The National Flag
"A flag is a necessity for all nations. Millions have died for it. It is no doubt a kind of idolatry which ,t would bea sin to destroy. For, a flag represents an IdeaL The unfurling of the Union Jack evokes in the English breast sentlments whose strength it is difficult to measure. The Stars and Stripes mean a world to the Americans. The Star and the Crescent will call forth the best bravery in Islam."
“It will be necessary for us Indians Muslims, Christians Jews, Parsis, and all others to whom Indta is their home—to recognize a common flag to live and to die for."
—M . K. GANDHI
The evolution of the Indian National Flag reflects the political developments in the country during the 20th century. The various political trends, communal tensions, waves of enthusiasm can all be seen in the people’s attitude to the flag.
The first national flag in India is said to have been hoisted on August 7, 1906, in the Parsee Bagan Square (Green Park) in Calcutta. The flag was composed of horizontal strips of red, yellow and green.
The red strip at the top had eight white lotuses embossed on it in a row. On the yellow strip the words Vande Mataram were inscribed in deep blue in Devanagari characters. The green strip had a white sun on the left and a white crescent and star on the right.
The second flag was hoisted in Paris by Madame Cama and her band of exiled revolutionaries in 1907 (according to some inl9OS). This was very similar to the first flag except that the top strip had only one lotus but seven stars denoting the Saptarishi. This flag was also exhibited at a socialist conference in Berlin.
By the time our third flag went up in 1917, our political struggle had taken a definite turn. Dr. Annie Besant and Lokmanya Tilak hoisted it during the Home kule movement. This flag had five red and four green horizontal strips arranged alternately, with seven stars in the aptarishi configuration super-imposed on them. In the left-hand top corner (the pole end) was the Union Jack. There was also a white crescent and star in one corner.
This indicated the aspirations of the time. The inclusion of the Union Jack symbolised the goal of Dominion Status.
The presence of the Union Jack, however, made the flag generally unacceptable. The politcal compromise that it implied was not popular. The call for new leadership brought Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to the fore in 1921 and, through him, the first tricolour. During the session of the All India Congress Committee which met at Bezwada (now Vijayawath) about this time, an Andhra youth prepared a flag and took it to Gandhiji. It was made up of two colours—red and green—representing the two major communites. Gandhiji suggested the addition of a white strip to represent the remaining communites of India and the charkha to symbolise progress.
Thus was the tricolour born, but it had not yet been officially accepted by the All India Congress Committee. Gandhiji’s approval, however, made it sufficiently popular to be hoisted on all Congress occasions.
In 1931, when the A.I.C.C. met at Karachi, a resolution was passed stressing the need for a flag which would be officially acceptable to the Congress. There was already considerable controversy over the significance of the colours in the flag. Communal troubles had set in. The two major communities were at the parting of the ways and the stress was on communal interpretation.
Meanwhile a committee of seven was appointed to elicit opinion on the choice of a flag. It suggested a plain saffron flag with a charkha in reddish brown in the extreme left-hand corner. The A.I.C.C. did not accept the suggestion.
The year 1931 was a landmark in the history of the flag. A resolution was passed adopting a tricolor flag as our national flag. This flag, the forbear of the present one, was saffron, white and green. It was, however, clearly stated that it bore no communal significance and was to be interpreted thus:
Saffron for courage and sacrifice
White for truth and peace
Green for faith and chivalry
It also carried a charkha in blue on the white band. the size was three breadths by two breadths.
This resolution for the first time conferred official Congress recognition on the tricolour as the National Flag. Henceforward it became our Flag and the symbol of our determination to be free. On July 22, 1947, the Constituent Assembly adopted It as Free India National Flag. After the advent of Independence, the colours and their significance remained the same. Only the Dharma Charkha of Emperor Asoka was adopted in place of the charkha as the emblem on the flag.
Thus, the tricolour flag of the Congress Party eventually became the tricolour flag of Independent India - OUR TIRANGA.