South Africa in October - and your blog has certainly made us a lot better informed. Thank you for the time you take to write it. said...

Your blog is always so interesting. My husband and I are visiting India from South Africa in October - and your blog has certainly made us a lot better informed. Thank you for the time you take to write it.

Janis R said...

Thank you for the time you take with this. I love learning these stories of things I would not have thought to ask about. Also I think in the US I have seen every one of your flag rules broken. We have little official rules but there is plenty of uproar when someone disapproves of the use of the flag.

Anonymous said...

I could not resist commenting. Well written!