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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Quest for a National Flag for India, Part-VII, The Swaraj (National) Flag of India-1921.

Let me start to-day, at the outset, that we should refrain from quoting (without verification) from the information brochures published by the Department of Posts in connection with the release of a commemorative/special postage stamp (you know that all rights with respect to the stamp, first day cover and information brochure rest with the Department and they do charge for the same). Our wise men have said you do not learn anything free of cost!  They were right.

 I was given to understand wrongly, the life span of P. Venkayya as ‘1878-1963 as mentioned in the information brochure of the stamp issued on 12-8-2009. On verification, I found from authentic biographies that the main architect of the Swaraj flag, was born on 2nd. August 1876, not in 1878, in fact, the Department of Posts had celebrated Venkayya’s centenary of birth on 2-8-1976 by issuing a special cover from Vijaywada (his birth place, in broader sense).

So, we get at least three haulers(!) from one information brochure alone – first; P. Venkayya’s year of birth, second; mis-spelling of Venkiah and the third; Venkkyya’s contribution (?) to the Purna Swaraj Flag which was created in 1931.
1.      While on the subject, it was also noticed that Dadabhoy Naoroji on the stamp issued on 4-9-1963 in his honour became Dadabhai Naoroji on the stamp issued on 26-8-1993 (vide, Quest for a flag for India, Part IV).

Now let us now, come back to our search for the historical
events that led us to the present National Flag.

    The Charkha was introduced at the Gandhi’s Ashram at Ahmedabad in the year 1917. Gandhi’s acceptance to the Swaraj flag in 1921 soon suffused the imagination of our country. Every city, village and hamlet saw it aflutter, in simple khadi, above private dwellings – large and humble – and in the street corners; claimed R. Vekataraman, former President of India.
     On the other hand, Gandhi’s “Cult of the Charkha”, efficacy of Charkha in advancing Swaraj (Independence) and the symbol of Charkha on the Swaraj flag was severely debated, criticised by many. Prominent amongst was perhaps, Rabindranath Tagore. ‘Letters and Debates’ between Gandhi and Tagore in this respect are of great historical values even to-day.
 D.V. Sivarao, a research-scholar, in a broadcast from the All India Radio, Vijaywada on 19-10-1953 on “Our National Flag” said: “It will be interesting to know that the idea of substitution of the Chakra (Wheel) for the Charkha (Spinning wheel) was conceived by late Andhra Ratna D. Gopalakrishnayya”. It was on record that Gopalakrishnayya, known as ‘Hero of Chirela-Perala’, ridiculed the Swaraj flag as a mere spinners-weavers flag. He himself had designed as early as 1920 two separate flags for his Ghosti and Rama Dandu . The main part of the flags was a Vajra within a Chakra i.e. Thunderbolt within a Wheel. Vajra symbolized the bones of Rishi Dadhichi. It was in turn again perhaps taken from the Sister Nivedita’s flag made in 1906 (vide, blog dated April 17, 2010).
We shall discuss in threadbare on this subject when we shall talk about various suggestions that were put forward to the ‘Flag Committee’ constituted in 1931 to devise a new flag for India. 
  From 1921 to 1931 the Swaraj flag played a pivotal role in rallying political activities organized by the Congress Party. It became synonymous with the Congress party and some time referred to as Congress Flag or Gandhi flag.

Nagpur Flag Satyagraha-1923
Nagpur Flag Satyagraha (1923) took place to fight back the ban imposed on the flying the Swaraj flag. The prolonged Battle of Flag had given the Swaraj flag large support and eventually the flag became the means of political mobilization and a powerful symbol of anti-colonial protest.

Prominent leaders of Nagpur Flag Satyagraha

Patriotic Flag Songs

Patriotic songs are the musical equivalent of our country’s emblem. Several songs were written/composed during the period have reference of Swaraj flag.


Behold Our Mother’s Great Banner!
(Thayein Mani Kudi Pareer)

Under the flag-mast are patriots
Loyal and faithful
Ready to sacrifice their very life
To keep the flag flying high.
Behold our mother’s great banner!

“Vijayi bishwa tiranga pyara 
Jhanda uncha rahe hamara.”
(Winsome to the world is our Tricolour dear
High may it soar is our passionate prayer)

(to be continued) 


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