Flags have held a significant position in history as a sign of unity and protection from the beginning of our civilisation. Flags have long been associated with Indian culture as a representation of honour and dharma. While constructing India as a modern nation-state, based on her cultural essence, this practice is continued, under the Har Ghar Tiranga Campaign by the Government of India.
The evolution of the National flag of India started with Sister Nivedita in 1904. Sister Nivedita designed the national flag using two colours yellow and red. The flag contained the symbol of ‘Vajra’ which signified strength and a white lotus depicted purity in the centre. Bonde Matoram Bengali words were written on it. Bhikaji Cama was the first Indian to raise the Indian flag on foreign soil before Independence. On August 22, 1907, Bhikaji attended the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart, Germany, where she described the devastation wrought by the famine and plague she experienced in India. She appealed to the gathering to support her call for human rights, quality and Indian Independence from Great Britain. She wrapped herself with a flag and stunned everyone with her fiery speech, “This flag is of Indian Independence! Behold, it is born! It has been made sacred by the blood of young Indians who sacrificed their lives. I call upon you to rise and salute the flag of Indian Independence. I appeal to lovers of freedom all over the world to support this flag.” After that, she appealed to the delegates at the conference to stand and salute the first flag of independent India. This flag she had co-designed with Shyamji Krishna Varma and Veer Savarkar was eventually used as a model for our current National Flag.
Rani Karnavati of Garhwal Mahipat Singh, the king of Garhwal died in 1631 on the battlefield leaving his wife and 7 years old son. Hence, queen of Mahipat Shah, Rani Karnavati took over the administration and ruled on behalf of her minor son Prithvi Pat Shah. Karnavati was a brave woman warrior who not only defended her kingdom from the neighboring chieftains of Kumaon, Sirmour and Tibet – but also against the mighty Emperor Shah Jahan. Garhwal was eyed because it had mines of silver, copper and gold. In 1640, Shah Jahan sent a huge contingent of troops numbering 30,000 under General Najabat Khan. Rani allowed the forces of Najabat Khan to advance and penetrate into the mountains up to a distance, after which she closed the roads from the way they came!! They could not go back and they did not know the mountainous terrain well enough to advance forward quickly. The Mughal general begged for peace and Rani obligied by asking them to cut their nose. Karnavati became famous as Nak Kati Rani.
According to the National Flag Committee Report 1931, which was headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Master Tara Singh, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, D. B. Kalelker, Principal Dr N. S. Hardiker and Dr B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya had stated that “Opinion has been unanimous that our National Flag should be of a single colour except for the colour of the device. If there is one colour that is more acceptable to the Indians as a whole, one that is associated with this ancient country by long tradition, it is the Kesari or saffron colour. Accordingly, it is felt that the flag should be of the Kesari colour except for the colour of the device. That the device should be the Charkha is unanimously agreed to. The Committee have come to the conclusion that the charka should be in blue. Accordingly, we recommend that the National Flag should be of Kesari or saffron colour having on it at the left top quarter the Charkha in blue with the wheel towards the flagstaff, the proportions of the flag being fly to hoist as three to two”.
The Indian National Congress meeting in Karachi, however, rejected the committee’s report, claiming that the saffron colour solely represented Hindus. The Pingali Venkayya-designed tricolour flag was accepted with saffron and green colours, but it later evolved with a spinning wheel at the centre and a third colour-white. The flag was officially adopted by the Indian National Congress in 1931. This flag became the basis of the present National flag which was adopted by the Indian constituent assembly on July 22, 1947. Many heroes had laid down their lives for the sake of the National Flag. Pushpalata Das along with her husband Omeya Kumar Das had organised a squad by the name of Mrityu Vahini following Gandhiji’s Karenge ya Marenge (do or die) call in 1942. The sole purpose of this squad was to lay down their lives for the sake of the nation. It was planned to show their defiance against the British rule by staging peaceful processions and hoisting the National Flag atop police stations on September 20, 1942 in Gohpur, Dhekiajuli, Bihali, and Sootea.
The worst instance of police violence can be seen in these areas. In Dhekiajuli the police opened indiscriminate fire on the people marching peacefully, killing at least 15 people, including 12-year-old Tileswari, who became the youngest martyr of the freedom movement. Kanaklata Barua from Gohpur a 17 years girl too fell to the British Bullets, but the Indian flag was kept flying high and it never touched the ground. Bhogeswari Phukanani was a 60-year-old woman who was shot by the British while she was staging a peaceful protest in Nagaon district of Assam. A similar incidence was seen in the Siwan district of Bihar. On August 12, 1942, Tara Rani Srivastava and her husband Phulendu Babu organized a march to raise the Indian National Flag in front of the Siwan police station. Phulendu Babu was shot by the police while leading the march. Tara Rani bandaged her husband’s wound with strips of cloth torn from her sari and continued her march to the police station, where she attempted to hoist the flag. On her return, she discovered that her husband had died of his injuries. When Bharat is celebrating 75 years of independence, this is the time that we should acknowledge their supreme sacrifice for the dignity of their flag.