On Independence day, August 15, the national flag flutters high in almost every school. It is a familiar sight, with orange, white and green stripes and the blue chakra in the middle. Flag stickers, badges, labels, are distributed with sweets every Independence day.
Did you know that the Indian national flag did not become what it is overnight. It went through many changes before it took its present form? As part of the Swadeshi movement, (in which Indians refused to use British products), many flags were designed.
One of the earliest of these was a Tricolour in red band on top, yellow in the middle and green at the bottom. The red band had eight white lotuses, while the bottom green had a sun and crescent moon, and the words “vande mataram” were inscribed on the middle yellow. Pingali Venkayya designed as many as 30 flags. Even British people interested in Swaraj, like Annie Besant, designed flags, but there was not much general interest in the idea of having an Indian national flag. Mahatma Gandhi commissioned Pingali Venkayya to design one with the charkha (spinning wheel) in the middle with two bands, red and green. A white band was later added. This became one of the earliest flags to be hoisted in India.
Just before August 15, 1947, a committee was set up by the Constituent Assembly, which consisted of eminent national leaders, and they decided to modify this flag that had been designed by the Indian National Congress. The spinning wheel of this flag was replaced by the Asoka wheel that represented dharma . The new flag now had three colours: deep saffron, white, and green, with a blue Asoka Chakra in the centre.
S.Radhakrishnan, the first Vice-President of India, made a stirring speech on the flag: “Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gain and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to (the) soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends. The “Ashoka Chakra” in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma .”
The National Anthem “Jana Gana Mana” is the first stanza of five of a hymn composed by Rabindranath Tagore. Although it was written as early as 1911, not many knew of its existence until it was set to score. Tagore and his friend the poet James Cousins were in Madanapalle when Tagore sang the poem to Cousins in Bengali. Tagore and Cousins' wife Margaret, an expert in Western Classical Music, set the notations.
The song “Vande Mataram”, composed by Bankim Chandra Chatterji was much more popular because the slogan “Vande mataram” was used everywhere in the struggle for freedom. “Jana gana mana” was chosen as the national anthem as there was the feeling that “Vande Mataram” did not include all the religions that existed in India.
The national flag, with its colours and the wheel of dharma, and the national anthem, with its evocation of the lands and people of India, stand for the quality of tolerance that the people who fought for freedom held as one of the highest ideals in the making of the nation.