India is a rich and multifarious country, so it is not a surprise that there are numerous different symbols representing it. Let’s take a look at some of those symbols and what they mean to India: each symbol captures a different aspect of this country’s spirit.
The Indian National Flag.
Also known as the tricolor tiranga, the Indian national flag consists of three horizontal bands of colour with a circular pattern, known as the tiranga, in the center.
The top band is an orange or saffron hue, representing India’s strength. The next band is white, symbolizing truth and peace, whilst the green band at the bottom represents India’s fertility, its rich vegetation, and its auspicious capacity for growth. The taranga also symbolizes peace, truth, and knowledge. Sometimes, the flag is displayed simply as a plain tricolor and without the taranga in the center. Both versions of the flag are recognisable and acceptable.
India’s national river: the Ganges.
Flowing through India and Bangladesh and measuring over two and a quarter kilometers, the Ganges is a sacred river and a source of life. For Indians throughout the nation, it has come to represent spiritual renewal. Hindus bathe in the Ganges, a representation of Ganesh is ritually submerged in it each year, and ceremonies involving candles floating on the river are a big part of religious festivals here, to name but a few examples.
Vande Mataram -the Indian National Song
The Indian National Song should not be confused with the Indian National Anthem, something we will come to later. The phrase ‘Vande Mataram’ means ‘I praise you, Mother’. Mother, here, refers to India the nation and the phrase derives from a late nineteenth century novel by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. The words Chattopadhyay wrote were turned into a combination of song and music by the famous Indian poet Tagore.
Jana Gana Mana – the Indian National Anthem
Lasting between 20 and 52 seconds (depending on whether you use the formal or the shortened version of the anthem), India’s National Anthem was written in Bengali by the world renowned poet Tagore. Tagore wrote the poem that would become the words to this anthem in 1905, though at the time he perhaps did not know how famous it would be when India gained independence in the mid twentieth century and adopted his words as the official anthem of the newly independent and distinct nation.
Lion Capital (also known as Sarnath) – the Indian National Emblem
This statue, which is called ‘The Lion Capital of Ashoka’ has become famous in graphic form as India’s national emblem. The ancient statue, which dates back to around 250 BCE (a replica of this ancient capital can be found at Chiang Mai: this was created in the 13th century) depicts four lions, chiseled in the traditional Asiatic style, and with highly expressive faces.
Mango – the Indian National Fruit
Mangoes are some of India’s best known and best loved fruits. As a result, who can be surprised that it has been formally adopted as the national fruit of India? Mangoes can be found on everything from postage stamps to fabric patterns: a proud emblem of the fertility of this nation, as represented by the green band on India’s National Flag (see above).
The Indian Lotus – the Indian National Flower
In India, Lotus blossoms have long been associated with spirituality. Able to float delicately on the water and to live for many, many decades, lotuses can have roots that are several feet long. Purity, peace, and spirituality are strongly linked to the lotus in India, and as we have seen, this is very important to the nation’s national image (as the white band of truth and peace in the middle of the national flag demonstrates).
The Indian Peafowl – the Indian National Bird
With its regal and resplendent colors, there is no mistaking the peafowl! This amazing bird is a fitting symbol of the proud nation of India. Though you can now find peacocks and peafowls in every country of the world, they are native to Asia, and to India in particular. As a result, if any country is to adopt these wonderful birds, it simply had to be India!
The River Dolphin – the Indian National Aquatic Animal
Beautiful animals, river dolphins are also native to India (and they can also be found in neighboring countries, such as Nepal). India is a country that comprises many different habitats, from jungles to plains, and from watery riparian habitats to beaches and cities. So, it is entirely fitting that it has an aquatic national animal, as well as national animals that are denizens of the jungle (i.e. the tiger) and of the forest (the pea fowl). There are two species of river dolphin in existence in India; the Gangean River Dolphin (which, as you may have guessed from the name, is often to be found in the River Ganges) and the Indus River Dolphin. These little creatures have characteristic elongated snouts which look very distinctive.
The Tiger – The Indian National Animal
India’s tigers are proud lords of the jungle, and their dazzling orange, white, and black coats are well known throughout the world. Unfortunately, tigers of all kinds are endangered animals at the moment and so it is to be hoped that the tiger’s status as one of India’s national animals will have an ecological function, too, and will help to preserve the tiger and enable it to flourish for many generations to come. India’s national animals ought not to be seen as existing in competition with one another, as if one animal is better or more important than all the others: they are all important, and each represent just one facet of this brilliant country.
Saka – The Indian National Calendar
India has two calendar: the Saka calendar and the Vikram Savat calendar. It is the Saka calendar, however, which is the official one. This is the nation’s civil calendar which is used for functions such as planning civil events, announcing national holidays, and arranging the term times for schools and universities. Newspapers may use either one of the two calendars, or both together, and different regions of India may favor one or the other calendar.