THE NATIONAL FLAG
The Constituent Assembly which drew up the Constitution of India, adopted, on 22nd July, 1947, the tricolour as Independent India’s National Flag. After a debate, the Dharma Chakra of Emperor Ashoka was included in the central white stripe of the flag. The same Chakra adorns the State Emblem adapted from the Sarnath Lion Capital of Ashoka in addition to the motto from the Mundaka Upanishad, Satyameva Jayate which means truth alone triumphs. The Chakra or the wheel symbolizes the Power of the State governed by Dharma, the primaeval Indian system of justice, which is the bedrock, not only of governance but also of the socio-politico-economic edifice itself.‘
Meaning of the Flag
“The Indian Flag is a horizontal tricolour in equal proportion of deep saffron on the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom. The ratio of the width to the length of the flag is two is to three. In the centre of the white stripe, there is a wheel in navy blue to indicate the Dharma Chakra, the wheel of law in the Sarnath Lion Capital. The ‘chakra’ is a symbol dating back to 2nd century BC. Its diameter approximates the width of the white stripe and it has 24 spokes which intend to show that there is life in movement and death in stagnation. The saffron stands for courage and sacrifice, the white, for purity and truth, the green for growth and suspiciousness.
The significance of the colours and the chakra in the National Flag was amply described by Dr. S Radhakrishnan in the Constituent Assembly which unanimously adopted the National Flag. Dr. S Radhakrishnan explained-“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 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 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 must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.”
It is important to read the extract from Jawaharlal Nehru’s address to the Constituent Assembly for the date on which the National Flag was adopted (Tuesday 22nd July, 1947)
“I present this flag to you. This resolution defines the flag which I trust will adopt. In a sense this flag was adopted not by a formal resolution but by popular acclaim and usage, adopted much more by the sacrifice that surrounded it in the past few decades. We are in a sense only ratifying that popular adoption. It is a flag which has been variously described. Some people having misunderstood its significance have thought of it in communal terms and believe that some part of it represents this community or that. But, I may say that when this flag was devised there was no communal significance attached to it.”
At the same meeting of the Constituent Assembly, Govind Das added “There is no touch of communalism in the three colours of the flag. Panditji (i.e., Jawaharlal Nehru) has already told you this in the course of his speech. It is true that at a time when the colours were red, white and green there was a trace of communalism in the flag. But when we changed these colours to saffron, white and green, we declared it in clear words that the three colour-had no communal significance.” The official website of the High Commission of India in London states “The saffron stands for courage, sacrifice and the spirit of renunciation, the white, for purity and truth and the green for faith and fertility.
On 26th January, 2002, the flag code was changed. After 52 years, the citizens of India are free to fly the Indian flag over their homes, offices and factories on any day. Except some basic rules to follow while flying the flags, all other restrictions have been removed. Now Indians can proudly display the National Flag anywhere and anytime. There are some rules and regulations; upon how to fly the flag, based on the 26th January, 2002 legislation. These include the following
- The National Flag may be hoisted in educational institutions (schools, colleges, sports camps, scout camps, etc) to inspire respect for the Flag. An oath of allegiance has been included in the flag hoisting in schools.
- A member of public, a private organization or an educational institution may hoist/display the National Flag on all days and occasions, ceremonial or otherwise consistent with the dignity and honour of the National Flag.
- Section-2 of the new code accepts the right of all citizens to fly the flag on their premises.
- The flag cannot be used for communal gains, drapery or clothes. As far as possible it should be flown from sunrise to sunset irrespective of the
- The flag cannot be intentionally allowed to touch the ground or the floor or trail in water. It cannot be draped over the hood, top, and sides or back of vehicles, trains, boats or aircraft.
- No other flag or bunting can be placed higher than the flag. Also, no object, including flowers or garlands or emblems can be placed on or above the flag. The tricolour cannot be used as a festoon, rosette or
As of 26th January, many have already started hoisting the flags at their premises. This new flag code would not have been made possible if it weren’t for Mr. Navin Jindal, an industrialist from Haryana, who had been fighting the citizen’s right for the free hoisting of flags. Apparently this particular Indian had filed a law suit and had been fighting for this right for ages until he finally won this right in around end of December 2001. (The obsolete 1950 flag code; A strict flag code announced in the year 1950 regulated the use and display of the National Flag. It barred the use of the flag in advertisements or for any other commercial activity. In fact, even citizens were not allowed to fly the flag over their homes, offices or factories except on certain designated days like the Republic Day or the Independence Day.)
There is a clear proviso in the flag code permitting putting flower petals inside the national tricolour before it is unfurled on special occasions like Republic Day and Independence Day… the proviso permitting the use of petals was added to Section 5.9 on 24th January, 1997.
The Indian National Flag was hoisted on Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world, on 29th May, 1953, along with the Union Jack and the Nepalese National flag. Madam Bhikhaji Rustom Cama was the first Indian to have raised an Indian Flag in Germany in August, 1907 and announced to the world our political flight with the British, for the country’s Independence. Madam Cama’s flag had green on the top, golden saffron and red at the bottom. Eight lotuses representing the eight provinces were lined on the Indian Flag. Vande Mataram was written in gold with the Crescent towards the hoist of the flag and the Sun on the other side.
In 1971, the Indian Flag went into space on board Apollo-15. It flew into space as a medallion on the spacesuit worn by Cosmonaut Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, during the Indo-Soviet joint space flight in April, 1984. Amiably we also call our National Flag by the popular name ‘Tiranga’.