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Friday, April 30, 2010

Quest for a Flag for India, Part VI

The Swaraj (National) Flag -1921

While our Home Rule volunteers were engaged in promoting the Home Rule flag across the country during 1917-18, another whisper-snapper patriot, a true nationalist, from Musilpatam (Madras) (now of Andhra Pradesh) Pingali Venkayya was relentlessly working for a flag for India. In 1916, P. Venkayya founded an Indian Flag Mission along with his associates Omar Sobhani and S.R.Bommanji, in order to propagate at the grass root level, urging people of India to realize the political wisdom of adopting a National flag for India.
Jhanda Venkayya (1876 - 1963)

P. Venkayya wrote a booklet in 1916; titled ‘A National Flag for India’ with a foreword by B.N. Sharma (the booklet was financed by C. P. Ramaswamy Iyar). In this booklet Venkayya published at least 30 illustrations of his proposed flag models. Amongst the flag designs there was also a ‘Vajra Flag’, as was originally suggested by Sister Nivedita. Venkayya attended the Calcutta session of Congress in December 1906, presided over by Sir Dadabhoy Naoroji in which the ‘Vande Matarm flag’ was hoisted. He was also a volunteer of the Home Rule Movement of Annie Besant. 

In 1921, Pinglay Venkayya prepared a flag design “Red over Green
colours representing the Hindus & the Muslims.  A Charkha was placed on the flag as suggested by Lala Hansraj of Bajware (near Jullundur). Later, to the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi, a white band was added on top of the colour ‘red’ to represent all other lesser communities.


Note the two different spellings of  ‘Venkayya’ and ‘Venkaiah’ used by the Dept. of Posts.
Purna Swaraj Flag of 1931’ was not designed by Venkayya, it is wrongly stated in the information brochure published by the Department of Posts that both the flags depicted on the stamp are his designs, therefore, the projection of the Purna Swaraj flag on the stamp on Venkayya (issued on 12. 08. 2009) is unwarranted. As a matter of fact, P. Venkayya played no role in the subsequent flag designs after the creation of Swaraj flag. He was not even nominated as a member of the Flag Committee set up in 1931 to devise a new flag, when there was nation-wise objections raised to the interpretation of the colours (on the basis of communal compartmentalism) and their disposition ‘white over green over red’ of the Swaraj flag. Venkayya was not even an invitee to the AICC session in Bombay in 1931, in which the ‘Purna Swaraj Flag’ was devised and officially accepted. Venkayya by then retired from active politics.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote in the Young India in April 1921 “A flag is a necessity….It will be for us Indians… recognize a common flag to live and to die for.  …... Mr. P. Venkayya has for some years placed before the public a suggestive booklet describing the flags of the other nations and offering designs for an Indian National Flag. But, whilst I have always admired the persistent zeal with which Mr. Venkayya has prosecuted the cause of a National Flag…. He was never able to enthuse me; and in his designs I saw nothing to stir the nation to its depths….. .At Bezwada (now, Vijayawada)I asked Mr. Venkayya to give me a design containing a spinning wheel on a red(Hindu colour) and Green (Muslim colour) background….. I suggest that the background should be white and green and red. The white portion is intended to represent all other faiths. The weakest numerically occupy the first place. The Islamic colour comes next; the Hindu colour red comes last, the idea being that the strongest should act as a shield to the weakest ... to represent the equality of the least of us with the best, an equal part is suggested to all three colours in the design. ... the flag must be made of Khaddar, for it  is rough coarse cloth alone that can make India independent of foreign markets for her cloth. ….The regulation size of the flag should contain the drawing of a full sized spinning-wheel.  The extracts of the article reveals that it was Gandhi who himself had influenced the making of the Swaraj flag. Therefore, the sole credit to P. Venkayya as the designer the Swaraj flag is factually incorrect. A myth has been grown that it was Venkayya who designed the Swaraj flag. Historians by and large, took the myth at its face value and agreed that it was Venkayya who gave us the Swaraj flag.The Swaraj flag was never officially adopted as the ‘National Flag’ by a formal resolution.However, Mahatma Gandhi’s approval, made it popular everywhere in India. It was also known that Mahatma Gandhi was not too happy when in 1947, at the eve of Independence, the Charkha of the flag was replaced by the Asoka’s Dharma Chakra (Wheel of law). We shall discuss more on this subject in due course.

With the coming into being of the Swaraj flag in 1921, Venkayya retired from active politics in 1922. But his passion for the Indian flag never died. Prior to his death in 1963, he composed a beautiful poem


The tricolour ensign of our rich domain
Shall fly aloft and there for ever and ever remain
To remind the world of our famed Maurian Asoka the great
Of vast empire, peaceful and brotherhood state.
Sacrificial saffron will for noble courage stand,
Peaceful white is the truthful central band,
Parrot green will rich chivalry and faith denote.


  1. thank you Ye Choh San, I always want to expand my sphere.
    sekhar chakrabarti