Sunday, August 3, 2014

Pingali Venkayya - Freedom Fighter - Designer of Indian Flag

Indian Flag flying high on Independence Day
2013 PM's address on Independence Day
Picture source:

Date of Birth 2 August 1876

Pingali Venkaiah was born at Bhatlapenumarru, Krishna district, near  Machilipatnam of Andhra Pradesh. He belonged to a Telugu Brahmin family. After finishing his primary education at Challapalli and school at the Hindu High School, Masulipatnam(now, Machilipatnam), he went to Colombo to complete his Senior Cambridge.

At the age of 19, he served in the British Indian army during the Anglo-Boer wars in South Africa. It was there he came in contact with Mahatma Gandhi and was influenced by his ideology.

Subsequently, he worked as a railway guard at Bangalore and Madras and subsequently joined the government service as the plague officer at Bellary before moving to Lahore, where he enrolled in the Anglo-Vedic college to study Urdu and Japanese.

During his five years stay in the north, he became active in politics. Pingali met many revolutionaries and helped plan to overthrow colonial rule. The 1906 Congress session with Dadabhai Naoroji allowed Pingali to emerge as an activist and a force behind the decision-making committee. Here he met the famous philanthropist, the Raja of Munagala, and from 1906–11, he spent his time in Munagala researching agriculture and crops. For his pioneering study on Cambodian cotton, he came to be called Patti Venkayya. Even the British were impressed by his contributions to agriculture and conferred on him honorary membership of the Royal Agricultural Society of Britain.

He also learned Geology and became  an authority on diamond mining, leading to his popular nickname of "Diamond Venkayya" also.

He returned to his roots at Masulipatnam and focused on developing the National School (at Masulipatnam), where he taught basic military training, horse riding, history and knowledge of agriculture, soil, crops and agriculture's relation to nature. In 1914, he turned his agricultural land into an estate and named it Swetchapuram.

During the National conference of the Indian National Congress at Kakinada, Venkayya suggested that India should have a national flag. Gandhi liked this proposal. He suggested that Venkayya came up with a design. During the National conference at Vijayawada, Venkayya proposed a flag with an Ashoka Chakra at the middle. Gandhi liked the result, and the design was later adopted as the National Flag of India.  The flags antecedents can be traced back to the Vande Mataram movement. Pingali's flag was made of red and green, representing the country's two major communities. The Indian flag was not officially accepted by the All India Congress Committee. However, Gandhi's approval made it popular and it was hoisted at all Congress sessions. Hansraj of Jallandar suggested the representation of the charkha, symbolising progress and the common man. Gandhi insisted on a white strip to represent India's remaining minority communities. A consensus was not reached until 1931. The colour choices produced controversy as communal tension broke over its interpretation. The final resolution passed when the AICC met at Karachi in 1931. The flag was interpreted as saffron for courage, white for truth and peace, and green for faith and prosperity. The dharma chakhra which appears on the abacus of the Sarnath at the capital of Emperor Ashoka was adopted in place of spindle and string as the emblem on the national flag.

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan proposed that saffron denote renunciation or disinterestedness of political leaders towards material gains in life, that white depict enlightenment, lighting the path of truth to guide our conduct and that green symbolise our relation to the soil, to the plant life here on which all other life depends. The Ashoka wheel in the centre of the white strip represented the law of dharma.

Speaking philosophically, he remarked that the national flag ought to control the principles of all those who worked under it. The wheel denoted motion and India should no more resist change as there was death produced only stagnation.

Pingali Venkayya died on 4 July 1963 in Vijayawada.

Government of Andhra Pradesh recommened Bharat Ratna to him in 2012


Facebook page on him

CBSE is now doing an essay writing competition on Pingali Venkayya (Year 2014)

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