Gandhi first proposed a flag to the Indian National Congress in 1921. The flag was designed by Pingali Venkayya. In the centre was a traditional spinning wheel, symbolising Gandhi’s goal of making Indians self-reliant by fabricating their own clothing. The design was then modified to include a white stripe in the centre for other religious communities, and provide a background for the spinning wheel. Subsequently, to avoid sectarian associations with the colour scheme, saffron, white and green were chosen for the three bands, representing courage and sacrifice, peace and truth, and faith and chivalry respectively.

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A few days before India became independent on 15 August 1947, the specially constituted Constituent Assembly decided that the flag of India must be acceptable to all parties and communities. A modified version of the Swaraj flag was chosen; the tricolour remained the same saffron, white and green. However, the charkha was replaced by the Ashoka Chakra representing the eternal wheel of law. The philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who later became India’s first Vice President and second President, clarified the adopted flag and described its significance as follows:

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“Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to (the) soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends. The “Ashoka Chakra” in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principle of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.”

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