What is the Meaning Behind the Flag of India?

(Last Updated On: May 10, 2018)

What is the Meaning Behind the Flag of India?
Flags are an important part of any sovereign country. They not only serve as national symbols, but also as reminders of the past. Flags come in various styles and colors, many of which have specific meanings. In this post, we’ll look at the meaning behind the flag of India.

The Flag of India

The National Flag of India is rectangular in shape, and features three stripes of different colors – deep saffron, white, and India green. In the center is a navy blue wheel with 24 spokes, called the Ashoka Chakra, or “Wheel of Law”. The flag of India is made using khadi, a type of hand-spun cloth popularized by Mahatma Gandhi. In India, the flag is called Tiraṅgā, or “Tricolor”.

The current flag of India was adopted at a meeting of the Constituent Assembly on July 22nd, 1947, as Indian independence from British rule was nearing. Today, the flag means a lot to the people of India, and there are many rules and regulations that dictate how the flag can be used and displayed, which are outlined in the Flag Code of India. For a long time, the original code prohibited the use of the flag by private citizens, except on national holidays. Many of these restrictions have loosened in the last couple decades, however.

History of India’s Flag

“It will be necessary for us Indians, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Parsis, and all others to whom India is their home – to recognize a common flag to live and to die for.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Prior to the 20th century, many different flags could be found throughout India, used by the rulers of different princely states. By the early 1900s, however, a rise in Indian nationalism helped spark the modern Indian Independence Movement. The idea of a single, unifying national flag for India became more popular.

In 1921, Mahatma Gandhi would come to believe that India needed a flag. He commissioned Pingali Venkayya to create a red and green flag with a charkha, or spinning wheel in the center. Red was meant to signify Hindus, and green was to represent Muslims. The traditional spinning wheel was to represent Gandhi’s goal of making Indians self-reliant by manufacturing their own clothing.

Eventually, however, Gandhi realized that it was wrong to not represent other religions in the flag. He added white to the flag to represent all the other religions of the world. Given even more time, Gandhi would move away from the religious undertones of the flag all together. With his more secular interpretation of the flag, red came to represent the sacrifices of the Indian people, white for purity, and green for hope.

In 1931, a resolution was passed to adopt this tricolor flag, known as the Swaraj Flag, as the official flag of Congress, with deep saffron at the top, white in the middle, green at the bottom, and the spinning wheel in the center. By this time, the flag had already become the symbol of the Indian Independence Movement.

The “Swaraj Flag”, officially adopted by the Indian National Congress in 1931.

On July 22nd, 1947, in a meeting of the Constituent Assembly, the flag was adopted completely as the National Flag of India, but with a few modifications. The colors and significance of the flag remained the same, but the spinning wheel was changed to be the Ashoka Chakra. There are two prevailing explanations for this change. One holds that the Ashoka Chakra was to represent dharma and law. The other is much more practical; this new design would make the flag appear symmetrical.

While Gandhi was initially against this change, he would eventually come to accept it. When India gained independence from Britain, this flag would remain the national flag of the newly independent nation.

Meaning Behind the Flag of India

Each element of the flag of India contains a greater significance, outlined below.

Deep Saffron:
At the top of the flag of India is a deep saffron color, which represents courage, sacrifice, and selflessness. Furthermore, saffron is a common and significant color in many religions, like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

In the middle of the Indian flag is a white stripe, which represents honesty, purity, and peace. In Indian philosophy, white also represents knowledge and cleanliness.

India Green:
At the bottom of the flag is green, which represents faith, fertility, and prosperity.

Current Flag of India, with the “Ashoka Chakra” in the center.

Ashoka Chakra:
In the middle of the flag of India is the navy blue Ashok Chakra. This symbol is inspired by the Hindu Dharmachakra, which according to Hindu faith, represents life in movement, and death in stagnation. So, the Ashok Chakra can be seen to represent progress or peaceful change.

Today, the Indian National Flag continues to represent the hopes and dreams of the people of India, and it serves as a symbol of national pride and unity.

Are you interested in flags? If so, check out this post on “How to Learn All the Flags of the World”. Or, head on over to Sporcle.com, where you can play thousands of Flag quizzes.

About the Author:

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Mark Heald is the Managing Editor of Sporcle.com. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.