Interesting Stories Behind Our National Symbols
August 15th, 2015
The National Flag
The Indian ‘Tiranga’ (tricolour), as we see today, was officially adopted as the national flag of India on 22nd July, 1947 by a committee headed by Rajendra Prasad. However, several other versions of the Indian flag had been used before that. The first known Indian flag was made by Sister Nivedita, an Irish disciple of Swami Vivekananda, in 1904. The flag was red and contained a yellow figure of ‘Vajra’ (thurderbolt) and a lotus. It had the words “Bonde Matoram” written in Bengali script.
It was in 1931 that Pingali Venkayya designed the tricolour with a ‘charkha’ (spinning wheel) in the centre, and this was adopted as the official flag of the Indian National Congress. In 1947, this design was adopted as the national flag of India, but the ‘charkha’ in the centre was replaced with the ‘Ashoka Chakra’ (wheel with 24 spokes). And hence, our mighty National Flag came into being.
The National Emblem
Image: Prashanth Kannan
The National Emblem of India, depicting four Asiatic lions standing back to back, is a replica of Sarnath Lion Capital, which was erected by Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC to mark the spot where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma and where the Buddhist Sangha was founded. The entire sculpture was carved out of a single block of polished sandstone. There are a total of 19 such structures still standing in India.
The quote ‘Satyameva Jayate’ (Truth alone triumphs) in Devanagari script, that forms an integral part of the Emblem, originated from the Hindu sacred text, Mundaka Upanishad. The emblem was officially adopted on January 26, 1950, the day India emerged as a Republic.
The National Anthem
Rabindranath Tagore | Image Source
“Jana Gana Mana”, the Indian National Anthem, composed originally in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore, was officially adopted in its Hindi version on January 24, 1950. The song was first sung on December 27, 1911 at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress.
In 1919, Tagore, while visiting his friend and poet James H. Cousin at Besant Theosophical College, in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh, wrote down the English translation of the song. Tagore, along with Cousins’ wife, Margaret, who was an expert in Western music, set down the notation that is followed till this day. At that time, the song was called the “Morning Song of India”.
The National Song
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee | Image Source
The first two verses of the song, “Vande Mataram”, originally composed as a poem by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, was officially given the status of India’s National Song in 1950. Chatterjee composed the poem in Sanskrit and Bengali in 1882 and Jadunath Bhattacharya set the tune.
The song, which emerged as the national cry for independence, had a very deep-rooted impact on the freedom struggle of India. In fact, the British, fearful of the potential danger of an incited Indian populace, at one point banned the utterance of the words “Vande Mataram” in public forums, and imprisoned many independence activists for disobeying the proscription.