The Indian National Flag

The national flag is an important emblem for all countries. It is the most recognisable symbol for a nation and is associated not only with its identity, but also with its patriotic pride, its national values, its culture and history. Each flag is made up of elements that convey an aspect of the country it represents, be it through the colours and their meaning or an image of a national mascot or value. Given the importance of the national flag on a global level, it is necessary for children to be taught the history and significance of their flag from an early age, to inculcate appropriate pride and respect towards this national symbol. The Indian National Flag has a long history, with various versions, all of which said something different about this land. Read on to know more about the Indian National Flag.

The Indian National Flag

The Indian National Flag is known as the ‘Tiranga’ or ‘Tricolour’ since it is made up of three colours. The colours – Saffron, White and Green – are placed in horizontal stripes in this particular order, in equal proportions. The central white stripe also contains a navy blue wheel with 24 spokes, known as the ‘Ashok Chakra’, placed in the middle. The national flag is an indispensable part of most festivities in India, be it sporting or cultural events, parades or events organised by the Indian armed forces and especially on days of national importance such as Independence Day and Republic Day. Most schools, colleges, public sector companies, banks as well as other organisations organise flag hoisting events during special occasions. Government and administrative landmarks or buildings also usually have a flag in the premises.

The Significance of the Tricolours

Each part of the national flag has been carefully included in the design and represents certain values that describe the history and culture of India. Saffron represents sacrifice, meaning the countrymen should be willing to sacrifice personal gains for the national interest. The white represents light, truth and the path of peace that should always guide the country. Green represents prosperity due to its relation to the earth and plants, which form an important part of India’s economy. The wheel in the middle also has a specific meaning. The Ashok Chakra is seen as the law of dharma or virtue, which should be the aim for all those who follow the flag. Furthermore, the wheel also signifies movement since stagnation can be seen as death and motion as progress.

The History of the National Flag

The current version of the national flag was not always how the Indian National Flag looked. Over the decades and throughout India’s freedom struggle, the flag has gone through many revisions, depending on the context of the times. The earliest version of the flag, which was created after the First War of Independence in 1857, was similar to flags of other British colonies. It had the Union Jack i.e. the British national flag at the top left corner, with a star representing India, on the right side. However this and some other early versions of the flag were rejected by most nationalists, since they did not appropriately represent the country. 


Traditionally, tri-coloured flags have symbolised independence and the fight for freedom throughout world history. Thus, after the partition of Bengal in 1905, a tricolour was created as part of the Swadeshi movement. This flag was green, yellow and red and had the words ‘Vande Mataram’ in the centre. A little while later, in 1916, Annie Besant and Lokmanya Tilak adopted a new flag as part of the Home Rule Movement. This flag consisted of the Union Jack placed at the upper left corner on a background of red and green horizontal stripes. It also had seven stars, and a crescent moon and star on it. This flag was banned by the British government. 


In 1921, Mahatma Gandhi came up with the idea of a national flag with a uniting symbol in the centre. He proposed the charkha or spinning wheel used to spin khadi, as the symbol on the flag. Pingali Venkayya designed such a flag, with red, white and green colours, and the flag was called the Swaraj flag. This flag was officially adopted by the Indian National Congress in 1931. 


After India became independent, a committee was set up to adopt the official flag of the country in 1947. The committee, made up of important figures like Rajendra Prasad, Sarojini Naidu, B.R. Ambedkar, etc. made some modifications to the flag, removing the charkha and adding the Ashok Chakra on the central stripe. The final version of the flag was proposed and adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22 July, 1947 and has remained the national flag of India ever since.