What is the meaning of the spoked wheel in the flag of India?
When India's National flag was adopted in the Constituent Assembly, the then Vice President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan explained the meaning of the spoked wheel that featured in the centre of the flag as follows:
"The Ashoka Wheel in the center of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principles 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."
This seems a modified version of the ancient concept of wheel, to suit the needs of a newly liberated nation that decided to uphold secularism. However, the wheel as used by Emperor Asoka was related to Buddhism, but throughout the history of Buddhism, the shape of the wheel and its meaning had been changing. One can come across wheels, which are referred as Dharma Chakra (wheel of law of universe), with varying number of spokes. Wheels with four, eight, ten, twelve and twenty-four spokes were used. The early Dharma Wheels are seen with many spokes. It seems at that time number of spoke had no specific meaning and the wheel just represent a chariot wheel which symbolized Buddhist concept of endless cycle of birth and rebirth.
Later versions of Dharma Wheel consist of four or eight spokes and given specific meanings to the spokes. As an example, in the case of eight-spoked wheel, the spokes represent the eightfold path leading to enlightenment. The paths are:
- Right faith,
- Right intention,
- Right speech,
- Right action,
- Right livelihood,
- Right endeavor,
- Right mindfulness, and
- Right meditation.
Why Indian Flag Needed a Wheel
The flag of Indian National Congress that provided the leadership for the independent struggle was similar to the present Indian flag, but it had a spinning wheel at the centre. Spinning wheel was one of the symbols of freedom struggle and was very closer to the heart of Mahatma Gandhi who was regarded as the father of independent India. Originally, it was decided to adopt the same flag as the national flag.
During the discussion in the Constituent Assembly, non-Congress members objected to the proposal to adopt the existing tri-colour flag with the emblem of the spinning wheel, as it was a flag of a particular political party. As a compromise, the tri colour was retained and the spinning wheel was replaced by the 24-spoked wheel. It was reported that Gandhi was not very happy about the decision. 8-spoked wheel also was suggested initially to replace the spinning wheel, but it was not accepted. Probably it was thought the 24-spoked wheel could find more common grounds, with other religious concepts, than 8-spoked wheel.
Wheel and Non-Buddhist Concepts
It is said that the worship of the chakra as representing the supreme ideals underlying the cosmic manifestation on the one hand and of the individual life on the other has been a part of Indian tradition from the most ancient times.
In the Hindu texts too speak about cosmic wheel and the concept of the cycle of birth and rebirth also is not alien to the Hindu philosophy.
Know More about Indian Flag.
- Cultural Politics of the National Flag
There are certain moments in the cultural and political life of a nation when the national flag comes into prominence. In the cultural and political semiotics of nationhood, the National Flag is bound to occupy an increasingly important place.
- National Flag in All India Congress Committee (AICC) Web Site
The evolution of the Indian National Flag reflects the political developments in the country during the 20th century. The various political trends, communal tensions, waves of enthusiasm can all be seen in the people’s attitude to the flag.
- Dharmacakra - From Wikipedia
The Dharmacakra symbol has the form of a wheel with eight or more spokes (sometimes 24 spokes representing the solar cycle). It is one of the oldest Hindu and Buddhist symbols, found in Indian art from the Vedic time and the time of the Buddhist king
- India: Historical Flags
In Anand Bhawan, the home of the Nehru's, in Allahabad, U.P., there is an annex to the main building. On the wall of this annex there is a fairly small information board, telling visitors about the evolution of the Indian national flag