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What is the meaning of the spoked wheel in the flag of India?

Updated on April 9, 2012
Fig.1 Indian Flag
Fig.1 Indian Flag
Fig.2 Lion capital of Asoka Pillar. The wheel seen at the base of the capital was thew model for the wheel on Indian Flag
Fig.2 Lion capital of Asoka Pillar. The wheel seen at the base of the capital was thew model for the wheel on Indian Flag
Fig.3 An example of 21 spoked Wheel of Law, simply repesenting a chariot wheel.
Fig.3 An example of 21 spoked Wheel of Law, simply repesenting a chariot wheel.

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:

  1. Right faith,
  2. Right intention,
  3. Right speech,
  4. Right action,
  5. Right livelihood,
  6. Right endeavor,
  7. Right mindfulness, and
  8. Right meditation.

Fig.4 Flag of Indian National Congress.
Fig.4 Flag of Indian National Congress.
Gandhi with his spinning wheel, one of the symbols of freedom struggle in India.
Gandhi with his spinning wheel, one of the symbols of freedom struggle in India.

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.

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    • jstankevicz profile image

      jstankevicz 9 years ago from Cave Creek

      Interesting Hub. The top color in the National flag appears to be different hue than that in National Congress flag. Is this just the images, or are the flags different colors as well?

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 9 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Excellent stuff and very enlightening. I'd always found the 24 spokes = 24 hours explanation too pat, too modern. This puts it in perspective while leaving some questions open. Thanks for the answer.

    • profile image

      Awender 9 years ago

      A well written article, the basics of the meaning can be found on the Flags of the world site, but the rest of the article was good reading and helped with some of the history of how the flag came about.

      http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/in.html

      The site Flags of the World tends to provide a fairly good explanation to the meanings of all flags that they can find meanings for, and are always ready to listen if you can produce a good source of an alternate meaning.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 9 years ago from Pune, India

      What a superb article. It gives many details.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Paraglider, you're right. There can't be a modern explanation when something is taken off an ancient symbol.

      Great hub!

    • profile image

      Someone 8 years ago

      That is all true, the indian flag is great!

    • profile image

      peter jacko 8 years ago

      this is the web site about indias flag

    • profile image

      G SURAJ 8 years ago

      explanation about ashoka wheel is fine, but why 24 spokes ? why not 23 or 22 or 35 etc ? please reply to my id gsuraj@eaton.com

    • profile image

      Ganesh-Bio 8 years ago

      Very interesting messages......Jaihind

    • profile image

      Anand 7 years ago

      God Bless India and His People in India.

      Jai Swaminarayan

    • profile image

      livingmatters 7 years ago

      yes, i nhv also this question.why 24 spokes?not 23 or 22.try to give answer of that plz.some hub says safron signifies courage and truth other says earthly contact.some says green is for growth other says, it is for greeneary(every thing depend upon this).which one is right.explain plz.

    • multifunctions profile image

      Sanjay Sapre 7 years ago from India

      thanks for sharing this useful information.

    • profile image

      Davina 7 years ago

      this was very helpful thank you

    • profile image

      viks 7 years ago

      its a flag of proud n we reveal that its not about spokes or colour its about country

    • profile image

      jhanvi solanki 7 years ago

      ilike me

    • profile image

      Rehan 7 years ago

      Pakistani flag has more beautiful explainaition than idia's flag

    • profile image

      Kriti 7 years ago

      East or West India is the best....India Rocks.....

    • profile image

      Ravi 7 years ago

      why 24 spokes? plz answer

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 7 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Awesome article! Very well said! :)

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 7 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Awesome article! Very well said! :)

    • profile image

      narender next 7 years ago

      thank thanks for this usefull information

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      yo dis is da best website in da freeking world

    • profile image

      ravi 6 years ago

      why 24 spokes? plz answer

    • profile image

      Jyothi 6 years ago

      The wheel has 24 spokes, representing the 24 hours in a day (at the end of each spoke is a dark blue half-moon). This has been adopted from Ashoka Chakra. Initially Chakraa (spinning wheel) was suggested but changed later because the flag visibility from the other end would be affected if Spinning Wheel is used. Therefore Ashoka chakra was chosen later.

    • profile image

      pinky 6 years ago

      INDIA

      THE GREAT

      "JAI HINDH"

    • profile image

      kiran 6 years ago

      yes, this article is great & gave me lot of inputs so im thankful to those who have created this article.great INDIA.im so proud to be an INDIAN

    • Rudra profile image

      Rudra 6 years ago

      Very good explanation of the wheel. Thank you.

    • profile image

      chikne 5 years ago

      Tiu india

    • profile image

      olla 5 years ago

      what is the meaning of each 24 soke in ashoka chakrs

    • profile image

      mohit 5 years ago

      realy its a nice job, bec we search a right means of flage

    • scottrights profile image

      scottrights 5 years ago from San Diego

      Very interesting article. I've seen the wheel, but I never really thought about it until your article. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Bee bee 5 years ago

      I love india thanks for the facts

    • profile image

      harshvir singh 3mw 5 years ago

      i think that it has a wheel because the icland have the same flag so they put a wheel in the midle .

    • profile image

      vicky 5 years ago

      Aisi jankari ke liye sukriya

    • profile image

      sathish 5 years ago

      what is the meaning about the 24 spokes of indian flag

    • profile image

      james jacob 5 years ago

      Thanks a lot

    • profile image

      Dhillon 5 years ago

      There is all good about indian flag . Saffron represent to hindu people ,green represent to muslim people but there are nothing which represent sikh people .everyone knows that bhagat singh (sikh) had big hand for thr freedom of india .so, there should be any sign which represents to sikh .this is my point of view but i love india and indian flag

    • profile image

      Amaratunga Sri Lanka 5 years ago

      Your web can be improved a great lot.

      Please do so.

    • profile image

      Gurwinder 5 years ago

      Our national flag means a thing which shows our culture ,our respect among other countries .The 24spokes were adopted by Chakra who was the physician in the court of king Kanishka .The chakra has wrote the book chakra summita.I think in this book chakra has wrote the significance of 24spokes.As the former president Dr.S Radhakrishna has said in the constiuent assembly that 24spokes indicates the dharma chakra.The dharma means religious duty which was followed by The Great Emporer Ashoka.I cannot exactly say that Dharma which was followed by Ashoka because that word was from the sanskrit dhamma.I think the true meaning of 24spokes can be the principles of our law.

    • profile image

      venu 4 years ago

      Mera Bharat Mahan

    • profile image

      RANA JASWANT SINGH 4 years ago

      I love my country and salute the National Flag. Is it not that each spoke of the wheel represented each province of the country at the time of the Independence ? Please advise. Thanks.

    • profile image

      VIKRAM SINGH KHANGAROT,JAIPUR 4 years ago

      GIVE PROPER ANS. 4 24 SPOKES IS MEAN IN DIAN FLAG

    • profile image

      vijaya lakshmi 4 years ago

      I BORN IN 15-03-1977

      BORN AT KURNOOL ANDHRA PRADESH INDIA

    • profile image

      Wisdom 4 years ago

      Once I read an article, it said that two out ten of most outstanding or significant personalities ever produced by the world lived in India. They are , the Buddha and Emporor Ashok. They were Buddhist. It's a great and most peaceful religion in the world. Why India doesn't have much Buddhist????

    • profile image

      navot 4 years ago

      goood

    • profile image

      dushyant 3 years ago

      I love my India

    • profile image

      shabir 3 years ago

      I love my india

    • profile image

      kobe 3 years ago

      what the

    • profile image

      Ashu reddy 2 years ago

      Asama history in my lovely India.......

    • profile image

      phurba l sherpa. 2 years ago

      Every expert has different explanation about the spokes of wheel in Indian flag....i wonder what is the True concept of 24 spoks behind it.

    • profile image

      Shivam 2 years ago

      Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      viji 2 years ago

      Beautiful explanation very useful

    • profile image

      christine Anne Justin 2 years ago

      Awesome and inspiring!

    • profile image

      keya sarkar 24 months ago

      at first 8 spokes were proposed but it signified particularly the eight fold path of Budhhism...but India is a multi religious country so 24 spokes were used to signify the solar cycle ......24 spokes signifies the 24 hrs of a day ....means constant in progressive motion of prosperity.

    • profile image

      sangeetha N 23 months ago

      It's very usefully to know all this historys about India

    • profile image

      Jaden 5 months ago

      I am home-schooled and I am doing a report and this really helped me

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