The national flag represents freedom, pride, patriotism and much more. To mark the 75th year of India’s independence, the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign is encouraging people to hoist the national flag at their homes.
The Tricolour of today, however, has an interesting history and it can be said that the Tiranga was in the making for almost four decades – from 1906 to 1947.
Designed by Sachindra Prasad Bose and Hemchandra Kanungo, India’s first unofficial flag, also called the Calcutta Flag, was hoisted to mark the first anniversary of Bengal’s Partition, which was announced in 1905.
When it was first hoisted on August 7, 1906, at the Parsi Bagan Square in Calcutta (now Kolkata), the flag had ‘Vande Mataram’ written on it. It had eight flowers which represented eight provinces while the Sun and a crescent moon with a star represented Hindus and Muslims.
The very next year, on August 22, 1907, Madam Bhikaji Cama, who contributed immensely to the early days of India’s freedom struggle, unfurled the first version of independent India’s flag at the International Socialist Conference at Stuttgart in Germany. According to some accounts, she first unfurled the flag in Paris in 1907. The flag was jointly designed by Madam Cama, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, and Shyamji Krishna Varma.
It was called the Saptarishi Flag after the seven stars representing seven sages or rishis of ancient India in the Ursa Major constellation.
Exactly a decade later, Dr Annie Besant and Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak hoisted a flag at the Congress session in Calcutta during the Home Rule Movement in 1917. This was very different from the two earlier versions.
The flag had five red and four green horizontal stripes arranged alternately. The seven stars of the Saptarishi constellation were superimposed on them in roughly the same shape as they appear in Ursa Major. The left-hand top corner had the Union Jack and a white crescent moon and star were on the right-hand side. The flag was co-designed by Besant and Tilak.
In 1921, Pingali Venkayya, a young man from Machilipatnam in what is now present-day Andhra Pradesh, came up with a national flag in red and green colours.
Pingali incorporated the changes and this flag, also called the Gandhi Flag and Charkha Flag was first unfurled at the Congress party meeting in Ahmedabad. Though it was widely used during the freedom struggle, this flag was not adopted as the official flag of Congress.
When Congress met in Karachi in 1931, the final resolution on a flag was passed. Pingali had designed this tricolour flag with three horizontal stripes of saffron, white and green and the Charkha in the centre. The saffron symbolized courage, white stood for truth and peace and green for prosperity.
This flag of 1931 was used by the Provisional Government of Free India during the Second World War.
Finally, ahead of India’s independence in August 1947, the Constituent Assembly was formed to discuss the country’s flag. The flag committee set up on June 23, 1947, was headed by Rajendra Prasad and included Abul Kalam Azad, Sarojini Naidu, C Rajagopalachari, KM Panikar, Dr B R Ambedkar and KM Munshi.
The committee resolved that the flag should not have any communal undertones. The Charkha was also replaced by the Ashoka Chakra, which depicts the Dharma Chakra of Sarnath. The flag was unfurled for the first time on August 15, 1947, and continues to be the pride of every Indian.