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Republic of India, Bharat, Bharatavarsha

Last modified: 2004-12-29 by rob raeside
Keywords: india | bharat | wheel | chakra | ashoka chakra |
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[Flag of India] by Zeljko Heimer
Flag adopted 22 July 1947, coat of arms adopted 26 January 1950.

See also:

National Flag and Jack

The flag was first flown and recognized as the Indian National Flag (not just as that of the Congress Party) in Hamburg in 1942.
Ed Haynes, 30 September 1998

On 15 August 1947 the dominions of India and Pakistan were established. India adopted the familiar horizontal tricolor of orange, white, and green with a blue Ashoka Chakra at the center. The tricolor had been used, unofficially, since the early 1920s as the flag of the Indian National Congress, with the colors representing Hinduism (orange), Islam (green), and a hoped-for unity and peace (white). More unofficially, the flag was patterned on the other example of struggle against British imperialism, Ireland. Most often, a blue spinning wheel was shown in the center, derived from Gandhi's call for economic self-sufficiency through hand-spinning.

The spoked Ashoka Chakra (the "wheel of the law" of the 3rd-century BC Mauryan Emperor Ashoka) replaced the Gandhian spinning wheel to add historical "depth" and separate the national flag from the INC party flag (and Indian political party flags are another tale).
Ed Haynes, 10 April 1996

The national flag strictly is a state flag, but Album des Pavillons (2000) in a note explains that it may be used by private citizens only in certain circumstances.
Zeljko Heimer, 6 November 2001

Concerning the use of the national flag as a war flag (military flag), see our page on the Indian army.

Colours of the flag

Note: we have found it almost impossible to represent the shade of saffron on the Indian flag adequately for all monitors - some show it too yellow, other too orange. If you compare it with the colours on the flag of Brunei and Ireland you will see we have indeed chosen a tone between orange and yellow, as close to saffron as we can.

These are approximate colours shades for the Indian national flag:
Orange: CMYK 0-50-90-0, Pantone 021c; Green: CMYK 100-0-70-30, Pantone 341c
Santiago Dotor, 26 February 2001

The Indian saffron is approximated with browser-safe colours RGB 255-204-0 (FOTW Y+), and Indian green might be well 51-153-51.
Zeljko Heimer, 6 November 2001

Meaning of the Flag

'The Indian flag is a horizontal tricolor in equal proportion of deep saffron on the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom. The ratio of the width to the length of the flag is two is to three. In the centre of the white band, there is a wheel in navy blue to indicate the Dharma Chakra, the wheel of law in the Sarnath Lion Capital. This center symbol or the 'CHAKRA' is a symbol dating back to 2nd century BC. Its diameter approximates the width of the white band and it has 24 spokes, which intends to show that there is life in movement and death in stagnation. The saffron stands for courage and sacrifice; the white, for purity and truth; the green for growth and auspiciousness.

The Constituent Assembly which drew up the Constitution of India, adopted, on 22 July 1947, the tricolor as Independent India's National Flag. After a debate, the Dharma Chakra (of Emperor Ashoka) was included in the central white stripe of the flag, instead of the Charka (used symbolically by Gandhiji and also included in the flag used by the Indian National Congress). The same Chakra adorns the State Emblem adapted from the Sarnath Lion Capital of Ashoka in addition to the motto from the Mundaka Upanishad, Satyameva Jayate which means: Truth alone triumphs. The Chakra or the wheel symbolizes the Power of the State governed by Dharma, which is the primordial Indian system of justice which is the bed-rock, not only of governance but of the socio-politico-economic edifice itself.'
Brinda Maindiratta, 2 April 2003

The following is an extract from the preamble to the flag code of India as posted on the official Home Ministry website of the Indian government:

The significance of the colours and the chakra in the National Flag was amply described by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan in the Constituent Assembly which
unanimously adopted the National Flag. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan explained -"Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation of disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains 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 soil, our relation to the plant life here on which all other life depends. The Ashoka Wheel in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principles of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change."

Shree Sinha, 25 November 2003

Reproduced below an extract from Jawaharlal Nehru's address to the Constituent Assembly for the date on which the national flag was adopted (Tuesday, 22 July 1947):

"I present this Flag to you. This Resolution defines the Flag which I trust you will adopt. In a sense this Flag was adopted, not by a formal resolution, but by popular acclaim and usage, adopted much more by the sacrifice that surrounded it in the past few decades. We are in a sense only ratifying that popular adoption. It is a Flag which has been variously described. Some people, having misunderstood its significance, have thought of it in communal terms and believe that some part of it represents this community or that. But I may say that when this Flag was devised there was no communal significance attached to it."

At the same meeting of the Constituent Assembly, Govind Das added:

"There is no touch of communalism in the three colours of the flag. Panditji (i.e., Jawaharlal Nehru) has already told you this in the course of his speech. It is true that at a time when the colours were red, white and green there was a trace of communalism in the flag. But when we changed these colours to saffron, white and green, we declared it in clear words that the three colours had no communal significance."

The official website of the High Commission of India in London states "The saffron stands for courage, sacrifice and the spirit of renunciation; the white, for purity and truth; and the green for faith and fertility.

Shree Sinha, 25 November 2003

I have seen at a guess a dozen or more artificially constructed and intentionally fanciful imposed "meanings" for the Indian flag. Most are fairly phoney and contrived. When first used early in this century, the explanation was simple: saffron = Hindus, green = Muslims, white = the peace between then (wish-fulfillment?), the wheel = the Gandhian spinning wheel (early on, more obviously so in the design). Post-independence explanations differ, though those today (especially the current pressure to change the flag to solid orange) return to earlier meanings. The similarity to the Irish flag, though with different equivalences, was not in any way an accident. Pick an explanation...?
Ed Haynes, 30 September 1998

One of the spurious meanings of the Indian flag according to states the color of saffron/kesaria stand for patriotism (balidaan), white is for simplicity and peace, green is for agriculture (kheti) farming (kisan) and greenery (hariyali), the navy blue wheel in the center is the "Ashoka chakra", the wheel of progress.
collected by Dov Gutterman, 30 September 1998

I'm extremely sceptical of the information about a controversy regarding the color of the flag. We have border disputes and other headaches, but an issue regarding the flag itself? Doesn't exist. However, the significance of the blue wheel is much more (and here it borders on Hindu philosophy): "The chakra [wheel] in the Indian Flag which represents the wheel of life conveys the importance of karma. It is also a symbol for continuation of life and its cycles".
Jeetendra Chandragiri, 17 Dec 1999

Flag Code

On 26th January 2002, the flag code was changed. After 52 years, the citizens of India are free to fly the Indian flag over their homes, offices and factories on any day. Except some basic rules to follow while flying the flags, all other restrictions have been removed. Now Indians can proudly display the national flag any where and any time.
Mohan, 12 Feb 2002

 There are some rules and regulations upon how to fly the flag, based on the 26 January 2002 legislation. These include the following:

The Do's

  1. The National Flag may be hoisted in educational institutions (schools, colleges, sports camps, scout camps, etc.) to inspire respect for the Flag. An oath of allegiance has been included in the flag hoisting in schools.
  2. A member of public, a private organization or an educational institution may hoist/display the National Flag on all days and occasions, ceremonial or otherwise consistent with the dignity and honour of the National Flag.
  3. Section 2 of the new code accepts the right of all private citizens to fly the flag on their premises.
The Don'ts:
  1. The flag cannot be used for communal gains, drapery, or clothes. As far as possible, it should be flown from sunrise to sunset, irrespective of the weather.
  2. The flag cannot be intentionally allowed to touch the ground or the floor or trail in water. It cannot be draped over the hood, top, and sides or back of vehicles, trains, boats or aircraft.
  3. No other flag or bunting can be placed higher than the flag. Also, no object, including flowers or garlands or emblems can be placed on or above the flag. The tricolour cannot be used as a festoon, rosette or bunting.
As of January 26th, many have already started hoisting the flags at their premises. This new flag code would not have been made possible if it weren't for one Indian who had been constantly been arguing/fighting against the government and for the citizen's right for the free hoisting of flags. Apparently this particular Indian had filed a law suit and has been fighting for this right for ages until he finally won this right somewhere around the end of Dec. 2001.
Shriram, 16 February 2002

The entire flag code can be obtained at Outlook India.
Pascal Vagnat, 18 January 2003

Information regarding the obsolete 1950 flag code:

A strict flag code announced in the year 1950 regulated the use and display of the national flag. It barred the use of the flag in advertisements or for any other commercial activity. In fact, even private citizens were not allowed to fly the flag over their homes, offices or factories except on certain designated days like the Republic Day or the Independence Day.
Source: BBC News
Contributed by Santiago Tazon, 31 August 2000

There is a clear proviso in the flag code permitting putting flower petals inside the national Tricolour before it is unfurled on special occasions like Republic Day and Independence Day... the proviso permitting the use of petals was added to Section 5.9 on January 24, 1997
Source: The Tribune
Contributed by Jaume Ollé, 5 November 2000

In New Delhi in August 2001 I did not notice any flag of interest, but Indian national flags without the chakra hoisted on poles in the center of the city. Was this a way to circumvent the [old] law prohibiting private use of the national flag?
Ivan Sache, 17 January 2002

Detail of the Ashoka Chakra

[Detail of Chakra] by Zeljko Heimer

based on Album des Pavillons (2000)

This was also the early Indian Air Force marking, according to Cochrane and Elliott (1998) in the period 1947-48, and was used together with the fin flash using a square(ish) vertical tricolour of orange-white-green (orange to front).
Zeljko Heimer, 11 November 2001

The Chakra on the National Flag was officially defined at 75% of the white stripe in 1947 (taken from specifications issued by the Indian Standards Institution), but according to William Crampton (1993) this has largely been ignored in practice ever since. To quote from Dr Crampton's notes: " practice the Chakra occupies 98% of the white stripe (or thereabouts)", and the spec he drew up shows it at exactly that.
Christopher Southworth, 23 May 2004