Evolution of the Indian National Flag

Vexillologist SEKHAR CHAKRABARTI, author and passionate collector of flag, stamps and flag artefacts writes about the history and significance of the Indian National Flag



Sekhar Chakrabarti
Jawaharlal Nehru with the Indian National Flag



Unfurling the National Flag is a sign of a country’s honour and sovereignty. However, there is a lot of significance attached with the flag that few understand or can interpret. The Indian National Flag has a vast history that dates back to 1883 when the first thoughts and speculations started on the design and interpretation of Independent India’s flag. The design of the Indian flag started with the advent of the feeling of Nationalism among the people of the country. Here is a trace of the history of the flag:

1883: National flag bearing a figure of the Sun was designed by the Indian National Society founded by Srish Chandra Basu in Lahore.

1888: Raj Narayan Bose first suggested a Lotus as the national symbol in his book Bridhya Hindur Asha.

1904: Sister Nivedita’s essay Vajra Flag

1906: Vande Mataram Flag created by the members of the Anti-Circular Committee and hoisted for the first time by Sir S N Bannerjee on Boycott Day on August 7. Sir Dadabhai Naoroji hoisted the same flag at the Calcutta Session of Congress in December of the same year.

1907: Madam Cama’s Vande Mataram flag was unfurled for the first time in a foreign land in Stuttgart, Germany.

1916: The Indian Flag Mission was formed and Pingali Venkayya published a booklet titled National Flag of India.

1917: Annie Besant’s Home Rule flag that was devised in consultation with Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mohd Ali Jinnah, BP Wadia,  was hoisted for the first time at the Calcutta Session

1921: Pingali Venkayya published his article on the design on the first Swadeshi flag with inputs from Lala Hansraj on the Chakra emblem.  Mahatma Gandhi published an article on the National Flag that was published in April. The Swaraj Flag was raised for the first time in the Ahmedabad Congress

1931: Formation of Flag Committee. Dr Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay’s article published on National Flag of India in May. The all-saffron Charkha flag was recommended by the Flag Committee. But the flag never saw the light of day. The Purna Swaraj Flag with new colour scheme was approved by the AICC at its Bombay CWC presided by Sardar Vallabhai Patel and the prototype flag was designed by Dr N S Hardiker.

1943: INA’s Springing Tiger Flag adopted by Netaji Subhas Bose

1947: On February 20, the British Prime Minister, Clement R Atlee, declared that the British would  transfer power to India latest by June 1948. The Viceroy Louis Mountbatten, however, worked out a compromise of the Partition of India and brought forward the date of Independence on 15 August 1947. He also suggested that the Union Jack of the British flag be retained on the Indian flag. However, his suggestion did not find support. It was felt that the Purna Swaraj flag bearing the charkha symbol was symbolic of the Congress party. An Ad-Hoc Committee was formed in June to design a new National Flag for Independent India. On July 22, Jawaharlal Nehru placed the recommendations before the Constituent Assembly. He said that the flag should have three horizontal bands of saffron, white and green with a symbol of wheel (Asoka Chakra) in blue.