TODAY -

Tricolour - Some significant facts

S Balakrishnan *



As the Tricolour is hoisted across the nation on the 76th Independence Day on successful completion of 75 years of independence, let us look back at some significant facts about the Tricolour-Who designed the Tricolour?- It was Shri Pingali Venkaiah, a freedom fighter and staunch Gandhian, who first made a rough design of the national flag in 1921.

He was born on 2nd August 1878 into a Telugu Brahmin family in Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh. After schooling, he went to Bombay and joined the British army at the age of 19. Venkaiah was sent to South Africa to take part in the Second Boer War (1899-1902). It was there that Venkaiah noticed how the British soldiers were inspired of nationhood just by the sight of the Union Jack. This kindled him to design a national flag for India.

It was also there that he met Mr. Gandhi and became his follower. On return to India, Venkaiah engaged himself fully in creation of a national flag for India and was repeatedly pressing this idea at Congress sessions. At last, during the Congress meeting in Vijayawada in 1921, Gandhiji approved Venkaiah's design of the national flag.

Called Swaraj flag, it had red & green bands representing Hinduism & Islam, with a charkha. On Gandhiji's advice, a white band was added on the top, representing peace. It began to be hoisted at Congress events though yet to be officially approved by AICC.

In 1931, as advised by the Flag Committee set up to sort out the religious aspects of the Swaraj flag, the red was replaced with saffron and the white band was placed in the middle with the charkha within this white band. The colours now stood for courage & sacrifice, truth & peace, and faith & strength, respectively, while the Charkha stood for peoples' welfare.

Post-Independence, a national flag committee under President Rajendra Prasad replaced the charkha with the Dharma Chakra. Venkaiah breathed his last on 4 July 1963 in poverty. It was only in 2009 that he was dug out of history and a postage stamp was released in his honour.

For his efforts towards creating a national flag, Venkaiah is known as Jhanda (Flag) Venkaiah. Official hoisting - On July 22, 1947, the Indian national flag was officially hoisted. Its stripes remained the same saffron-white-green, but the spinning wheel was replaced by a blue chakra—the Dharma Chakra ("Wheel of the Law"). The Dharma Chakra, is associated with Emperor Ashoka (3rd century BCE).

Vintage Flag of 1947 - The one and only surviving vintage national flag in India, hoisted on the first Independence Day on August 15, 1947, is being conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in its Fort Museum, Chennai. Special efforts have been taken to preserve this 75-year-old vintage flag.

The 12'x8' pure silk flag was hoisted after lowering the British Union Jack at 5.05 am at Fort St. George, Chennai. And this flag mast at Fort St. George is one of the tallest in the country with 110 ft. height /148 ft. .11 with its base! Tricolour Hoisting in 1932 – At 2 AM on the shivering early morning of 26th January 1932, Arya Bhashyam climbed up the 148 ft. .11 flag mast at Fort St. George, the seat of British power in Madras, and hoisted the national flag!

Bhashyam tore the Union Jack into pieces. 26th January had been declared as Purna Swaraj (Complete Independence) Day in 1930 by the Congress in its Lahore meet. Bhashyam wanted to commemorate this significant day. He converted his white dhoti into a tricolor flag and wrote on it in Tamil "From today India has attained independence".

Tying this flag around his waist to evade security checks, he climbed up the 148' tall flag mast in the shivering wee hours of January 26, 1932. He was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment. Arya Bhashyam died in 1999 at the age of 93. Arya Bhashyam achieved this ten years earlier than Aruna Asaf Ali who hoisted the flag on 9th August 1942 in Bombay where AICC had a Session.

While all praise for Aruna Asaf Ali with Bharat Ratna, Arya Bhashyam is a forgotten hero! First Tricolour Stamp– The first stamp of our Tricolour was also the first stamp of our country. The independent India issued its first stamp on 21st November 1947 with the beaming Tricolour. I don't know why but it was peculiarly priced at 3 IA Annas (1 anna=6.25 paise)!

Tricolour atop Mt. Everest – On 29th May 1953, Tenzing Norgay (Namgyal Wangdi) planted the Indian Tricolour atop Mt. Everest, world's tallest peak! Chief Ministers hoisting the Tricolour – It was only since 1974 that Chief Ministers of the State Government are hoisting the Tricolour at the Independence Day event at the respective State capitals.

Earlier, the Governor of the State was hoisting the flag both on Aug. 15 and 26th January. The change was brought about in 1974, thanks to the efforts of the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Shri M. Karunanidhi (of DMK party).

He wrote to the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, pointing out the anomaly that while in Delhi, the national capital, it was the Prime Minister who hoisted the national flag on 15th Aug. and the President on Republic Day, why should not the Chief Ministers hoist the flag at the state capitals on Aug. 15?

It was acceded to and since 15th August 1974, the State Chief Ministers have been hoisting the Tricolour at the state capitals. Karunanidhi happily hoisted the Tricolour atop the 148' .11 flag mast from the ramparts of Fort St. George!

Netaji hoists Tricolour in 1943 - Even before India obtained independence in 1947, Netaji had the honour of hoisting the Tricolour in 1943 itself on a patch of Indian soil freed from the British. During the course of World War II, Japan had captured the Andaman & Nicobar Islands from the British and, as agreed upon with Netaji's INA, had handed over the Islands to Netaji's Provisional Government of India (POI).

Netaji landed in Port Blair on 29th December 1943. On the next morning (30.12.1943), Netaji achieved his dream of hoisting the Tricolour on a patch of free soil liberated from the British; he hoisted the flag at the Gymkhana Grounds in Port Blair to the accompaniment of national anthem. In his address he raised the slogan "Delhi Chalo" (March on to Delhi) to liberate India from the British yoke.

Let us salute the Tricolour and preserve our hard-won freedom!


* S Balakrishnan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on August 15, 2022.


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