Jhanda Ooncha Rahe Hamara

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The Connaught Place Flag installed by the Flag Foundation of India in 2014, is one of largest and one of the first to be flown under special permission for flying through day and night.

      Anyone who has ever taken part in an Independence Day or Republic event has surely heard this beautiful song in praise of our National Flag. The song was of course written much before we were an independent country and it was written in honour of the Tricolour with Charkha that was the Flag of the Freedom Struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi.

“Thousands of Indians fought for India’s freedom under the leadership of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose under the Azad Hind Flag”

The song was written by Padma Shri Shyamlal Gupta in March 1924 and the first print of 5000 copies sold out soon. Shyamlal Gupta was a freedom fighter and a disciple of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi. Kanpur observed Jallianwala Bagh Day on 13th April 1924 with a large meeting chaired by Jawaharlal Nehru. This was the first major occasion where Shyamlal sang the new song. Soon the song got recognised as the Flag Song of the Freedom Movement. Our flag has indeed been flying high ever since just as he had dreamt through his poem. The song was included in a Hindi Movie “Azadi ki Rah Par” in 1948 https://gaana.com/song/jhanda-ooncha-rahe-humara-3. The more popular version is from a more recent Movie “Farishtay” of 1991 https://gaana.com/song/jhanda-ooncha-rahe-hamara.

       Independent India accepted a slightly changed version of the flag of the freedom struggle. The Charkha was replaced by Ashoka’s Dharma Chakra, which we know now simply as the Ashok Chakra. A technical reason was given for changing from Charkha to the Ashok Chakra. When, on the 22nd of July 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru moved the resolution in the Constituent Assembly, for the adoption of the Flag for Independent India, he shared that a Charkha at the centre of the flag, will make the flag asymmetric. That is when the flag is seen from one side, the wheel of the Charkha would be to the left of the onlooker while from the other side, it would be to the right. To be fair to Nehru, the flags of the most powerful European and Asian countries at that time, had a certain symmetry. But there were examples of assymetrical flags too.

The flags of many of the powerful countries at the time of our independence were symmetrical. That probably encouraged us to seek symmetry in our flag.

       Many Gandhians have not forgiven Nehru for this change. While Nehru tried to explain that the wheel at the centre of the flag also represented the wheel of the Charkha, in his speech in the constituent assembly he emphasised that the Chakra truly represented the philosophy of Ashoka representing the international message of peace from one of the most powerful monarch in the history of the world.

       But apart from replacing the Charkha with the Ashok Chakra, India’s national flag continued with the principal flag of the freedom struggle. I add ‘principal’ because apart from the principal stream of struggle led by Gandhi, there were many others fighting against the British and they had their own flags. Congress member of Constituent Assembly Seth Govind Das proposed an amendment  that the Flag be formally named as ‘Sudarshan’ instead of the popular term Tiranga.  H V Kamath, a constituent assembly member from the Forward Block (a party started within the Indian National Congress by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose) had proposed that the Charkha be replaced with Swastika. But the most important proposal was made by Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. Based on that, Dr Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly, informed the assembly his decision that no flag that’s not made of Khadi will ever be used. He said “It is also the policy of the Government which has been communicated to the Provincial Governments also that all National Flags should be made only of Khadi that is to say, of hand-spun and hand-woven cloth, whether it is of cotton, of wool, or silk or of any other material.”

       The issue of replacement of the Charkha with the Ashok Chakra was raised till the very end of the writing of our constitution. On 24th November 1949, L. Krishnaswami Bharathi, reminded the constituent assembly again regarding “The removal of the charkha from the National Flag… I know that Mahatma Gandhi did not reconcile himself to the change till his death”. But Gandhi wasn’t worrying about the loss of part of the Charkha. Rather he was seeing Ahimsa in the Ashok Chakra. But he wanted an assurance that the flag will be made of Khadi. 

“This tricolour flag with the wheel will certainly consist of hand-spun and hand-woven khadi. Our country has called it khadi whether it is woven from hand-spun cotton or silk. When the original conception is kept intact there is no harm in making a concession to art…. Asoka’s chakra represents eternally revolving Divine Law of ahimsa.” (Mahatma Gandhi, Speech in Gujarati, 27th July 1947)

       About 75 years after Gandhiji underlined that the new flag will have to be made from hand-spun and hand-woven khadi, the Government of India has decided that Khadi is not mandatory for the flag and it doesn’t even have to be hand made. The Flag can now be made from polyester and can be mill made. Why does a flag need to be made of polyester? When the world grapples with the challenge of disposing plastic, when India marches ahead on reducing the consumption of single use plastics, the last thing one should want is for our beloved Tiranga to be made of polyester. How will the polyester flags be disposed? The flag code says that flags have to be disposed discreetly, preferably through burning. Burning Polyester Flags will be polluting and release toxic fumes. Those of us who have come across burning tyres or burning plastic on the roadside already know the difference between burning cotton and burning synthetics.

        If there is a need for large flags that are also lightweight, it can be made from silk. And As Bapu himself said, handwoven silk is also Khadi. If the flags have to be very large, then too they can be handmade like the massive flag recently unveiled in Ladakh on the Mahatma’s 152nd birth anniversary.

       Imagine replacing “it took 49 days for 70 khadi artisans to prepare the flag” with “the flag was made at ABC Mill on the XYZ automated ultrasonic sewing machine”! If the latter sounds better to you, go ahead and buy your machine-made polyester flag. But if it’s the former that excites your heart, let the flags you fly this independence day be made just the way Mahatma Gandhi wanted them to be made. Just as the makers of India’s constitution wanted them to be made. Let the joy of flying our national flag be accompanied by the joy of giving employment and income to those who have Make in India the greatest fabrics of the world.

       “The Monumental National Flag measures 225 feet long, 150 feet wide and weighs (approx.) 1400 kg. Making of this monumental National Flag has created nearly 3500 man hours of additional work for Khadi artisans and allied workers. A whopping 4600 meters of hand-spun, hand-woven Khadi cotton bunting has been used in making the flag which covers the total area of 33,750 square feet. The Ashok Chakra in the flag measures a diameter of 30 feet. It took 49 days for 70 Khadi artisans to prepare this flag.” https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1760300

      One last thing. The flag has to be always treated with respect. So if you are using paper flags or small cloth flags (polythene flags remain banned) don’t discard it or throw it around on the ground and in the public. Dispose it with respect that’s due to our National Flag.

Get National Flag made up of Khadi here        https://www.odishaestore.com/indian-national-flag-made-of-Khadi

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