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India@75: Evolutionary history of the Indian tricolour flag

The first national flag was hoisted during the Swadeshi movement in 1907 at the Parsee Bagan Square at Calcutta.

Indian Tricolour, which electrified the national movement, also has an evolutionary history. The first national flag was hoisted during the Swadeshi movement in 1907. It was hoisted at the Parsee Bagan Square at Calcutta. The flag had three horizontal bands with green, yellow and red colours. Vandemataram was written in Devanagari in the middle band of white. Eight lotus flowers were inscribed on top green representing the eight Indian provinces. At the bottom red band were the Hindu symbol of the Sun and the Islamic one of the crescent moon.  

In 1907 an Indian flag was hoisted for the first time in a foreign country. It was at the International Socialist Conference held in Stuttgart, Germany. Prominent Indian freedom fighter Madame Cama raised the flag with only one lotus instead of eight and seven stars denoting the Saptharshi constellation.  

1917 was the following year in the flag’s journey. Annie Besant and Tilak raised a flag as part of the Home Rule movement. But the movement’s objective was not Poorna Swaraj for India but the status of an autonomous region within the British empire. Hence the flag contained the British Union Jack. Its red and green represent the Hindu and Muslim communities. It also contained the motifs of 7 stars and also a crescent moon. 

Congress, for the first time, adopted a flag in 1921. A design was submitted to Gandhiji by a young freedom fighter, Pinkali Venkaiah. It had Congress’s symbol spinning wheel superimposed on horizontal bands of red and green representing Hindus and Muslims. Gandhi suggested including a white band too to represent all other communities. Venkaiah’s design was adopted with some amendments in 1931. Red was replaced by saffron. Congress declared that the colours did not represent religious communities, but saffron stood for courage, white for peace, and green for fertility. The spinning wheel represented progress. 

The Constituent Assembly adopted it as free India’s national flag with the spinning wheel replaced by Emperor Ashoka’s Dharmachakra, the wheel of wisdom.

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