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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Vexillology: Study of Flags; One of the Newest Pursuits

Vexillology: One of the Newest Pursuits
Scholarly study of all aspects of flag is Vexillology. The term was coined in 1957 by Late    Dr Whitney Smith from the Latin word vexillum for flag. The Flag Institute, UK defines Vexillology as the scientific study of flags and related emblems. It is concerned with research into flags of all kinds, both modern and historical, the creation of a body of practice for flag design and usage, and of a body of theory of flag development.
Since time immemorial man has felt the need of a sign or symbol to distinguish himself, his family, his tribe, his country, and such symbols have taken many differing forms, of which one is the flag. Every country has a National flag. Today, there is no country in the world which does not have a National flag. It is an explicit outward symbolic expression of how a country sees itself.                                                             
Flags became wide spread symbols of national identity from early 19th century.
Before the French Revolution of 1789, it was monarchy and not the common people,
who had a flag. With the advent of ‘Nation-State’ concept and the ensuing growth
of nationalism - flags have become a globalised phenomenon.
Flags are ‘short hand of history’. The relevance of the adage of Harry Truman;
the only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know” is amply established
in the study of flags. A flag is something more than a coloured piece of cloth (bunting)
of which it is made. It incarnate s something spiritual. Intrinsically a flag may be
valueless but extrinsically a national flag is priceless. In most countries, people
feel that the national flag belongs to the citizens and,therefore, they articulate this
by waving it in innumerable social settings which manifest the existence and
glorification of the country.
 Nowadays, it has become a trend to wave the flag colours profusely to cheer their
favourite teams in the Olympics and other international sports events.
Flags are truly inseparable from society. The serious study of flags is one of the
newest pursuits available to those who take an intimate interest in the world
around them;
Study of a flag is A BIT LIKE BIRD WATCHING; is that it involves Spotting, identification,
classification, and some knowledge of backgrounds, type & various other features
and their functions.
IT IS ALSO A BIT LIKE HISTORY; is that it includes some understanding of past events
and how they came about. In fact, story of flags is mostly interwoven with historical events
reflecting our struggles, aspirations and hopes.
IT IS A BIT LIKE GEOGRAPHY too; is that one has to know his way around the world,
his own country, and even obscure places.
A vexillologist collects, preserves, organizes and publicises flag information. For him
the flag study is not just restricted on collecting the real flags only but from a plethora
of other artifacts
and materials, namely, books, archival documents, news-papers, advertisements
and many other conventional/unconventional sources like; postage stamps, medals,
coins & currency notes, match box labels, propaganda/publicity leaflets, cigarette
cards, and so on and so forth. In another word he embraces a rainbow of all
collecting arena.

H:\Flag foreign stamps\South Africa ICV.jpgInternational Congress of Vexillology (ICV)s
are held each two years under the auspices of the International Federation of
Vexillological Associations (FIAV). The ICVs consist mainly of lectures, presentations
and workshops by the leading flag experts who have the opportunity to present
their research and activities to their international peers. The author represented
India in three consecutive ICVs, the only Indian to do so, at Rotterdam (25th ICV, 2013),
Sydney (26th ICV, 2015) and in London (27th ICV, 2017).


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