India's 75th Independence Day: History and evolution of the Indian national flag

India's 75th Independence Day: History and evolution of the Indian national flag

While PM mentioned the tricolour and how it was adopted on this day, it is pertinent to note that our national flag went through several iterations

Ahead of India's 75th Independence Day anniversary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged the citizens to participate in 'Har Ghar Tiranga' (Tricolour at every home) movement by hoisting the national flag in their homes between August 13-15.

Taking to Twitter, the PM wrote, "Today, 22nd July has a special relevance in our history. It was on this day in 1947 that our National Flag was adopted. Sharing some interesting nuggets from history including details of the committee associated with our Tricolour and the first Tricolour unfurled by Pandit Nehru."

While PM mentioned the tricolour and how it was adopted on this day, it is pertinent to note that our national flag went through several iterations before it was agreed upon in the final and current version.

Bhagini (Sister) Nivedita flag - 1905

The first version of the Indian flag came in the year 1904 when Sister Nivedita, more fondly called as Bhagini Nivedita, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda designed a yellow and red flag with a 'Vajra' in the centre and 'Vande Mataram' written in Bengali in the centre.

Unofficial flag of India - 1906

On August 7, 1906, the first unofficial Indian flag was hoisted in Parsee Bagan (Modern day Girish Park) in Kolkata. This time, the flag had three equal horizontal stripes of green, yellow and red. Moreover, the top green strip had eight lotus flowers, half-opened in white. The crescent moon and the sun in the bottom red half represented Islam and Hinduism, respectively. Meanwhile, the centre panel in yellow had 'Vande Matram' written across it in the Devnagiri script.

Berlin Committee Flag -1907

Later in the year, based on the flag unfurled at Parsee Bagan, another flag, which would come to be known as the 'Cama flag' or 'Berlin Committee flag' came into existence. It was collectively designed by Madam Bhikaji Cama, Veer Savarkar and Shyamji Krishna Varma. Instead of the red in the top horizontal space, it had saffron and eight lotuses.

Reportedly, this was the first time that the Indian flag was unfurled at the international level. It was hoisted at the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart, Germany. Another iteration of the same flag had one lotus and seven stars denoting saptarishi.

The Home Rule Movement flag - 1917

After two iterations of the national flag in a relatively short period, the next change only came in 1917. Designed by revolutionaries Annie Besant & Lokmanya Tilak, this flag came at the peak of the 'Home rule movement'. The aim of the home rule movement was the attainment of home rule or a dominion status for India under the British empire.

This particular flag differed vastly from the Calcutta and Cama flags. Instead of three horizontal stripes, the new flag had five red and four green horizontal strips arranged alternately, with seven stars in the saptarishi configuration superimposed. In the top left corner lay the Union Jack while a white crescent star stood in the opposite corner.

National flag unofficially adopted in 1921

Four years later, when Mahatma Gandhi was visiting Vijayawada for the he All India Congress Committee, Pingali Venkayya designed a flag and submitted it to him. The flag initially had only green and red, representing Muslim and Hindu communities. However, Mahatma Gandhi suggested adding a white stripe and a spinning wheel or Chrakha. The spinning wheel was popularised by Gandhi as a symbol of nationalist struggle. Later on, this flag would lay the foundation of the current tricolour.

India's 75th Independence Day: History and evolution of the Indian national flag
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Flag adopted in 1931

A decade later, Pingali Venkayya redesigned the flag to make it more inclusive. this time, the red was removed for saffron and placed at the top. The white stripe was dropped into the middle while green was retained at the bottom. The Charkha still found its place in the middle. However, it was clearly stated that the flag and its colour had no significance for any particular community. The Saffron signified strength, White stood for truth and the bottom depicted fertility. In the end, a resolution was passed by Congress to make it the official flag of the country.

The Tricolour

The final iteration of the current tricolour came in 1947. The charkha was replaced by Ashoka's Dharma chakra as the emblem on the flag in the middle white stripe. The Constituent assembly accepted and adopted its as the country's national flag. It served as the national flag of the Dominion of India between 15 August 1947 and 26 January 1950 and that of the Republic of India afterwards.

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