A flag is a symbol that represents an abstract idea of a nation and its sovereignty. The Indian National Flag, therefore, represents the hopes and aspirations of the people of India. It is the symbol of our national pride as it has a rich history that’s been carried around since the early 1900s.
In this article, we’re going to see the various changes to our national flag since its very first inception in the year 1906. The evolution of our national flag has sailed through many ups and downs during the last century to get recognition as the symbol of a free country. It has now become a source of pride for hundreds of millions of people in India as it reflects the rapid political and economic development of the nation on the world stage.
The Unofficial Flag Of India In 1906
This is India’s first recognized unofficial flag that was made during our national struggle for freedom from the British empire. This unofficial flag of India’s pre-independence is said to have been hoisted on August 7, 1906 in the Parsee Bagan Square in present day Kolkata.
Despite the launch being only briefly covered by a few newspapers, it was a significant event in the history of India. The flag was introduced as a result of the partition of Bengal in 1905 by the British. So, it was representing the independence movement (Swadeshi Movement) that sought to unite the multitude of castes and races within the country to fight against the Britishers.
The flag was composed of three horizontal strips of red, yellow, and green, as you can see from the image above. The green stripe on the uppermost contains eight white lotuses, representing the eight main provinces of British India.
The eight main provinces of British India were Burma, Bengal, Madras, Bombay, the United Provinces, the Central Provinces, Berar, Punjab, and Assam. If you don’t know what these provinces are, then let me give you a quick overview.
Actually, the said provinces were the administrative divisions of British governance in India, and collectively, these states were called British India. The middle yellow segment had the words “Bande Mataram” written in Sanskrit, and the bottom red stripe had a half moon on the left and a shining sun on the right side.
The Berlin Committee Flag In 1907
One year later, during the same period, another slightly modified version of the previous flag was subsequently hoisted by Madam Bhikaji Cama with her group of exiled revolutionaries in Stuttgart, Germany. She hoisted this flag during a meeting of the Second International Social Congress on August 22, 1907.
Thus, it attained the status of being the first Indian flag to be hoisted on any foreign land. The flag she used was very similar to the first unofficial one hoisted in 1906 in Calcutta for the independence movement that was happening within the country.
This edition of the flag has an almost similar pattern except that the top strip has only one lotus but seven stars denoting the Saptarishis. This is also the very first flag that standardized the use of saffron color in the national flag.
Despite the flag being used in several international meetings and gatherings, it failed to generate any meaningful enthusiasm amongst Indian nationalists, which was highly needed at that time.
The Flag Of The Home Rule Movement In 1917
During the home rule movement, when our political struggle had taken a sharp and definite angle, the below flag was introduced. The movement was started in India under the shadow of the First World War, and it lasted for around two years between 1916 and 1918.
Under the leadership of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant, the following flag was introduced to the home rule movement to raise a voice demanding the status of a dominion within the British Empire. This home rule flag had five red and four green horizontal stripes. Interestingly, the proportional aspect of the flag size was not square.
In the upper left corner, the Union flag was seated, which shows the domination of the British over India. A crescent and seven-pointed star can also be seen floating across the flag from top to bottom, representing the Saptarishi constellation, which is believed to be very sacred in Hinduism.
The Unofficially Adopted Flag In 1921
After the peace treaty between Britain and Ireland happened in the early 1920s, the necessity for a nation-wide flag gained more prominence across British India, which prompted the British Indian government to look for a renewed emphasis on the flag as a national symbol.
In April 1921, Gandhi finally proposed a new flag in his weekly published English journal, “Young India”, emphasizing the need for an Indian flag to reunite the country’s men for the independence movement.
He proposed a flag with a spinning wheel at the center to symbolize the progress of the nation. However, it’s said that the idea of the spinning wheel was originally given by Lala Hansraj and Pingali Venkaiah.
Anyhow, Gandhi then commissioned them to prepare the final design of a flag featuring a chakra, or spinning wheel, on a red and green banner, as shown in the image below. The first draft of the flag had only two horizontal stripes—red and green. The red and green colors were in the flag to represent the Hindu and Muslim population of the nation accordingly.
But later, in a letter to Congress, Gandhi proposed adding another white stripe at the top to represent the other religions as well. Two years later, on April 13, 1923, this flag was finally hoisted in the present-day Nagpur during a procession by local Congress volunteers.
The Swaraj Flag In 1931
The year 1931 was a significant landmark in the history of India’s national flag as it clearly stated that it no longer bore any communal significance. The colors in the flag now no longer represent the Hindu or Muslim majorities.
The red color has also been replaced with saffron. The white band also shifted to the middle, containing the spinning wheel at its center. The spinning wheel now symbolizes the Swadeshi movement that has gotten bigger during the period.
This specific version of the flag had become such a significant component in the institutional life of India that the British finally started to show concerns over it. They try to impose some rules over the display of the flag by threatening to withdraw funding from the local governments if they don’t obey the rules.
A resolution was passed to adopt the tricolor as the official national flag of India, and finally, the Indian National Congress (INC) adopted this flag. However, by then it had already become the symbol of the independence movement in India. This flag was hoisted on August 31, 1931.
Since 1947, India Has Flown The Tricolor Flag
After centuries of struggle, India eventually gained its independence from the cruel British in August 1947. When the constituent assembly was formed after independence, India needed a brand new flag that could be symbolized as a free country.
Then, on July 14th, 1947, the committee proposed a modified version of the Swaraj Flag of 1931 be adopted as the national flag of India. To make the flag acceptable for all parties, it was also ensured that it wouldn’t carry any sign of communal undertones.
Thus, the spinning wheel was replaced by the Ashoka Chakra, representing the dharma and law. At the constituent assembly on July 22nd, 1947, the design was finalized with three horizontal stripes of saffron, white, and green, all in equal proportions.
The Chakra was placed in the middle of the white band. After all the proposed changes were approved, the flag was ultimately hosted on August 15th, 1947. Since then, it’s been proudly serving as the national flag of India.
Commonly Asked Questions
Who made the first Indian flag?
In 1906, the first flag representing the Swadeshi movement was made and hoisted in Calcutta. The hym Vande Mataram, written in the middle strip of the flag, was a direct result of the influence of the novel Anandamath by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya in the 1870s.
So, in a way, he was the one who heavily contributed to the design of the flag. However, there’s not any publicly available document on the internet that could say exactly who was responsible for the flag’s design.
What is our national flag a symbol of?
The latest national flag, after India’s independence in 1947, has three bands of colors: saffron, white, and green. The saffron color indicates the strength and courage of the country. The middle portion of the white color symbolizes peace and truth.
The Dharma Chakra within it depicts the wheel of the laws, and it intends to show that there is life in movement and death in stagnation. The lower green band shows the fertility, growth, and auspiciousness of the land.
Why Is There an Ashoka Chakra on the Indian Flag?
The Ashoka Chakra in the national flag of India depicts the “Dharma Chakra”, which is represented with 24 spokes. It is also called the “wheel of duty and laws.” The 24 spokes also represent the 24 qualities of a person, such as chastity, health, peace, sacrifice, morality, service, forgiveness, friendship, prosperity, love, and many more.
Which country’s flag is similar to India’s?
The flag of Niger is very similar to the Indian national flag, consisting of three horizontal bands of color-orange, white, and green. Both countries have a circular symbol sitting at the center of the flag, which is exactly in the middle of the white band.
The only difference between the two flags is that India has a navy blue Ashoka Chakra, whereas Niger has an orange roundel sitting in the center. Also, the current flag of India has not been changed since 1947, whereas Niger adopted their flag in the year 1959. This is the reason that two of these countries’ flags have similar features.