Express Celebrates National Flag Day

New Delhi, Aug 30: | Updated: Aug 31 2003, 05:30am hrs
Vijayi Vishwa Tiranga Pyara, Jhanda Uncha Rahe Hamara. Patriotic words. But like our revered Flag, brought out of their solitary confines, dusted, and celebrated on two days of our national life, August 15 and January 26. How many of us even remember Shyamlal Gupta, the poet behind these inspiring lines Or, for that matter, basic facts about the Flag we all love so much This bridging is the inspiration behind the The Indian Express groups homage to the Flag on August 31 the National Flag Day by way of Tiranga, a poetic and musical inspiration at Parliament Library Building here on Sunday evening. Anchoring this tribute, in the presence of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, are Javed Akhtar, Pt Jasraj, Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, Vidhwan U Shriniwas, Vidhwan L Subramanium, Vijay Ghate, and Selva Ganesh.

There is widespread ignorance about the genesis of our Flag. Did you know: n That our Flag wasnt initially visualised as a Tricolour but on a solid base of red. n That Irishwoman Sister Nivedita, a disciple of Swami Vivekanand was the first to conceive of a National Flag. n That the initial variants of the Tricolour invariably always had eight half open lotuses (depicting the eight provinces), the inscription Vande Mataram and the sun and the crescent on it.

* That, for long, our Flag had two different sides. * That in one of its earlier avataars it even had the Union Jack on it. * That it was Mahatma Gandhi in 1921 who got the Tiranga, as we know it today, designed from Pingli Venkayya, a young man from Masulipatnam.

If some of these facts on the Flag amaze you, then how about the fact that the Tricolour wasnt even a single act of creation. It wasnt designed. It evolved out of at least six phases. Heres how. In 1904, Sister Nivedita, designed a National Flag which was square in shape, and had a red field. It had 101 jyotis (flames) all along the border and a Vajra in yellow at the centre. Vande was inscribed in Banglascript on the left and Mataram on the right in yellow.

On August 7, 1906, a second Flag was designed by Schindra Prasad Bose of Calcutta. It had eight half open lotuses on a green strip, Vande Mataram in blue on the middle yellow strip and the sun and the moon (crescent) in white on the bottom red strip.

The first Indian to have raised the Indian Flag on foreign soil and announce to the world our fight for Freedom was Madame Bhikhaji Rustom Cama. On August 22, 1907, at an international forum at Stuttgart in Germany, Cama hoisted this Flag. It was green on top, golden saffron and red at the bottom. Eight lotuses were lined on it, and Vande Mataram was written in gold with the crescent towards the hoist and sun on the other side.

In 1916, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant, the two pivots of the Home Rule League, designed a new Flag. It comprised five red and four green horizontal stripes arranged alternately, with seven stars denoting the saptrishi configuration. This Flag had the Union Jack on one corner towards the hoist and a crescent and a star on the other side.

A closer version of todays Tricolour was the brainchild of Gandhi.He got Venkayya to make a Flag with a charkha on red (denoting Hindus) and green (for Muslims) backgrounds. But later he realised that a third colour was needed to denote other religions. Thus came white, which went on top with green in the middle and red at the bottom. The charkha covered all the bands.

On August 31, 1931, a Flag committee, to do away with the religious interpretation of the colours changed them to saffron, white and green with a charkha in blue at the centre. Another Flag committee in 1947 adapted it as our National Flag with colour specifications and an Ashok Chakra in between.