The Indian Flag: Divisive or Inclusive?


India’s national flag, with its distinctive colors and symbols, is an important national symbol that represents the country’s identity and unity. Despite its status as a unifying symbol of India’s diverse population, the flag has also been a subject of controversy and political debate. In this article, we will explore the history and evolution of the Indian flag, including the significance of its colors and symbols. We will also delve into the ways in which the flag has been used as both a unifying and a divisive force throughout India’s history, from its independence to the present day. Finally, we will examine the cultural and artistic representations of the Indian flag, as well as its commercial and branding uses. What is the story behind the Indian flag, and why does it continue to inspire such strong feelings and conflicting opinions? Let’s explore this complex symbol together.

The Importance of National Symbols

National symbols are intrinsic to a country’s identity and serve as powerful unifying forces. They embody the history, culture, and values of a nation, reflecting its unique personality and character. They have the power to evoke strong emotions, forge a sense of belonging, and inspire patriotism and nationalistic fervor. The Indian flag, with its tricolor and symbols of the charkha and the Ashoka Chakra, is no exception. It is a potent symbol of India’s sovereignty, integrity, and diversity. It is a constant reminder of the struggles and sacrifices made by the Indian people to gain independence from British rule. It is a symbol of India’s cultural heritage and unity in diversity.

National symbols, however, are not only important in times of peace and stability but also in times of conflict and crisis. They provide a rallying point for the people, a beacon of hope, and a source of strength and courage. This is particularly evident in India’s history, where the Indian flag played a critical role in the Independence movement. Mahatma Gandhi himself said, “A flag is a necessity for all nations. Millions have died for it. It is no doubt a kind of idolatry which would be a sin to destroy. For, a flag represents an Ideal The unfurling of the Union Jack meant a denial of that Ideal.” National symbols are not just mere symbols, but they are integral components of a nation’s spirit and soul.

National symbols have a diplomatic significance, as they represent a country on the global stage. They provide a recognizable image and identity to the country, which becomes associated with the country’s values, traditions, and achievements. The Indian flag has been an important participant in several international events, like the Olympics and the United Nations, representing India’s aspirations for global peace and cooperation.

National symbols, like the Indian flag, are crucial components of a country’s heritage, identity, and sovereignty. They serve as unifiers, inspirers, and ambassadors, embodying the spirit and values of the country. It is imperative to respect and cherish these symbols and to use them as tools for unity, progress, and harmony.

The History and Evolution of the Indian Flag

The history and evolution of the Indian flag is a reflection of India’s struggle for independence and its rich cultural heritage. Under British rule, Indians were forced to use the Union Jack as their national flag, which created a sense of resentment and sparked a movement for an independent Indian flag. The first Indian flag was designed by Pingali Venkayya, which had stripes of red and green, representing Hindu and Muslim communities. The flag also had a spinning wheel, symbolizing the country’s quest for self-reliance. The current design of the Indian flag was adopted in 1947, featuring bands of saffron, white and green, with a navy blue Ashoka Chakra in the center. The saffron color represents courage and sacrifice, white represents purity and peace, while green represents prosperity and faith. The Ashoka Chakra represents the wheel of law and depicts the continuity of life. The Indian flag is a symbol of India’s unity in diversity and a representation of its rich cultural heritage.

Under British Rule

Under British rule, Indian nationalists started using (unofficial) flags to symbolize their struggle for independence from the British Raj. Diverse designs and colors were used, depending on the region and organizers. For instance, the Indian National Congress adopted a red and green flag, symbolizing Hindus and Muslims, respectively, at its 1921 session. However, the British authorities saw the use of nationalist flags as seditious and banned them. In response, the Congress adopted the Swaraj Flag in 1923. It consisted of three horizontal colors: red (representing freedom struggle), green (representing Muslim community), and white (representing other communities). In the center, there was a charkha (spinning wheel), invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. The flag was used in protests and non-cooperation movements, but it too was banned by the colonial regime. Despite the repression, the symbols and colors used in these national flags inspired the final design of the Indian national flag.

The First Indian Flag

In 1905, the first version of the Indian Flag was designed by Shri Aurobindo Ghosh, a nationalist leader, during the Swadeshi Movement. This red banner was designed with a sun and star in the center, representing unity among Hindus and Muslims. However, due to its political nature, the flag was not widely accepted by the British authorities.

Later, the Indian National Congress was formed, and in 1921, a new flag was introduced at their annual meeting. This flag had three horizontal stripes of saffron, white, and green, representing courage and sacrifice, truth and peace, and faith and chivalry, respectively. A spinning wheel, symbolizing India’s economic progress, was added in the center. This flag gained wide acceptance and became a symbol of India’s nationalist movement.

During the Salt March in 1930, Mahatma Gandhi and his followers carried the Congress flag and used it to symbolize their fight for independence. The flag was also used during the Quit India Movement in 1942.

Although the Congress flag was widely accepted as the Indian national flag, it was not officially recognized until India gained independence in 1947.

The Current Design

The current design of the Indian flag was adopted on July 22, 1947, and features three horizontal stripes of saffron, white, and green, with a blue Ashoka Chakra, or wheel of law, in the center. The saffron stripe symbolizes courage and sacrifice, the white stripe represents peace and truth, and the green stripe signifies faith and fertility of the land. The wheel in the center represents the law of Dharma, a concept in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism that embodies righteousness and justice.

The design was created by Pingali Venkayya, an Indian freedom fighter, and was initially unfurled on August 15, 1947, when India gained independence from British rule. The current design was officially adopted by the Constituent Assembly of India on July 22, 1947, and remains unchanged to this day.

The flag has specific design and manufacturing guidelines set by the Bureau of Indian Standards, which is responsible for ensuring its production adheres to the highest standards of quality and respect. It’s always to be made of handspun Khadi, a traditional Indian fabric, and must never touch the ground or be used for any other purpose than as a symbol of national pride.

Interestingly, the Indian flag’s design has been a source of inspiration for the flags of other countries like Guinea-Bissau, Niger, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The Indian flag’s current design is a powerful symbol of India’s rich history, cultural diversity, and national ideals.

Significance of Colors and Symbols

The colors and symbols on the Indian flag are very significant and hold deep meaning for the country. The three colors, saffron, white and green, represent courage and sacrifice, peace and truth, and faith and chivalry, respectively. The spinning wheel or chakra in the center of the flag represents the wheel of law and symbolizes progress and unity. The 24 spokes on the chakra signify the 24 Dharma rishis of the Hindu religion.

The Indian flag has undergone several changes since its inception, but the significance of its colors and symbols remains the same. The flag was originally designed with green, yellow and red stripes to represent the different religious communities of India. However, this design was soon abandoned due to its similarity with the flag of the African National Congress.

The current design with saffron, white and green stripes was adopted in 1921. The chakra was added in 1947 when India gained independence from British rule. The colors and symbols on the flag evoke a sense of national pride and unity among the citizens of India.

In contrast to other flags, such as the /confederate-flag-history-controversy/ confederate flag or the /rising-sun-flag-meaning/ rising sun flag, the Indian flag’s colors and symbols have not been associated with any negative or controversial meanings. However, debates over the inclusion of other symbols on the Indian flag, such as the inclusion of the Buddhist flag or the removal of certain symbols, have arisen in the past.

The significance of the colors and symbols on the Indian flag is an important aspect of the country’s identity. It reflects the values and beliefs of the Indian people and serves as a symbol of national unity and pride.

The Indian Flag as a Symbol of Unity

The Indian Flag As A Symbol Of Unity
The Indian flag is known as a symbol of unity among the people of India. The use of tricolor with saffron, white, and green colors represents the country’s diversity and unity. The Wheel of Dharma in navy blue at the center of the flag is a symbol of righteousness, progress, and continuity. The flag has been used to promote unity and integrity across the country, especially since India’s independence. It’s commonly seen at national and international events, and it’s also widely displayed in public spaces such as schools, government offices, and homes. The flag has become a source of pride and unity for all Indians. Despite the diverse religions, cultures, and languages, the Indian flag serves as a common symbol of identity and inclusivity for all.

From Independence to Present

After India gained independence from British rule in 1947, the Indian flag was officially adopted as the country’s national flag. The flag was designed by Pingali Venkayya and features three equal horizontal bands of saffron, white, and green. The top band represents courage and sacrifice, the middle band symbolizes peace and truth, and the bottom band signifies faith and fertility.

In the middle of the white band, there is a navy blue wheel with 24 spokes, known as the Ashoka Chakra. The wheel represents the cycle of life and death, and the 24 spokes are said to represent the 24 hours in a day, symbolizing that there is always work to be done in building a new nation.

Since then, the Indian flag has been hoisted with pride on national holidays and important occasions. It is also used in international events to represent India and its people. During Republic Day and Independence Day celebrations, the Indian flag is flown along with the flags of other countries, signifying India’s place in the global community.

Over the years, there have been some modifications to the flag design, but the basic structure and symbolism have remained unchanged. In 2002, the Indian government introduced a new code of conduct which dictates proper usage of the national flag. This includes guidelines on the acceptable design of the flag, as well as rules for its display and handling.

Despite some controversies and debates surrounding the use and symbolism of the Indian flag, it remains a powerful symbol of unity and national pride. As India continues to grow and evolve as a nation, the flag will undoubtedly continue to play a central role in its cultural and political identity.

Use in National and International Events

The Indian national flag is a symbol of the country’s sovereignty and its people’s unity. It is not only a part of India’s identity, but it is also used in various national and international events. Indian soldiers who serve in the army, navy, and air force display the flag on their uniforms as a sign of their patriotism. The flag is also raised on important occasions such as Independence Day and Republic Day, where it is hoisted on all government buildings, schools, and other public places throughout the country.

The Indian flag also symbolizes the country’s ‘Unity in Diversity’, as it represents the different religions, cultures, and traditions of the Indian people. The flag is also used in international events as a representation of India’s identity and as a sign of respect towards the country. For instance, in the Olympics, when Indian athletes win a medal, the Indian national anthem is played while the flag is hoisted.

Unfortunately, the Indian flag has also been a part of several controversies in international events. One such instance was during the India-Pakistan cricket match in 2019. The Indian cricket team wore camouflage caps in memory of the Pulwama terror attack victims, which had Indian army colors and the country’s flag. The International Cricket Council (ICC) objected to the gesture, saying it was a political statement, and BCCI–India’s cricket board–had to clarify to avoid the controversy.

The Indian national flag remains an important symbol of the country’s identity and unity, and it continues to be used in various national and international events. Its design and symbolism have evolved over time, but its importance in representing India and its people remains unchanged.

The Indian Flag as a Subject of Controversies

The Indian Flag has been a subject of controversies throughout history. Some political and religious groups have criticized the flag’s design and symbolism, which they view as inadequate in representing their interests. For instance, the use of Saffron color in the flag has been controversial among some religious groups who argue that Saffron’s association with Hinduism is exclusive and may alienate minority religions. Additionally, there have been debates on changing the flag’s design, especially in the wake of India’s independence, to make it more inclusive. The controversies have sometimes resulted in extreme actions such as flag desecration, which is a criminal offense in India. However, despite the controversies, the Indian Flag remains a unifying symbol of the country’s identity, representing the diverse cultures, traditions, and beliefs that make India a unique nation.

Religious and Political Controversies

The Indian flag has been a subject of religious and political controversies since its inception. One of the most prominent controversies arose during the partition of India in 1947. Some Muslims felt that the Indian flag did not represent their interests and demanded a separate flag for their newly formed state, Pakistan. This led to the creation of the Pakistan flag which has similarities to the Indian flag but with a white stripe representing minority religions such as Islam.

In recent times, the Indian flag has been mired in several political controversies. One such incident took place in 2016 when students at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi were arrested for allegedly disrespecting the flag during a protest against the Indian government. This led to a nationwide debate about the right to free speech and expression.

Another controversy surrounding the Indian flag is its use by the right-wing Hindu nationalist group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which has led to accusations of communalism and religious prejudice. The RSS uses an orange version of the Indian flag, which is seen by some as an attempt to appropriate the national symbol for their own political agenda.

Despite the controversy, the Indian flag also serves as a unifying symbol for the country’s diverse population. It is used during national holidays and sporting events to celebrate the country’s achievements. It is also displayed in Indian embassies and consulates abroad as a symbol of the country’s identity and pride.

The Indian flag holds a complex position in Indian society, representing both unity and division. While it has been a subject of religious and political controversies, its significance as a national symbol cannot be underestimated. As with any national symbol, it is important to strike a balance between respecting its meaning and promoting individual freedoms.

Flag Desecration Cases

Flag desecration, or the act of deliberately damaging or destroying a national flag, is a sensitive issue in India and is considered a punishable offense by law. However, despite legal provisions, there have been many instances of flag desecration in the country, often leading to public outrage and protests.

One such incident occurred in 1992, during the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya, where Hindu activists hoisted saffron flags on top of the mosque and allegedly destroyed the Indian national flag. This incident sparked widespread violence and riots across the country.

Another controversial flag desecration case happened in 2005, when a Tamil Nadu politician named T. Raja Singh was arrested for allegedly cutting up and burning the Indian flag during a political rally. Singh argued that he did not desecrate the national flag intentionally, but rather the flag of the ruling party.

In 2014, a group of Bajrang Dal activists were arrested for allegedly disrespecting the Indian national flag by allegedly burning it during a protest against the use of Pakistani flags in the Eid celebrations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Apart from these incidents, there have also been debates on whether burning a flag as a form of political protest should be considered a protected form of free speech or a criminal offense.

Flag desecration cases in India have been a source of tension and controversy, especially in the context of political and religious conflicts.

Debates on Flag Change

Over the years, there have been numerous debates on changing the Indian flag’s design or colors. The most common argument for the change is that the current flag design is a relic of India’s colonial past, and it’s time to create a new symbol of India’s independent identity. However, such debates have largely been unsuccessful due to the deeply ingrained emotional attachment that Indians have towards the national flag.

One of the most prominent debates on flag change took place in 2003 when a private member’s bill was introduced in the Indian Parliament, proposing changes to the flag’s design. The bill suggested that the chakra, a wheel with 24 spokes in navy blue color at the center of the flag, should be replaced with the national emblem.

The proposal was met with widespread criticism and protests throughout the country. Many argued that the chakra is an essential part of the flag’s symbolism and represents the continuous forward motion of the country. Others claimed that changing the flag would be an insult to India’s independence struggle and would erase the memories associated with the flag.

Similarly, in the run-up to the 2014 general elections, the leader of a regional party in India called for replacing the current flag with a saffron flag to represent India’s Hindu identity. This proposal faced severe backlash from other political parties, civil society groups, and the general public, who saw it as an attempt to polarize the country and erase the secular fabric of India.

These debates on flag change have continued to date, with some calling for adding new elements to the flag, such as the slogan Vande Mataram or removing the color saffron from the flag due to its association with Hindu nationalism.

It is worth noting that such proposed changes are highly controversial and have not gained much traction because the flag represents a deeply ingrained emotional attachment that Indians have towards their national identity.

While debates on flag change have been ongoing, it seems that the current design and symbolism of the Indian flag are firmly embedded in the country’s national consciousness and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Some other countries like Israel and Palestine have also had debates over changing their national flags due to political and historical factors. Similarly, the LGBTQ+ pride flag has also seen changes and criticisms over the years.

The Indian Flag Beyond Politics and Conflicts

The Indian flag holds a special place in the hearts of the people of India, transcending political and religious boundaries. The flag has been embraced by various cultural and artistic groups, serving as a symbol of the country’s rich heritage and identity. It has also been commercialized and used for branding purposes, appearing on everything from clothing to souvenirs. The flag’s design and colors have inspired countless works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and embroidery. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the universal appeal of the values and ideals it represents – freedom, unity, and progress. The Indian government has taken steps to protect and promote the flag’s significance, including issuing guidelines for its proper usage and regulating its commercial use. Ultimately, the Indian flag continues to hold deep meaning for the people of India and serves as a powerful reminder of the country’s rich history and diverse cultural heritage.

Cultural and Artistic Representations

The Indian flag has not only been an important national symbol, but also a source of inspiration for cultural and artistic representations. Many artists have incorporated the Indian flag into their pieces, showcasing the flag’s significance in Indian culture. Some of these artistic representations include paintings, murals, sculptures, and even fashion designs.

One notable example of the Indian flag’s use in art is the “Jhanda Chalao” movement, which translates to “raise the flag movement”. This movement was led by Indian artist Shanti Dave in the 1980s, and aimed to encourage the Indian people to raise the national flag in public places as a symbol of pride and unity. Dave used the Indian flag as a central motif in his paintings, which often depicted people raising the flag in various settings.

In recent years, the Indian flag has been used in fashion designs as well. Many Indian fashion designers have incorporated the tricolor into their designs, creating patriotic and stylish pieces. For example, fashion designer Ritu Kumar created a saree design that featured the Indian flag’s colors, which became popular among Indian women during Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations.

Another notable example of the Indian flag’s cultural representations is the “Flag of Unity” project, which aimed to showcase the diversity of Indian culture through various artistic representations of the Indian flag. This project inspired artists from different regions and cultures in India to create their own unique versions of the flag, incorporating their local traditions and symbols into their designs.

The cultural and artistic representations of the Indian flag highlight the significance of the flag as a symbol of unity and pride in Indian culture. These representations showcase the flag’s versatility and ability to inspire creativity and innovation in various forms of art.

Commercial Use and Branding

Commercial use and branding of the Indian flag have been a topic of debate among many for years. While some argue that its use in commercial branding could be seen as disrespectful, others believe that it is a way to express patriotism and love for the country. Let’s explore both sides of this issue.

Arguments Against Commercial Use of the Flag

Those opposed to the use of the Indian flag in commercial branding believe that it is disrespectful to the country’s national symbol. The Indian flag holds great significance for the Indian people, and it is important that it is not used frivolously or in a cheaply exploitative way. Some of the main concerns regarding commercial use of the flag include:

  • The possibility of the flag being used in products that do not align with the values and principles of the country.
  • The flag being used in a way that could be seen as disrespectful or offensive, such as placing it on the floor or using it as clothing material.
  • Selling merchandise containing the flag, leading to an increase in demand and production, which could lead to devaluing the use of the flag and turning it into a mere commodity.

Arguments in Favor of Commercial Use of the Flag

On the other hand, those in favor of commercial use of the Indian flag argue that it is a way to express patriotism and love for the country. When people use the flag in commercial branding, it is a way to show their support for the country and its values, and can also be a way to promote national unity. Some of the main arguments for the commercial use of the flag include:

  • By using the flag in commercial branding, it increases the visibility and awareness of the national symbol, leading to a greater appreciation and understanding of its importance.
  • Selling merchandise containing the flag can be seen as supporting local businesses and the economy, as well as a way to promote tourism and cultural exchange.
  • Commercial use could also lead to the flag being more easily recognized on an international level and representing India on a global scale.

While there are valid arguments for both sides, it is important to remember that the Indian flag is a national symbol that deserves respect and dignity. The commercial use of the flag should be done with caution and thoughtfulness, in a way that aligns with the values and principles of the country and does not compromise its significance or importance.


The Indian Flag is a complex symbol that reflects India’s rich history, culture, and diversity. From its evolution under British rule to its current design, it has gone through many changes and controversies. Despite the criticisms and debates surrounding its use, the flag remains a unifying national symbol that represents the pride and identity of India and its people. As a nation, India has a long history of embracing diversity and inclusivity. The flag is a testament to these values, serving as a powerful reminder of India’s unity in diversity. It represents the struggles and achievements of the past and the hopes and aspirations for the future. The Indian Flag is more than just colors and symbols; it is a reflection of India’s identity and its people’s resilience.

The Indian Flag as a Complex Symbol of India’s Identity

The Indian flag is a symbol of India’s identity that is complex and layered. It represents not just the country’s political and historical independence but also its diverse cultures and traditions. Here are some aspects that make the Indian flag a complex symbol:

Cultural and Linguistic Diversity: India is a diverse country with many regional languages, religions, and cultures. The Indian flag represents this diversity with equal representation of three colors- saffron, white, and green. Saffron represents courage and sacrifice, white represents peace and truth, and green represents faith and chivalry. The Ashoka Chakra in navy blue color at the center of the flag symbolizes the law of Dharma, which teaches righteousness and justice.

Historical Significance: The Indian flag has a rich history that is deeply connected to India’s freedom struggle. The present design of the Indian flag was adopted on July 22, 1947, by the Constituent Assembly of India. The tricolor flag with the ashoka chakra replaced the previous flag used by the Indian National Congress, which was designed by Pingali Venkayya.

Unity in Diversity: The Indian flag represents not just India’s diversity but also the unity and harmony that lies in its diversity. The flag is a symbol of brotherhood, tolerance, and secularism that binds the country together. It depicts the idea that India is a secular nation where people of different religions, castes, and cultures can live together in peace and harmony.

Global identity: The Indian flag is recognized globally as a symbol of India’s identity and nationhood. It is used in various international events as a symbol of India’s participation and is an important element of India’s branding and commercial identity.

The Indian flag has a deep and complex symbolic significance that goes beyond its physical representation. It is a strong reminder of India’s history, cultural diversity, and national identity, and is a source of pride for Indians across the globe.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Indian Flag made of?

The Indian Flag is made of a special type of cloth called khadi, which was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian independence movement.

Why are the colors of the Indian Flag saffron, white, and green?

The saffron color represents courage and sacrifice, white represents truth and peace, and green represents prosperity and fertility.

What is the significance of the Ashoka Chakra in the middle of the Indian Flag?

The 24-spoke wheel, called the Ashoka Chakra, represents the ideas of dharma (righteousness) and karma (action), which are both important in Indian philosophy and spirituality.

When was the Indian Flag first hoisted?

The Indian Flag was first hoisted on August 15, 1947, when India gained independence from British rule.

Has the Indian Flag always looked the same?

No, the Indian Flag has gone through several changes since its first design in 1921. The current design was adopted on July 22, 1947.

What is the penalty for disrespecting the Indian Flag?

Disrespecting the Indian Flag is a punishable offense under the Indian Flag Code. The person could face imprisonment up to three years or a fine, or both.

Has there been any attempt to change the design of the Indian Flag?

Yes, there have been several attempts to change the design of the Indian Flag, but none have been successful so far.

What is the significance of the Indian Flag on Independence Day?

The Indian Flag is hoisted on Independence Day to celebrate the country’s freedom from British rule and to express national pride and unity.

Can the Indian Flag be flown at night?

The Indian Flag can be flown at night, but it must be well-illuminated to show all three colors clearly.

What is the protocol for hoisting the Indian Flag?

The Indian Flag must be hoisted briskly and lowered slowly, and it must never touch the ground or water. It should also be flown from a sturdy pole and in a clean and respectful environment.


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