Pingali Venkayya – The Man Who Birthed the Indian Tricolor

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The word “August” in English is for reverence and a mark of pride. A fitting coincidence that our country was honored with its Independence this month. India’s freedom movement witnessed overwhelming participation against the British. For decades, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Assam to Gujarat, many thousands of men and women fought to free India from the British Raj’s brutal rule. Then, in August of 1947, the power got transferred from the British to our legendary Indian leaders.

This year, we’ll be celebrating our 75th Independence Day, famously called the Azadi ka Amrit Mohatsav, honoring those who have helped bring India to this point in its history. But seven decades ago, this seemed like a distant reality. As we celebrated our Independence for the first time in 1947, the Indian traditions of our prime minister and president bejeweling the celebrations began. We have all grown up watching parades and the PM unfurling the national flag on Independence Day and other national holidays to commemorate India’s freedom struggle. But little do we know that some lesser-known people also deserve to be remembered for their contribution to Indian history.

“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 evokes in the English breast sentiments whose strength it is difficult to measure. The Stars and Stripes mean a world to the Americans. The Star and the Crescent will call forth the best bravery in Islam.”

“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

Pingali Venkayya was an Indian freedom fighter whom the nation remembers proudly for reasons more than his struggle for our Independence. It was his design upon which India’s national flag is based today. Because of his efforts to bring about a national flag for India, his name became synonymous with the spirit of a free and independent India.

Venkayya was born into a Telugu Brahmin family in Bhatlapenumarru, Madras Presidency, British India (today’s Andhra Pradesh). Pingali grew up to be a Mahatma Gandhi ideologist, whom he met in South Africa during the Second Boer War, where he got posted as part of the British Indian Army. There, a memory of soldiers saluting the Union Jack (the British national flag) lingered in his mind. He then dedicated himself to creating a national flag for the country upon his return. In 1916, he released a booklet titled ‘A National Flag for India,’ in which he offered up to thirty designs for an Indian flag to consider.

Initially, Venkayya came up with saffron and green colors to symbolize Hindus and Muslims, the two major religious communities in India back then. But it later evolved with a spinning wheel at the center, and a third color-white, the charkha, represented Swaraj. His idea and design had given an identity to India and its people. On July 4, 2009, a postage stamp was issued to commemorate Pingali’s role in India’s independence struggle. In 2014, his name got proposed for the Bharat Ratna.

His silent contributions to the struggle deserve our salute because visionaries like Venkayya made possible the freedom that runs in our country and veins. These commemorations remind us that our souls are not made of one form. Every one of us is a child of freedom, pushing the nation’s dreams to a new reality. To thrive as a community and a nation, we must band together and pledge to empower one another.

Last modified: August 3, 2022

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