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Flag of India

The National Flag of India was adopted in its present form during an ad hoc meeting of the Constituent Assembly held on the 22nd of July 1947, a few days before India's independence from the British on the 15th of August 1947. It has served as the national flag of the Dominion of India between the 15th of August 1947 and the 26th of January 1950 and that of the Republic of India thereafter. In India, the term "tricolour" [Tiranga (in Hindi)] almost always refers to the Indian national flag.

The flag is a horizontal tricolour of saffron at the top, white in the middle, and green at the bottom. In the centre, there is a navy blue wheel with twenty-four spokes, known as the Ashoka Chakra, taken from the Ashoka pillar at Sarnath. The diameter of this Chakra is three-fourths of the height of the white strip. The ratio of the height of the flag to its width is 2:3. The flag is also the Indian Army's war flag, hoisted daily on military installations.

The Indian National Flag was designed by Pingali Venkayya. The official flag specifications require that the flag be made only of "khadi," a special type of hand-spun yarn. The display and use of the flag are strictly enforced by the Indian Flag Code.

A heraldic description of the flag would be Party per fess Saffron and Vert on a fess Argent a "Chakra" Azure.


The Indian National Congress, India's largest political party before independence, adopted a white, green and red flag as its unofficial flag in 1921. The red originally stood for Hinduism, green for Islam, and white stood for other minority religions. Some believe that white also formed a buffer of peace between the two communities, as in the flag of Ireland. In 1931, the Congress party adopted another flag with the colours saffron, white and green, and featuring the "Charkha" (spinning-wheel) in the centre, as their official flag. This flag purportedly had no religious symbolism associated with it.

A few days before India became independent on August 1947, the specially constituted Constituent Assembly decided that the flag of the Indian National Congress should be adopted as the national flag of India with suitable modifications, to make it acceptable to all parties and communities. The most significant change was replacing the charkha with the Ashoka Chakra. Since the colours of the previous flag were seen as having religious connotations, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who later became India's first Vice President, clarified that the adopted flag did not have any communal connotations and described its significance as follows:

"Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to (the) soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends. The "Ashoka Chakra" in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principle of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change." 
A widely held unofficial interpretation is that saffron stands for purity and spirituality, white for peace and truth, and green for fertility and prosperity.


At the beginning of the 20th century, as the Indian independence movement seeking freedom from British rule gained ground, the need was felt for a national flag that would serve as a powerful symbol of these aspirations. In 1904, Sister Nivedita, an Irish disciple of Swami Vivekananda, came up with the first flag of India, later referred to as Sister Nivedita's Flag. It was a red square-shaped flag with a yellow inset; it depicted a "Vajra Chinha" (thunderbolt) with a white lotus alongside it in the centre. The words 'Vande Mataram' (meaning "Hail the Mother[land]!") were inscribed on the flag in Bengali. The red colour signified the freedom struggle, yellow signified victory, and the white lotus signified purity.

The first tricolour was unfurled on 1906-08-07, during a protest rally against the Partition of Bengal, by Schindra Prasad Bose in Parsi Bagan Square in Calcutta. This flag came to be known as the Calcutta Flag. The flag had three horizontal bands of equal width with the top being orange, the centre yellow and the bottom green in colour. It had eight half-opened lotus flowers on the top stripe, and a picture of the sun and a crescent moon on the bottom stripe. The words Vande Mataram were inscribed in the centre in the Devanagari script.

On 1907-08-22, Bhikaiji Cama unfurled another tricolour flag in Stuttgart, Germany. This flag had green at the top, saffron in the centre and red at the bottom, the green standing for Islam and the saffron for both Hinduism and Buddhism. The flag had eight lotuses in a line on the green band representing the eight provinces of British India. The words Vande Mataram, in the Devanagari script, were inscribed on the central band. On the lowest band, towards the hoist of the flag was a crescent, and towards the fly a sun. The flag was jointly designed by Bhikaiji Cama, Veer Savarkar and Shyamji Krishna Varma. After the outbreak of World War I, this flag became known as the Berlin Committee Flag after it was adopted by the Indian Revolutionaries at the Berlin Committee. This flag was actively used in Mesopotamia during the First World War. The Ghadar Party flag was also used in the United States as a symbol for India for a short period of time.

The Home Rule Movement formed by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant in 1917 adopted a new flag, one which featured five red and four green horizontal stripes. On the upper left quadrant was the Union Jack which signified the Dominion status that the movement sought to achieve. A crescent and a star, both in white, are set in top fly. Seven white stars are arranged as in the Saptarishi constallation (the constallation Ursa Major), which is sacred to Hindus. This flag could not become popular among the masses, probably due to their repugnance for the Union Jack

A year earlier in 1916, Pingali Venkayya, from Machilipatnam in present-day Andhra Pradesh tried to devise a common national flag. His endeavours were noticed by Umar Sobani and SB Bomanji, who together formed the Indian National Flag Mission. When Venkayya sought Mahatma Gandhi's approval for the flag, the Mahatma suggested the incorporation of the "Charkha" or spinning wheel on the flag, symbolising "the embodiment of India and the redemption of all its ills". The humble spinning-wheel had become a hallowed symbol of the economic regeneration of India under the Mahatma's championship. Pingali Venkayya came up with a flag with the charkha on a red and green background. However, Mahatma Gandhi found that the flag did not represent all the religions of India.

To address Mahatma Gandhi's concerns, another new flag was indeed designed. This tricolour featured white on top, green in the centre and red at the bottom, symbolising the minority religions, Muslims and Hindus respectively, with a "Charkha" drawn across all three bands. Parallels were drawn with the fact that it closely resembled the Flag of Ireland, symbol of the other major freedom struggle against the British Empire. This flag was first unfurled at the congress party meeting in Ahmedabad. Although this flag was not adopted as the official flag of the Indian National Congress party, it was nevertheless widely used during the freedom movement.

However, there were many who were not satisfied with the communal interpretation of the flag. The All India Sanskrit Congress that convened in Calcutta in 1924 suggested the inclusion of saffron or ochre and the "gadha" (mace) of Vishnu as the symbol of the Hindus. Later that year, it was suggested that geru (an earthy-red colour) "typified the spirit of renunciation and symbolised an ideal common to the Hindu yogis and sanyasis as well as the Muslim fakirs and darveshes." The Sikhs also stepped up the demand to either include a yellow colour that would represent them, or abandon religious symbolism altogether.

In light of these developments, the Congress Working Committee appointed a seven member Flag Committee on 1931-04-02 to sort out these issues. A resolution was passed noting that "objection has been taken to the three colours in the flag on the ground that they are conceived on the communal basis." The unlikely result of these confabulations was a flag featuring just one colour, ochre, and a "Charkha" at upper hoist. Though recommended by the flag committee, the INC did not adopt this flag, as it seemed to project a communalistic ideology.

Later, the final resolution on a flag was passed when the Congress committee met at Karachi in 1931. The tricolour flag then adopted was designed by Pingali Venkayya. It featured three horizontal strips of saffron, white and green, with a "Charkha" in the center. The colours were interpreted thus: saffron for courage; white for truth and peace; green for faith and prosperity. The "Charkha" symbolised the economic regeneration of India and the industriousness of its people.

At the same time a variant of the flag was being used by the Indian National Army that included the words "Azad Hind" with a springing tiger in lieu of the chakra signifying Subhash Chandra Bose's violent methods as opposed to Mahatma Gandhi's non-violence. This tricolour was hoisted for the first time on Indian soil in Manipur by Subhash Chandra Bose though it was not the official version.

A few days before India gained its freedom in August 1947, the Constituent Assembly was formed to discuss the flag of the India. They set up an ad hoc committee headed by Rajendra Prasad and consisting of Abul Kalam Azad, KM Panikar, Sarojini Naidu, C. Rajagopalachari, KM Munshi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar as its members. The Flag Committee was constituted on 1947-06-23 and it began deliberations on the issue. After three weeks they came to a decision on 1947-07-14, being that the flag of the Indian National Congress should be adopted as the National Flag of India with suitable modifications, to make it acceptable to all parties and communities. It was further resolved that the flag should not have any communal undertones. The "Dharma Chakra" which appears on the abacus of Sarnath was adopted in the place of the "Charkha". The flag was unfurled for the first time as that of an independent 

Manufacturing process

After India became a republic in 1950, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) brought out the specifications for the flag for the first time in 1951. These were revised in 1964 to conform to the metric system which was adopted in India. The specifications were further amended on 1968-08-17. The specifications cover all the essential requirements of the manufacture of the Indian flag including sizes, dye colour, chromatic values, brightness, thread count and hemp cordage. These guidelines are extremely stringent and any defect in the manufacture of flags is considered to be a serious offence liable to a fine or a jail term or both.

Khadi or hand-spun cloth is the only material allowed to be used for the flag. Raw materials for khadi are restricted to cotton, silk and wool. There are two kinds of khadi used, the first is the khadi-bunting which makes up the body of the flag and the second is the khadi-duck, which is a beige-coloured cloth that holds the flag to the pole. The khadi-duck is an unconventional type of weave that meshes three threads into a weave as compared to two weaves used in conventional weaving. This type of weaving is extremely rare, and there are less than a dozen weavers in India professing this skill. The guidelines also state that there should be exactly 150 threads per square centimetre, four threads per stitch, and one square foot should weigh exactly 205 grams.

The woven khadi is obtained from two handloom units in Dharwad and Bagalkot districts of northern Karnataka. Currently there is only one licensed flag production unit in India which is based in Hubli. Permission for setting up flag manufacturing units in India is allotted by the Khadi Development and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), though the BIS has the power to cancel the licences of units that flout guidelines.

Once woven, the material is sent to the BIS laboratories for testing. After stringent quality testing; the flag if approved, is returned to the factory. It is then bleached and dyed into the respective colours. In the centre the Ashoka Chakra is screen printed, stencilled or suitably embroidered. Care also has to be taken that the chakra is matched and completely visible on both sides. The BIS then checks for the colours and only then can the flag be sold.

Each year around forty million flags are sold in India. The largest flag in India (14 × 21 ft) is flown by the government of Maharashtra atop the Mantralaya building, the state administrative headquarters.

Proper flag protocol

Prior to 2002, the general public of India could not fly their national flag freely, except on designated national holidays. Only government offices and higher functionaries of the government could do so. An industrialist by name Naveen Jindal filed a Public interest petition in the Delhi High Court, seeking the striking down of this restriction. Jindal apparently flew the flag atop his office building, but as this was against the National flag code, the flag was confiscated and he was informed that he was liable to be prosecuted. Jindal argued that hoisting the National flag with due decorum and honour was his right as a citizen, and a way of expressing his love for India. The case moved to the Supreme Court of India, which asked the Government of India to set up a committee to consider the matter. The Union Cabinet amended the Indian flag code with effect from 2002-01-26, allowing the general public to hoist the flag on all days of the year, provided they safeguarded the dignity, honour and respect of the flag.

Respect for the flag

Indian law says that the flag must at all times be treated with "dignity, loyalty and respect". The "Flag Code of India – 2002", which superseded "The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950", governs the display and usage of the flag. Official regulation states that the flag must never touch the ground or water, be used as a tablecloth or draped in front of a platform, cover a statue, plaque, cornerstone etc. Until 2005, the flag could not be used in clothing, uniform or costume. On 2005-07-05, the Government of India amended the code, allowing use of the flag as clothing and uniform. It however cannot be used as clothing below the waist or as undergarments. It is also prohibited to embroider the national flag and other symbols onto pillowcases or neckerchiefs.

The flag may not be intentionally placed upside down, dipped in anything, or hold any objects other than flower petals before unfurling. No sort of lettering may be inscribed on the flag.

Handling of the flag

There are a number of traditional rules of respect that should be observed when handling or displaying the flag. When out in the open, the flag should always be hoisted at sunrise, and lowered at sunset, irrespective of the weather conditions. The flag may be also flown on a public building at night under special circumstances.

The flag should never be depicted, displayed or flown upside down. Tradition also states that when draped vertically, the flag should not merely be rotated through 90 degrees, but also reversed. One "reads" a flag like the pages of a book, from top to bottom and from left to right, and after rotation the results should be the same. It is also insulting to display the flag in a frayed or dirty state. The same rule applies to the flagpoles and halyards used to hoist the flag, which should always be in a proper state of maintenance.

The rules regarding the correct methods to display the flag state, that when two flags are fully spread out horizontally on a wall behind a podium, their hoists should be towards each other with the saffron stripes uppermost. If the flag is displayed on a short flagpole, this should be mounted at an angle to the wall with the flag draped tastefully from it. If two national flags are displayed on crossed staffs, the hoists must be towards each other and the flags must be fully spread out. The flag should never be used as a cloth to cover tables, lecterns, podiums or buildings, or be draped from railings.

With other countries

When the National Flag is flown outdoors in company with the national flags of other countries, there are several rules that govern the ways in which the flag must be flown, specifically that it must always occupy the position of honour. This means it must be the flag furthest to the right (observers' left) of all the flags on display, with the flags of other countries being arranged alphabetically according to the English alphabet. All the flags should be approximately the same size, with no flag being larger than the Indian flag. Each country's flag should be on a separate pole, with no national flag being flown on top of another from the same pole.

It would be permissible in such a case to begin and also to end the row of flags with the Indian flag and also include it in the normal country wise alphabetical order. In case flags are to be flown in a closed circle, the national flag shall mark the beginning of the circle and the flags of other countries should proceed in a clockwise manner until the last flag is placed next to the national flag. The Indian flag must always be hoisted first and lowered last.

When the flag is displayed on crossed poles, the Indian flag's pole should be in front and the flag to the right (observers' left) of the other flag. When the United Nations flag is flown along with the Indian flag, it can be displayed on either side of it. The general practice is to fly the flag on the extreme right with reference to the direction which it is facing (i.e. extreme left of an observer facing the masts flying the flags).

With non-national flags

When the flag is displayed with other flags that are not national flags, such as corporate flags and advertising banners, the rules state that if the flags are on separate staffs, the flag of India should be in the middle, or the furthest left from the viewpoint of the onlookers, or at least one flag's breadth higher than the other flags in the group. Its flagpole must be in front of the other poles in the group, but if they are on the same staff, it must be the uppermost flag. If the flag is carried in procession with other flags, it must be at the head of the marching procession, or if carried with a row of flags in line abreast, it must be carried to the marching right of the procession.

Showing the flag indoors
Whenever the flag is displayed indoors in the halls at public meetings or gatherings of any kind, it should always be on the right (observers' left), as this is the position of authority. So when the flag is displayed next to a speaker in the hall or other meeting place, it must be placed on the speaker's right hand. When it is displayed elsewhere in the hall, it should be to the right of the audience.

The flag should be displayed completely spread out with the saffron stripe on top. If hung vertically on the wall behind the podium, the saffron stripe should be to the left of the onlookers facing the flag with the hoist cord at the top.

Parades and ceremonies

The flag, when carried in a procession or parade or with another flag or flags, should be on the marching right or alone in the centre at the front. The flag may form a distinctive feature of the unveiling of a statue, monument, or plaque, but should never be used as the covering for the object. As a mark of respect to the flag, it should never be dipped to a person or thing. Regimental colours, organisational or institutional flags may be dipped as a mark of honour.

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag, or when the flag is passing in a parade or in a review, all persons present should face the flag and stand at attention. Those present in uniform should render the appropriate salute. When the flag is in a moving column, persons present will stand at attention or salute as the flag passes them. A dignitary may take the salute without a head dress. The flag salutation should be followed by the playing of the national anthem.

Display on vehicles

The privilege of flying the national flag on a vehicle is restricted to the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Governors and Lt. Governors, Chief Ministers, Cabinet Ministers and Junior Cabinet members of the Indian Parliament and state legislatures, Speakers of the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies, Chairmen of the Rajya Sabha and state legislative councils, judges of the Supreme Court of India and High Courts, and high ranking officers of the army, navy and air force.

They may fly the flag on their cars, whenever they consider it necessary or advisable. The flag shall be flown from a staff, which should be affixed firmly either on the middle front of the bonnet or to the front right side of the car. When a foreign dignitary travels in a car provided by government, the flag should be flown on the right side of the car and the flag of the foreign country should be flown on the left side of the car.

The flag should be flown on the aircraft carrying the President, the Vice-President or the Prime Minister on a visit to a foreign country. Alongside the National Flag, the flag of the country visited should also be flown but, when the aircraft lands in countries en route, the national flags of the countries touched would be flown instead, as a gesture of courtesy and goodwill. When the President goes on tour within India, the flag should be displayed on the side by which the President will embark the aircraft or disembark from it. When the President travels by special train within the country, the flag should be flown from the driver’s cab on the side facing the platform of the station from where the train departs. The flag should be flown only when the special train is stationary or when coming into the station where it is going to halt.


The flag should be flown at half-mast as a sign of mourning only on instructions from the president, who will also give a date ending the mourning period. When the flag is to be flown at half mast, it must first be raised to the top of the mast and then slowly lowered to half mast. Before being lowered at sunset or at the appropriate time, the flag is first raised to the top of the pole and then lowered. Only the Indian flag is flown half mast; all other flags remain at normal height.

The flag is flown at half-mast for the death of the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister all over India. For the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of The Supreme Court of India, it is flown in Delhi and for a Union Cabinet Minister it is flown in Delhi and the state capitals. For Minister of State, it is flown only in Delhi. For a Governor, Lt. Governor and Chief Minister of a state or union territory it is flown in the concerned state.

If the intimation of the death of any dignitary is received in the afternoon, the flag shall be flown at half-mast on the following day also at the place or places indicated above, provided the funeral has not taken place before sun-rise on that day. On the day of the funeral of a dignitary mentioned above, the flag shall be flown at half-mast at the place of the funeral.

In the event of a half-mast day coinciding with the Republic Day, Independence Day, Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, National Week (6th to 13th April), any other particular day of national rejoicing as may be specified by the Government of India or in the case of a state, on the anniversary of formation of that state, flags are not permitted to be flown at half-mast except over the building where the body of the deceased is lying until such time it has been removed and that flag shall be raised to the full-mast position after the body has been removed.

Observances of State mourning on the death of foreign dignitaries are governed by special instructions issued from the Ministry of Home Affairs (Home Ministry) in individual cases. However, in the event of death of either the Head of the State or Head of the Government of a foreign country, the Indian Mission accredited to that country may fly the national flag on the above mentioned days.

On occasions of state, military, central para-military forces funerals, the flag shall be draped over the bier or coffin with the saffron towards the head of the bier or coffin. The flag shall not be lowered into the grave or burnt in the pyre.


When no longer in a fit condition to be used, a flag should be disposed off in a dignified manner, preferably by burning or ground burial.

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