India this year is commemorating 75 years of independence and to celebrate this spirit,a campaign – ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ under the aegis of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ is underway wherein people are on a spree to procure and fly tricolour in their homes, establishments, localities and offices thereby remembering the sacrifices of freedom fighters and soldiers and in honour of those who are defending our borders in most hostile weather conditions besides celebrating the unison and progress that the nation is achieving with the contribution of each and every citizen.
To mark this significant occasion, youngsters are pining flags as display picture on their social media accounts and many are posting a ‘selfie with flag’ on the sites.The best part of this event is that as per prevention of insults to National Honour Act, 1971, flag code of India that came into existence on 26th January 2002 and amendment made in 2021 we can now hoist/fly national flag day and night. We can also fly the flag made up of hand-spun, hand-woven or machine-made cotton/polyester/wool/silk or khadi bunting material on all occasions but in strict accordance with the dignity and honour of the tricolour.
Hoisting or flying tricolour while is a privilege,it’s also a matter of right and pride. Those questioning bringing home a ‘Tiranga’ occasionally and not showing the spirit of patriotism by just being a good law abiding or tax payer citizen can keep their arguments close to their hearts for the simple reason that nothing less than unfurling, hoisting or flying our own national flag that has been earned after a long drawn struggle and sacrificing many precious lives can give a feel of being independent and living in world’s largest democracy.
Ever since the Indian national flag came into existence it has been unfurled on highest of peaks, deep seas, deserts, war zones, national and international sporting events, Indian embassies abroad, national and international meets, in space, in streets, in homes and at all places where Indians live and contribute in nation building in their own way. In a nation where soldiers like Captain Vikram Batra before going for battle in Kargil would say and I quote, “I’ll either come back after raising the Tricolour or wrapped in it”, who wouldn’t fly tricolour at his home or dare to question its sanctity or timing of unfurling.
Now that we are celebrating 75th year of independence we also need to know how India got its national flag. We, in fact owe this to Pingali Venkayya, the person who was the first to give the basic design of national flag in 1921. While the nation remembers him on his 146th birth anniversary, a commemorative postal stamp was also released in his honour. Born on August 2, 1876 in Bhatlapenumarru, (Now Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh), Pingali Venkayya completed his high school studies in Madras and went to Cambridge University.
A soldier turned freedom fighter and finally the architect of Indian flag, Venkayya during second Boer world war in South Africa as British Indian Army soldier while saluting the Union Jack used to desire having India’s own flag. Having met Mahatama Gandhi and inspired by his philosophy, he remained associated with him for over fifty years only to return to India and start designing Indian flag way back in 1916. He even published a book on flags of other nations.
Though the first Indian flag having two red bands and a green with Charkha at the centre designed by Venkayya was approved by Mahatama Gandhi, several changes were made to it. First a white band was added to it and then other changes followed. This design was approved by the Indian Parliament after incorporating modifications of replacing Charkha with Ashoka Chakra. PingaliVenkayya breathed his last in 1963,unsung. It was after decades that his contribution was recognised and a statue of him was installed in his village, Bhatlapenumarru, Krishna district in 1998.
Earlier colours of flag were believed to be representing religions but later its top saffron band was made to indicate the strength and courage of the country, white middle band that of peace and truth with Dharma Chakra and last green band that of fertility, growth and auspiciousness of the land. This flag, that today millions of Indians are getting ready to fly in their homes and having 24 pokes of Ashoka Chakra symbolising Dharma Chakra was finally adopted in 22 July, 1947 by the constituent assembly and it became the official flag of the Dominion of India on 15 August 1947.
Pingali Venkayya’s, one statue has also been installed on Tank Bund, Hyderabad as a matter of respect and to honour the legend. A convention centre in Bhatlapenumarru has also been dedicated to him and a postage stamp released in his honour. Also known as Cotton Gandhi, Venkayya was instrumental in Swadeshi Andolan and breathed his last on 4 July 1963 in poverty. This unsung hero got his due after his demise when All India Radio (AIR) Vijaywada was named after Venkayyaa and a statue of him unveiled in its premises.
Today when ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign is picking up, we need to stay cautious to furl the flag and ensure that it’s not disrespected. The best part is that amended laws have enabled us to furl tricolour in our homes and institutions round the clock, now. Some codes and ethics especially ‘Flag Code of India 2002’ guide us how to hoist or unfurl National Flag. While we have been allowed to use hand-spun and hand-woven or machine-made, cotton/polyester/wool/silk/khadi buntings for national flag we need to ensure that it’s of proportionate size and hoisted on “all days” in accordance with full dignity.
Since childhood we had been seeing many countries furling their national flags on government buildings, homes, hotels, private and public places round the clock but we in India were guided by some laws is not to hoist tricolour round the clock. Since the law stands amended we are free to fly tricolour day and night which is a privilege and matter of right which everyone must exercise.
We should never fly a damaged national flag, keep its position correct with saffron band on top, ensure that it doesn’t fly lower than any other flag, not put anything like flowers on it, not used to cover desks or draped on anything for even decorative purposes and not fly it half-mast. Though we see many nations allowing its citizens to use their national flag to be used as a portion of costume, uniform, printing on many articles yet no such law allows us to use our national flag like that. So, we have to be very careful!
Amid these primary dos and don’ts, the National Flag should also not be used in private funerals, for lettering and not used on cars and other vehicles as it has been limited to a few chosen persons holding constitutional positions. The amended flag code of India, 2002 vide order dated 19th July, 2022 and clause (xi) of paragraph 2.2 of Part-II of the flag code of India allows us to fly our national flag, day and night which is going to make every home or work place look great and inculcate a spirit of belongingness.
The private citizens earlier, as per the original code, were prohibited to use national flag for displaying or unfurling except on Independence Day and the Republic Day. Ever since, on the plea of citizen, Navin Jindal, the Supreme Court of India directed Union Government to amend the code and allow flag usage by private citizens as well, people are jubilant and are out there to use the flag on all days including national events as well.
It may also be recalled that first Indian flag was called Swaraj Flag and later on when Saffron colour was added to it, it was called PuranSwaraj Flag. In fact, all Indian princely states had their own flag and after rebellion of 1857 – an uprising against the British East India Company, it was British rulers who first made a national flag for India which however was dominated by western designs and colours.
Later when the design of flag was to be changed, William Coldstream, a British member of the Indian Civil Service gave his proposal of removing star from the flag which was rejected. Then,the idea of having something Indian was floated, like adding Ganesha or Kali to the flag as proposed by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Aurobindo Ghosh and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay respectively. Someone even suggested having cow symbol but religious constraints were cited as reasons to turn down these moves. After partition of Bengal in 1905 a flag having Vande Mataram written on it was also introduced but it couldn’t garner much support.
Bhikaji Cama modified this flag and later a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita added a thunderbolt to it andwas produced before Indian National Congress in 1906. Annie Besant and Bal GangadharTilak also adopted a new flag that had a Union Jack in it but was banned. When in 1921, Mahatama Gandhi wrote in Young India about India’s own flag, PingaliVenkayya designed a flag. It was in 1923 that a flag movement was launched by Jawaharlal Nehru and Sarojini Naidu which was managed by SardarVallabhbhai Patel.
Sensing the mood of people, when Governor-General Louis Mountbatten’s in 1947 proposed an Indian flag with a Union Jack in the canton, it was rejected by Jawaharlal Nehru and later, the constituent assembly set up an adhoc committee headed by Rajendra Prasad including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sarojini Naidu, C. Rajagopalachari, K. M. Munshi and B. R. Ambedkar as its members to decide about Indian Flag. The final flag was acceptable to all parties and communities as it’s design didn’t have any communal undertones. This is the tricolour that we had been unfurling since Independence till date.
Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is maintaining the specifications of flag. Today aircraft carrying the President, the Vice President or the Prime Minister on a visit to any foreign countries uses Indian National Flag on their aircrafts and on their cars. It’s flown half-mast all over the country on the demise of the President, Vice President or Prime Minister or foreign dignitaries. It is also flown half-mast on the demise of Governors, Lt. Governors and Chief Ministers in the respective states and union territories besides used to drape coffins of martyrs of state, military, central Para-military forces but can’t be lowered into the grave or burnt in the pyre.
Now that we are celebrating 75 years of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has well described its importance and I quote, “It means elixir of energy of independence; elixir of inspirations of the warriors of freedom struggle; elixir of new ideas and pledges; and elixir of Aatmanirbharta. Therefore, this Mahotsav is a festival of awakening of the nation; festival of fulfilling the dream of good governance; and the festival of global peace and development”. Hence, celebrating this spirit and flying national flag is a matter of pride especially when it symbolises each and every Indian’s hard work, sacrifices, traditions and winning moments across the globe. Be proud and fly a Tiranga!
(The writer is senior journalist)