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Flags & Country Names: India showed the way

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India that is Bharat.....begins the preamble to the Constitution of India. India is the first country in the word to name a country after a man. India is the first country in the world to use flags as well. Maha Bharata, the longest epic in the world, has proof for this. We are all descendants of King Bharata.

All those born in this land before Bharata,

All those born after, are called after his name
(Mbh.: I.69.49)

Bharata means he who bears, protects and sustains the world. This is the role of India in the world. As long as India survives, Dharma, Truth, Morality and Honesty will survive. India is the only country in the world with the motto “ Truth alone triumphs “ (Satyameva Jayate from Mundakopanishad)
India is called Bhara Varsa after the great king Bharata, son of Shakuntala and King Dushyanta. He was called Sarva Damana=All Tamer. Kalidasa, the greatest poet India praised Bharata sky high:

He will be a Sovereign of the World, Know this too
Crossing the oceans in a chariot gliding smooth
He shall conquer and rule unopposed
The rich earth with her seven continents
Named All Tamer here, because he subdues all creatures
By his strength, the future will see his name
Proclaimed Bharata: He who bears the world (Shakuntalam VII-33)

We may take these lines as a poet’s prediction about the future of our great country-Bharat. India will rule the world, a Super Power for ever, not by sword but by the sword of wisdom. The great Tamil poet Subramanya Bharati also said the same about India: he sang that India will liberate everyone in the world by showing the right path. He repeated the line three times in a verse to make it more emphatic.

There are more than one Bharata in Hindu Mythology. Rishabadeva’s son was also called Bharata. And Jatabharata was also mentioned in the Hindu mythologies. Rig Veda mentions a tribe called Bharatas. Tamil Sangam literature also mentioned sea faring tribe Bhatratavar.
The Hindu priests always mentions in their Sankalpa (Intention to do a Puja or ritual), the time they perform and the place where they perform the ritual, which is unique in the world. No culture has this historical and geographical sense except Hindus. The priest says “ Jambudwipe, Bharata Varshe, Bharata Kande------“ when he mentions the geographical location. So Bharata’s name is repeatedly used even today.

Many people think that India was united by the British and there was no single country before that. But the Tamil Sangam literature and the oldest of the Puranas, Vishnu Puranam clearly said that it was one country from the Himalayas to the southern oceans. There are innumerable references in ancient Tamil works. Here is the Vishnu Puranam reference:
- Vishnu Purana (2.3.1)

yatsamudrasya himādreścaiva dakiam
a tadbhārata nāma bhāratī yatra santati

उत्तरं यत्समुद्रस्य हिमाद्रेश्चैव दक्षिणम् ।
वर्षं तद् भारतं नाम भारती यत्र संततिः ।।
"The country (varam) that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bhāratam; there dwell the descendants of Bharata."


India was the first country in the world to use flags. Unlike today, even individual leaders used flags in ancient India. We have proof for this even in Indus-Sarawathi Valley civilization. The seals show some people carrying a standard in a procession. Some scholars identified the standard with a bird and others a bowl. Vedas also talk about flags and symbols . Ketu, Dwaja, Pathaka are the Sanskrit words used for the flags. Several mythological characters have these words as suffixes. e.g Asva Ketu, Kusa Dwajan

Temple Dwajarohana

All the Hindu temple festivals (in South India) start with Dwajarohana (raising the flag). The flag will be lowered ceremonially at the end of the festival. Every temple has a Dwajasthamba (Flag pole). All these show that the flags are part and parcel of Hinduism.
Poles known as Yupas were installed wherever Yagna or Yagas (fire ceremonies) were held.

Even Phoenician ships flew double cone flags in ancient times. Now we can see saffron coloured double cone flags on top of Hindu temples. Some temples have Aum or Swastik symbols on these flags. This is the most ancient flag. Dwaja is the Sanskrit word for flag (Tamil: Kodi).

Flags of Hindu Gods and Kings:

Shiva- Bull Flag
Vishnu/ Krishna- Garuda/ eagle flag
Skanda- peacock or cock

Hindu Gods were given various flags with symbols. When laymen asked questions about the logic behind such symbols they started telling various stories and eventually those symbols became Mounts of Gods-Vahanas. First there were only flags, later came the Vahanas. Even Indo- Greek king Heliodorus in the North Western India built a Garuda Sthamba for Vishnu and he called himself Parama Bhagavata- a great devotee of Vishnu !

We have lot of references about flags from the Mauryan period. Paurava who fought against Alexander carried the flag of Heracles, says the Greek ambassador. By Heracles he meant Krishna or a Hindu God equal to Hercules.

Tamil kings Chera –Bow and arrow flag
Chola –Tiger flag
Pandya- Fish flag
Pallavas –Bull –Vrsa Dwaja
Other Pallavas- Khatwanga (Skull) flag
Some Pandyas- Thunder and Lightning flag
(From page 45 of Yavarum Kelir by Dr R Nagaswamy)

Indra-Elephant called Erawan (Airavata )
Even today Laos and Thailand use this flag of Airavata, elephant of Indra

Kamadeva/Manmatha- Makara or Karkadwaja
Duryodana- Snake
Ravana – Veena (musical instrument)
Arjuna- Hanuman/ monkey (Kapi Dwaja or Vanara Ketu)
Sanaiscara (planet Saturn)- Varaha Dwaja (Boar)
Indus King Jayadratha- Varaha Dwaja
Krupacharaya- Vrsabha Dwaja
Bhoja- Gaja Dwaja (elephant)
Lion flag was used by lot of people Meghanada (Ravana’s son), Bhima, Brhadbala, Varuna, Sri, Budha, Durga, Agni and Toya.
Sahadeva- Hamsa Dwaja
Nakula-Sarabha Swaja
Kumara Gupta, Yaudeyas,, Vrsa sena- Peacock Dwaja, Siki Dwaja
Pradyumna- Makaradwaja (Besnagar temple had this flag from 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] Century BC)
Kushana king Kumara- Cock flag, Kukkuta Dwaja
Gahtotkacha and other Rakshasas- Vulture dwaja

Other flags:

Yakshas- Owl ,Alayudha- jackal,Yama-buffalo, Yamuna-Fish, ,Jyesta- Kaka Dwaja, Sura and Vatsarasa_ Pigeon,Bhisma- Palmyra flag,Tala Dwaja, Rama’s brother Bharata,Drstadyumna- Kovidara tree flag, Several sages_-Kusa Dwaja (kusa grass), Brahmanas- Lotus flag, Kinnaras- Lotus stalk/nala dwaja, Yaksha in Kalidasa’s Meghaduta- Cloud flag, Gupta king Chandra Gupta- Crescent moon, Dronacharya- Vedika ( fire altar), Yudhistra/Dharma- Mrdanga drums, Ravana- Kapala/skull and Veena,Ramagupta- Chakra Dwaja.

Minor deities and Navagrahas are attributed with various flags. Apart from animals and birds, other objects like swords, ladles, flowers were also used as flags. We can compare them to the modern day election symbols of the candidates. India can be proud of showing a very useful technique for illiterates and neo literates. They can easily remember symbols rather than words or names.

Tamil reference:

எல்லாரும் அமர நிலை எய்தும் நன்முறையை
இந்தியா உலகிற்களிக்கும்- ஆம்
இந்தியா உலகிற்களிக்கும்- ஆம் ஆம்
இந்தியா உலகிற்களிக்கும் வாழ்க (பாரதி)

Tamil References about flags from Dr R Nagaswamy’s book “Yavarum Kelir”

விசைய வெண்கொடி (புறம் 462), விசையம் வெல் கொடி (முல்லை 91) வென்றெழு கொடி (மலைபடு 582), வான் தோய் வெல் கொடி (பதிற். 67-1)
அடலேறு வலத்துயர் வைத்த பிரான் (தெள்ளாற்றெரிந்த நந்திவர்மனின் கொடி), இடியுருவேந்திய கோன்(பாண்டிக்கோவை 242).

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