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Know Your Flag: Understanding The Indian Tri-Colour And The Rules Around It

Know Your Flag

Understanding the Indian Tri-colour and the rules around it
The Har Ghar Tiranga campaign was launched on the 22nd of July 2022 under the aegis of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. This initiative was taken by the Ministry of Culture to mark the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence. Under this campaign, people were encouraged to bring the Tiranga home and hoist it from the 13th to the 15th of August 2022.

Our Relationship with our flag has always been very formal and institutional rather than personal. Through this campaign, the government hopes not only to bring about a personal connection with the Tiranga but also to awaken a feeling of patriotism, embody our commitment to nation-building and raise awareness about the Indian flag among the citizens.

The Indian national flag commonly known as the Triranga (Tricolour) symbolises the hopes and aspirations of its people. It was adopted on 22 July 1947 at the constituent assembly and served as a symbol of a free country for the 'Domain of India' after our independence on 15 August 1947 it still serves as our national flag after we were declared a republic country.

The Indian flag is rectangular in shape and comprises three rectangular panels of equal lengths and widths, they are saffron (Kesari), white and green respectively. The width to length ratio of the flag is 2 : 3. The middle panel consists of the Ashoka Chakra which is also called the Samay Chakra or Dharma Chakra.

The Ashoka Chakra is a wheel which is navy blue and comprises 24 spokes where each spoke holds a special significance. Originally the flag was only allowed to be made by hand woven and hand spun cotton, silk, wool and khadi bunting according to the guidelines and specifications of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samyukta Sangha (KKGSS) was the only unit that was allowed to manufacture the National Flag by the permission granted to them by the Khadi and Village Sector Commission to supply the tricolour around the entire country.

These flags are used by government agencies, national representatives, military officials and for other official uses. But with the recent amendment order passed on 30 December 2021 to the Flag Code of India 2002 even polyester or machine-made flags are allowed to be manufactured. To support the Har Ghar Tiranga Campaign flags have also been made available on different E-commerce websites and local post offices.

This amendment has made it possible to make flags available on a large scale. This has caused a lot of concern to the KKGSS as they are no longer the only manufacturers and they are afraid it might affect the Khadi industry.

What Is The Meaning Behind The India Flag?

According to Mahatma Gandhi, the flag is a symbol of freedom and it shows the world India's identity. Each country has their own flags and each flag shows the morals and beliefs of the country they represent. Similarly, the Indian flag is dear to citizens as it shows the world what it means to be a true Indian. The Indian flag was designed by Pingali or Piligalay Venkayya, an agriculturalist and freedom fighter.

Each aspect of our flag represents a specific meaning. The colour saffron stands for courage and sacrifice, white stands for honesty, peace and purity and lastly green stands for faith and chivalry prosperity and growth. The middle panel consists of the Ashoka Chakra which is a depiction of the Dharma Chakra ( wheel of law ) which is characterised by its 24 spokes. This Chakra was adopted from the Sarnath Lion Capital built by Emperor Ashoka.

These 24 equally distant spokes represent the 24 hours in a day and inspire every citizen to work tirelessly for 24 hours towards the prosperity of the country. Furthermore, it also represents the 24 laws that a person must possess in their daily life, that will lead any country to its prosperity. The laws include Chastity, Health, Peace, Sacrifice, Morality, Service, Forgiveness, e.t.c.

Thus each spoke on the wheel with its own meaning talks about the holistic development of the country and if adopted in our day-to-day life could help to minimise the differences in caste, language and attire. According to Dr Radakrishna, the chakra also symbolises that there is life in movement and death in stagnation. Therefore India should no longer resist change and it must keep moving forward.

The wheel also represents the dynamism of a peaceful change. The colour blue on the Ashoka Chakra represents that a person must always be clean and constant just like the ocean and sky so that the nation can prosper. Furthermore, the flag represents the unity between all the religions that are present in the country. Every citizen of the country is very proud of their flag and it is important to all of us.

Origins Of The Indian Flag

India is a culturally diverse land divided by customs, religions and language. Thus finding a banner under which the country had been united proved to be a difficult task. The flag is one such symbol of unity. The conception of the flag was not achieved in a day. The process of conceptualising and designing the flag was long and has been deep-rooted in the history of our country. Traces of this process can be seen as early as 1857. Before the princely states were taken over by the British Crown they were represented by separated flags.

After the uprising of 1857 when the British brought the country under their rule, they insisted the country should be represented under a single flag. Thus introducing the Star of India in 1858. The star of India referred to the group of flags that were used for various purposes. The Union Jack or the Union flag was used in places that were directly administered by the British Crown. While for the Viceroy and Governor General of India the Union jack with the royal crown at the centre and the Order of the Star of India under it was used. This flag was also to be used by certain subordinate officials such as the governors of British Indian territories.

The merchant vessels registered in British India used the Civil Ensign ( Originally called the British Ensign, a flag flown by the Royal Navy which was later adopted by British merchantmen). Lastly, the Red Ensign along with the Order Star of India was the flag that was used to represent British India at various international organisations therefore it is erroneously identified as the flag of British India. It was designed according to western herdalics and was designed similar to the other British colonies such as Canada and Australia.

The Union Jack
The Union Jack

Flag of Viceroy and Governor-General of India
Flag of Viceroy and Governor-General of India
The Civil Ensign
The Civil Ensign
The Red Ensign of British India
The Red Ensign of British India

Alongside the Imperial flag, other Indian flag designs began to be designed. These flags showed the desire for freedom that ran in the veins of the citizens. The first Indian flag was designed in 1904 by Sister Nivedita, an Irish disciple of Swami Vivekananda. The flag was yellow and red in colour. It had the image of 'Vajra', a weapon of god Indra printed in the centre and the phrase Vande Mataram written in Bengali where the symbol of 'Vajra' stood for strength and the colours red and yellow signified freedom and victory respectively. This Flag is also known as Sister Nivedita's Flag

Sister Nivedita's Flag

Sister Nivedita's flag
After the sister Nivedita Flag, another flag was designed in 1906. This flag was designed after the partition of Bengal in 1905 in hopes of bringing the various religions and castes together under one flag. It was a tricolour flag with three equal stripes coloured green, yellow and red, eight loti aligned in a straight line and the shape of the sun on the right-hand side and a crescent on the left on the red panel and the middle panel had 'Vande Mataram' written across it. It is known as the Calcutta flag of the Lotus Flag and it was believed to have been designed by Sachindra Prasad Bose and Sukumar Mitra. It was hoisted on the 7th of August 1906 at Parsi Began Square, Calcutta (present-day Kolkata).

This flag was unfurled by Sir Surrendranath Banerjee to show the unity of India against the Partition of Bengal. It also attained the status of an unofficial flag. The original design of the flag consists of three equal stripes consisting of blue, yellow and red colour and eight stars aligned on the blue stripe.

Lotus flag

Calcutta flag

Lotus flag or Calcutta flag
In 1907 the flag was further modified, it was a tricolour with 3 stripes the topmost being orange with eight lotuses, the middle being yellow with Vande Matram written across it and the last stripe was green with the sun on the left-hand side and the crescent and star on the right. It was collectively designed by Madam Bhikaji Cama, Shyamji Krishna Varma and Vinkya Damodar Savarkar.

For the first time was unfurled at Stuttgart in German on 22 August 1907 thus receiving the name 'Berlin Committee Flag'. It was also known as the first Indian flag to be flown in a foreign land. Another variation consisted of one lotus and seven stars on the orange stripe. These stars represented the Saptarishi.

The Berlin Committee Flag

The Berlin Committee Flag

The Berlin Committee Flag

The Berlin Committee Flag
Later in 1917 during the Home Rule League created Lokmanya Tilak a new flag was adopted; this flag consisted of five red stripes and four 4 stripes. It consisted of the Union Jack on the top left corner and shapes such as the Saptarishi constellation which was to the Hindus and the crescent and star on the top right corner which were meaningful to the Muslims. This flag was created to voice our demand for dominion status in British India but this flag did not gain much popularity among the masses.

The Home Rule Flag

The Home Rule Flag
In 1916 Pingali Venkayya met Mahatma Gandhi with the hopes of creating a flag that would unite the whole nation. After seeking his approval Gandhiji also suggested that the Chakra must be incorporated into the flag as a symbol of the economic regeneration of India. Pingali Venkeyya created a flag using hand-spun Khadi with Chakra and the colours red and green symbolising the major two religions but this idea was struck down by Gandhiji as he believed that the flag must represent all its citizens and the minorities were left out.

Thus keeping this thought he created another flag in 1921, this flag consisted of three stripes white (representing the minority religions ), red ( representing the Hindus and Sikhs) and green (representing the Muslims) along with the Chakra across all the tree bands symbolising the unification of all communities. This flag was based on the design of the flag of Ireland, who were also fighting for their freedom at that time Although it was not adopted as the official flag it was still widely used as a symbol of nationalism during the freedom struggle.

The Indian Flag in 1921

The Indian Flag in 1921
Many people were unhappy with the communal interpretation of the flag and proposed that the flag must not be linked to religion. Therefore the flag created in 1931 displays the colours we see on our Tiranga today saffron white and green along with the Chakra on the middle band in the centre symbolising the Swadeshi Movement.

This was also recognised as the first official flag of India. Lastly, after our independence in 1947, Dr Rajendra Prasad created a committee to discuss the National Flag and adopted the flag of 1931 with slight modifications where they replace the Chakra with the Ashoka Chakra which symbolises the forward movement of the country.

The First Official Flag, 1931
The First Official Flag, 1931

Laws Governing The Tricolour

  1. Flag Code Of India, 2002: The Flag Code of India,2002 is a code that brings together and codifies a set of laws, conventions, practices and instructions pertaining to the displaying and hoisting of the national flag by private, public and government institutions. Before the Flag Code of India came into force on 26 January 2002, the rules concerning the display of the national flag were governed by The Emblem and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act of 1950 and The Prevention of Insults to the National Honour Act 1971.

    This code did not replace the pre-existing rules governing the flag; however, it was an attempt to bring all the conventions, laws and practices together. This code is divided into three parts; part 1 which contains all the general descriptions of the flag, Part 2 talks about the display by private and public organisations and part 3 talks about the display of the national flag by state and central government and their agencies.

    This year the code was recently amended on 30 December 2021 and 19 July 2022 which allowed the manufacturing of machine and polyester flags and allowed the citizens to hoist the flags day and night to ensure that no citizen falls into trouble for breaking the rules. These changes have also been incorporated into the salient features of the flag code of India.
  2. Prevention of Insults to National Honour 1971:
    This law came into force on the 23 of December 1971. This Act prohibits the insults of the national symbol such as the national flag, national anthem and the Indian map as well as contempt of the Constitution of India and if any such act is conducted which demeans the value of these national symbols and the constitution, then the person who commits the crime will be charged with imprisonment which may extend up to three years or fine or both.
  3. The Emblem and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act of 1950:
    This act restricts the improper use of certain emblems and names for professional and commercial purposes. Under this act, the emblem refers to any emblem, seal, flag, insignia ( badge or emblem of a military rank or office), coat of arms or pictorial representation specified in the schedule such as the name, emblem or official seal of the United Nations Organisations, World Health Organisation, the Indian flag, President of India, Mahatma Gandhi, Rashtrapati Bhavan and other institutions, symbols and people of national and international importance. This act was enacted on the 1st of March 1950.

Correct Code Of Conduct While Hosting And Displaying The Flag

Before the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Navin Jindal VS the Union of India no private citizens were allowed to hoist the national flag except on the days of national holidays such as Independence day and Republic day. In 2001 under this case, the supreme court held that the right to unfurl the national flag with dignity is the fundamental right of each citizen under article 19(1)(a). As this act expresses, it manifests a citizen's allegiances, feelings and sentiments of pride toward the nation.

But this is not absolute and can be subject to certain reasonable restrictions. Later on 26 January 2002 when the flag code 2002 came into effect this ruling was incorporated in clause 2.1 which says that there shall be no restriction on the display of the national flag by members of the general public, private organisations, educational institutions etc. consistent with the dignity and honour of the national flag.

All rules that are concerned with displaying the flag are in the Flag code of India 2002, Provision of the Emblem and Names (Prevention of Improper Use Act 1950) and the Prevention of Insults of National Honour Act, 1971. This year with the Har Ghar Tringa campaign it is important to keep certain things in mind while hoisting or displaying the Tiranga.

According to the Prevention of Insults of National Honour Act, 1971
  1. The flag should not touch the ground or trail in water or be displayed in an inverted manner ie the saffron band should be the topmost band
  2. According to the Act of 1971, no kind of inscriptions or lettering should be present on the flag, it should not be used to cover a statue, monument or speaker's platform.
  3. It should not be embroidered or printed on cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins or any dress material or used as a portion of a costume, uniform or any description which is worn below the waist of any person. If any of these acts are done they will be considered as a disrespect to the Flag. This sub-clause was inserted in the act through the Prevention of Insults to National Honour (Amendment) Act 2005 on 20 December 2005.
  4. While displaying the flag, it should not be dipping in salute to anyone or anything
  5. Any acts which are considered to be disrespecting or criticising the National flag shall be held accountable as an offence under the 1971 act.
  6. No person is allowed to use the flag as a drapery in any form except in state funerals and while performing the last rites of armed forces and paramilitary officers.
  7. The flag must not be flown at half-mast except on occasion where the flag is flown at half-mast on public buildings according to the instruction of the government. When the flag is flown at half-mast it means that it is lower than the summit of the pole on land. It is usually a sign of mourning or distress.

According to section 2 of the Act if any person in public or any place of public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon otherwise shows disrespect to or brings into contempt (whether by words, either spoken or written or by acts) the Indian National Flag or Constitution shall be punished with imprisoned with a term extending up to 3 years or with a fine or with both. The words ' otherwise��. till acts were inserted into the act on 8th May 2003 through the Prevention of Insults to National Honour (Amendment) Act 2003.

According to the Flag Code of India, 2002
  1. It must be kept in mind that the flag cannot be used for commercial purposes and must not be dipped in salute to any person or thing
  2. It is not allowed to put up a damaged or dishevelled flag but these flags should not be cast aside or disrespectfully disposed of rather they should be destroyed as a whole in private preferably by burning or by any other method that does not remain inconsistent with the dignity of the flag
  3. No other objects including flowers, garlands or flags should be placed at the same height as the flag or above it.
  4. The tricolour cannot be festooned of any kind or for any description or decoration purpose.
  5. Any paper flags which are used at sporting events or natural cultural occasions should not be casually discarded and must be disposed of in private.
  6. The flag should not be flown from a single masthead simultaneously with other flags or flags.
  7. The flag should not be displayed or fastened in any manner that may damage the flag.

Part III section III of the Flag Code of India, 2002 talks about the correct display of the national flag
  1. The flag should occupy a position of honour and should be distantly placed
  2. When displayed through staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from the windowsill, balcony or in front of a building the saffron band should be at the further end.
  3. When displayed on the wall flat or horizontally the saffron band shall be the uppermost and when displayed vertically the saffron band should be on the right with reference to the Flag i.e. it may be to the left of the person facing it.
  4. While hoisting the flag it shall be hoisted briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. While it is hoisted or lowered it is accompanied by appropriate bugle calls and the calls should be accompanied simultaneously.
  5. When displaying the flag alone on a car it should be flown from staff or should be firmly affixed on the middle front of the bonnet or the right side of the car. But the flag cannot be displayed on the cars of common citizens but only on the cars of certain dignitaries such as the President, Vice President, Governors, Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers e.t.c. who is mentioned in section IX part II of the Flag Code of India
  6. When the flag is carried in procession or parade it either be on the marching right i.e. the flag's right or if there is a line of other flags, it should be in the front of the centre of the line.
  7. It is also important to note that due to the amendment made in the Flag Code of India by the order dated 19 July 2022 the display of the flags in the open or the houses of citizens is allowed to be flown day and night.

How To Fold The Flag

Just like specific conduct is expected while handling the flag there also exists a specific method for folding the flag.
The process entails 4 steps:
  1. Step 1: Place the national flag horizontally
  2. Step 2: Fold the saffron and green band beneath the white band
  3. Step 3: The horizontal band must then be folded inwards in thirds. While doing so make sure that the Ashoka Chakra is visible along with some parts of the saffron and green bands
  4. Step 4: The flag must be carried either by supporting it with both palms or both forearms depending upon the size of the flag. The distance between one's hands must be maintained in such a way that the flag does not sag or cress. Lastly, store it in a safe place.

How To Fold The Flag

How To Dispose Of The Flag

All flags must be disposed of according to the rules mentioned under the Flag Code 2002 under Section V (Misuses) and also according to, the terms of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. According to the law, the flag cannot be disposed of casually but as a whole privately. According to the Flag Code of India 2002, there are two ways in which a flag can be disposed of either by respectfully placing the folded flag in the fire or by burying it.

Flags burned without folding or burning them first then placing them in the fire can be considered an offence which is punishable under the law as disrespect. In case of burying, the folded flag should be placed in a clean wooden box and then buried. You may also hold two minutes of mourning while burying it.

To commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Independent India, the government has released The Har Ghar Tiranga campaign as of 22nd July 2022. The campaign aims to distribute flags to all households, thus allowing every household to hoist the national flag for three days, i.e from the 13th to the 15th of August. In light of such a historic event, it is of utmost importance that we as the citizens of India learn and understand the origins, customs and laws revolving around the tri-colour. Just like any other country, our flag functions as an important symbol of the identity of our nation. Every aspect of the flag has its meaning.

In all the flag stands as a symbol of unity among all its citizens and seeks the smooth development of the nation as a whole. Being such an important national symbol an insult to the flag can be considered an insult to the nation as a whole. To prevent such behaviour the Flag Code of India gives a precise outline of the expected code of conduct while handling the flag. It mentions in detail the dos and don'ts of handling the flag, places where it can be hoisted, occasions where it can be displayed, method of hoisting, method of disposal and other such specifications.

As citizens of India, it is our fundamental duty according to the constitution to respect the national flag. Through this article, I have attempted to bring the lay citizen a step closer to the national flag. It is my sincere hope that by reading this article and understanding the expected code of conduct we will be able to truly appreciate the true meaning behind The Har Ghar Tiranga campaign

  • Flag Code of India 2002
  • Salient features of the Flag Code of India 2002
  • The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971
  • The Emblem and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act 1950

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