The sight of the tricolour fills us with immeasurable pride and reminds us that it’s unfurling in the open air due to the sacrifices of scores of freedom fighters. All of us, irrespective of our religion, ethnic background and ideologies, stand beneath the national flag as it provides us with an identity, a sense of belonging.Soldiers who lay down their lives in the service of the country come home wrapped in it. Sportsmen wrap it on their body after they win for their country.
In our national flag, the top band is of Saffron colour signifying courage, the white in the middle signifies honesty and peace while the green symbolises prosperity. The Ashok Chakra in the centre represents both dharma and the wheel of progress.
The green and saffron colour found its way to flag alongside emblems such as the lotus and the crescent moon from as early as 1906. Independence movement stalwarts like Madam Bhikaji Cama to Annie Besant to Sister Nivedita came up with their versions of the flag, most of which were meant to be symbolic or representative of a movement.
However, the freedom fighter who gave us the National Tri-Colour that became synonymous to freedom movement was Pingali Venkayya.
Born on August 2, 1876 in Bhatlapenumarru near Masulipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, Venkayya joined the British Army with a patriotic zeal in the age of 19 and took part in the Anglo- Boer war in Africa. It around same time he met Mahatma Gandhi, a friendship that lasted for rest of their lives.
Conceiving the idea of national flag
In the Indian National Congress conference held in Kakinada on March 31, 1921, it was Venkayya’s suggestion that India should have a flag of its own that impressed Mahatma Gandhi.Earlier, Venkayya came up with saffron and green colours, but it later evolved with a spinning wheel at the centre and a third colour – white. In 1931, the flag was officially adopted by the Indian National Congress.
A versatile personality
Pingali Venkayya was also proficient in many languages including Urdu and Japanese. He was also popularly nicknamed ‘Diamond Venkayya’, as he was an expert in diamond mining. He was also called ‘Patti Venkayya’ (Cotton Venkayya) , because he dedicated most of his time researching staple varieties of cotton and did a detailed study on a variety called Cambodia Cotton, according to India Today.
Pingali Venkayya was an authority in geology, agriculture and also an educationist who set up an educational institution at his native town Machilipatnam, according to The Hindu.
Like a true Gandhian, Venkayya lead a very austere life. However, he died uncelebrated in 1963 and was largely forgotten by the society and by his own party, the Congress.His village of Bhatlapenumarru did not even have a statue of the man till 1998. It was only in 2009 that a postage stamp was issued to commemorate him. In 2012, the government of Andhra Pradesh recommended his name for the Bharat Ratna. However, the honour was instead awarded to cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and scientist C.N.R. Rao in 2014.
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