Thursday, May 07, 2009

My India Series - III - National Symbols Explained

With a billion people, with a population nearly four times that of the United States, India modeled its government on the British parliamentary system, with a healthy dose of influences from the United States and the rest of Europe.

The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution of any sovereign nation in the world, containing 395 articles, 12 schedules and 94 amendments, for a total of 117,369 words in the English language version.


It was the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress at midnight of December 31, 1929 - January 1, 1930, that the Tri-Colour Flag was unfurled by the nationalists and a pledge taken that every year on January 26, the "Republic Day" would be celebrated and that the people would unceasingly strive for the establishment of a Sovereign Democratic Republic of India. The professed pledge was successfully redeemed on 26 January, 1950, when the Constitution of India framed by the Constituent Assembly of India came into force, although the Independence from the British rule was achieved on August 15, 1947.

The National Flag of India is in tricolour ( TIRANGA) of deep saffron (Kesari) at the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom in equal propotions.

The Indian flag is a horizontal tricolour in equal proportion of deep saffron on the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom. The ratio of the width to the length of the flag is two is to three. In the centre of the white band, there is a wheel in navy blue to indicate the Dharma Chakra, the wheel of law (a Buddhist symbol dating back to 200th century BC) in the Sarnath Lion Capital.

Its diameter approximates the width of the white band and it has 24 spokes, which intends to show that there is life in movement and death in stagnation. The saffron stands for courage, sacrifice and the spirit of renunciation; the white, for purity and truth; the green for faith and fertility.

The twenty four spokes in this chakra (wheel) represent twenty four virtues:

  • Love
  • Courage
  • Patience
  • Peacefulness
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-control
  • Selflessness
  • Self sacrifice
  • Truthfulness
  • Righteousness
  • Justice
  • Mercy
  • Graciousness
  • Humility
  • Empathy
  • Sympathy
  • Godly knowledge
  • Godly wisdom
  • Godly moral
  • Reverential fear of God
  • Hope/trust/faith in the goodness of God.

The design of the National Flag of India was adopted by India's constituent assembly on 22nd july, 1947. It's use and display are regulated by a code.

The late Prime Minister Pandit Nehru called it a flag not only of freedom for Indians, but a symbol of freedom for all people.

The National Symbol of India comes from the Sarnath Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka. Ashoka ruled the land from 272 BCE to 232 BCE. The original sculpture shows four lions on a pillar with an elephant, horse, bull, and lion separated by a lotus on the base. A Dharma Chakra (wheel of law) is also carved into the stone.

The emblem was adopted on January 26, 1950 by the Indian Government. The official symbol now shows three of the four lions with the Dharma Chakra ( the Wheel of Dharma) in the center of the base and a bull and horse on either side. The base is also engraved with the phrase "Satyameva Jayate" in the Devanagari script of India. This simple phrase represents a powerful idea for the Indian people: "Truth alone triumphs".

The origin of the motto is a well-known mantra 3.1.6 from the Mundaka Upanishad. Full mantra as follows.

satyameva jayate naanritam
satyena pantha vitato devayanah
yenaa kramantyarishayo hyaaptakaamaa
yatra tat satyasya paramam nidhaanam

Meaning:
Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood.
Through truth the divine path is spread out by which
the sages whose desires have been completely fulfilled,
reach where that supreme treasure of Truth resides

Indian national anthem :"Jana gana mana adhinayak jayahe" was first sung by Rabindra Nath Tagor in 1911. The song is adopted as national song in 24 January 1950.There are total five stanza in this anthem and total duration is 52 seconds.

The National Bird is the Indian peacock (Pavo cristatus). Peacocks symbolize grace, pride, and beauty. They are a sign of joy for all who see them. Peacocks are often used in Indian mythology and folk stories. This bird is about the size of a swan, with a long neck and a fan-shaped array of feathers. Male peacocks are brightly colored, with blue fronts and green-bronze feathers. The female (peahen) is smaller and brown in color. The

peacock may be found throughout India, especially south and east of the Indus River. It is heavily protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. It also enjoys great sentimental protection from the nation at large.

The National Animal is the tiger, officially known as Panthera tigris. It is respected in India for its strength and grace, as well as its incredible power. The Indian tiger is also called the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Indians are conscious of the threat that hunters and others pose to this special animal. Although once popularly killed for its skin, there is now a movement to protect the tiger population. To this end, the government began "Project Tiger" in 1973. The project is also supported by the World Wildlife Federation. This project has created a network of tiger reserves throughout the country and implemented a plan to help tigers and humans coexist. India is working hard to preserve its national animal, but sadly, only 2,000 to 2,500 tigers remain.

The lotus (Nelumbo Nucifera) is the official flower of India. It represents long life, honor, and good fortune. It is also a symbol of triumph, since the lotus is rooted in the mud and can survive to regerminate for thousands of years. Even though it grows in mud, it remains pure and produces beautiful flowers. Thus, it symbolizes purity of heart and mind.

The lotus holds additional significance for Hindus, as it is a symbol of God and used often in religious practices.


The National Tree of India is the banyan. This huge tree towers over its neighbors and has the widest reaching roots of all known trees, easily covering several acres. It sends off new shoots from its roots, so that one tree is really a tangle of branches, roots, and trunks. The banyan tree regenerates and lives for an incredible length of time - thus it is thought of as the immortal tree.

Its size and leafy shelter are valued in India as a place of rest and reflection, not to mention protection from the hot sun! It is still the focal point and gathering place for local councils and meetings. India has a long history of honoring this tree; it figures prominently in many of the oldest stories of the nation.

The mango is the national fruit. It has been cultivated in India since time immemorial. There are over 100 varieties of mangos in India, in a range of colors, sizes, and shapes. Common in the tropical part of the world, mangos are savored for their sweet juice and bright colors.

People in India eat mangos ripe, or prepare them green as pickles or chutneys. They are rich in vitamin A, C, and D.

The Polity: India, a Union of States, is a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. The Constitution of India, which came into force on January 26, 1950, provides for a parliamentary system of Government and a federal structure. India comprises 28 States and 7 Union Territories. There is a bicameral parliament and three independent branches of Government: the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The President of India is the Constitutional Head of Executive of the Union. The Constitution provides for a Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister to aid and advise the President who shall in exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice. The real executive power thus vests in the Council of Ministers which is collectively responsible to the lower house of Parliament (Lok Sabha). Similarly, in states, Governor is the head of the executive, but it is the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister in whom the real executive power vests. The Council of Ministers of a State is collectively responsible to the State Legislative Assembly.