For several decades, crores of Indians have been led to believe that Pingali Venkaiah from Vijayawada designed the Indian National Flag. Now, new research by Capt. L. Panduranga Reddy proves that it was a Hyderabadi woman named Suraiyya Tayabji, the wife of Congress leader Badruddin Tayabji. who actually designed the Indian tricolor as we see it today.
CAPT. LINGALA PANDURANGA REDDY
President, Voice of Telangana
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or many writers, the erstwhile Hyderabad state was a last legatee of the Mughals and a feudal backward state. However, for a few it was a peaceful state known for Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb where people lived in harmony. The Nizam was known for eclectic views and did not squander state’s finances. In reality, both views are partly correct and in many respects they are wrong. Earlier writers castigated the Nizam belittled Hyderabad people as indolent, indulgent and ingenuous and the affluent hedonists. On the other hand, they not only became nostalgic but also turned apologists. They wrote about buildings, sherwanis – biryanis, khandaan and pandaan, etc. In the process, the real contributions of Hyderabad people were relegated to limbo of history, and the heroes were unwept and unsung.
One such remarkable and incredible contribution was designing the National Flag was by a woman from Hyderabad. Tomes of vernacular and English literature attribute this to Pingali Venkaiah of Vijayawada. It is a factoid – an assumption or speculation that is reported or repeated so often that it becomes acceptable as truth.
According to them, in 1921, All India Congress Working Committee meeting was held at Bezawada (present Vijayawada), Venkaiah, a Congress volunteer designed a tri-colour flag and presented to Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was impressed by it and passed it on to the Working Committee. In deference to the wishes of Gandhi, Congress had adopted it and subsequently it became the National Flag, for which Pingali Venkaiah was hailed and Government of Andhra Pradesh showered encomiums on him. His statue was installed at the Tank Bund of Hyderabad along with other supposedly luminous personalities of Andhra region.
In March 2013, Telangana protagonists organized a “Millennium March” to Tank bund as part of agitational programs to press for Telangana de-merger from A.P. Some of the protagonists became restive and demolished many statues belonging to Andhras. However, they did not touch the statue of Pingali Venkaiah out of veneration, for they regarded him as a nation builder. That was the esteem Venkaiah held even amongst Telangana people. A section of media reported that Pingali Venkaiah progeny was not only impecunious but also indigent and also appealed to the Govt. to extend financial assistance to his successors and the Government rightly obliged.
Be that as it may, the official history of Congress reads altogether different. The All India Congress Committee Commissioned Bhogaraju Pattabhi Seetaramaiah to write a detailed Congress history. Accordingly, he wrote authentic history of Congress. He writes that – the issue of National Flag was first time ever discussed in the annual conference of the Indian National Congress held at Calcutta in 1923. However, the Home Rule League movement which was started by both Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Beasant in 1916, had already designed a flag and propagated it as the National Flag. Subsequently, the Home Rule League was merged with the Congress. However, the Congress appointed a sub-committee to finalise the flag for India. On this Committee, a noted artist, Avinindranath Tagore was included. The Committee never met and finalized the Flag.
Sitaramaiah further succinctly writes that the Congress included ‘Charaka’ to the earlier Home Rule League Flag and adopted. It was in 1931, original red color in the Home Rule League Flag was replaced with Ochre colour (Bhogaraju Pattabhi Seetaramaiah, Congress Charitra, All India Congress – Allahabad, Andhra Patrika Printing Press, Chennapuri, 1935, p.207). It should be noted that the History of Congress is a ponderous book of 870 pages and has 86 annexures. Seetaramaiah was a knowledgeable senior national Congress leader from Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. To this very district, Pingali Venkaiah belonged. However, Seetaramaiah did not make mention of Venkaiah’s name, not even once in this book.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak started the Home Rule League confined mainly to Maharashtra and Karnataka in April 1916, whereas Annie Beasant founded her Home Rule League in September 1916. Activities of both league consisted of carrying out propaganda for the Congress – League agenda of political reforms following the Lucknow Pact. In the year 1917, the 33rd session of the Congress was held at Calcutta, and the first woman President Annie Beasant (Dec. 26th to 29th). As Annie Beasant became the President of AICC, she merged the Home Rule League along with its tricolor in the Congress. That means, tricolor came into vogue in 1917 whereas the Working Committee of Congress met at Bezawada only in 1921. In this meeting, Pingle Venkaiah supposed to have presented tricolor to Mahatma Gandhi. The contemporary newspapers of that period both vernacular English did not make any mention of the flag.
It was in 1957, the Government of India while celebrating the century celebrations of 1857, the first war of independence, had decided to compile a book on the freedom fighters of India and solicited the services of noted historian Prof. Tarachand of Allahabad University. He produced four volumes of authentic history of freedom movement citing primary sources. Curiously enough his book also does not make a mention of Pingali Venkaiah and his much orchestrated tricolor flag.
Be that as it may, another erudite English historian Trevor Royle in his “The Last Days of the Raj” writes that the National Flag was made by Badruddin Tayabji’s wife.
He writes “By one of those contradictions which run through India’s history, the national flag was designed by a Muslim, Badr-ud-Din Tyabji. Originally the tricolour was to have contained the spinning-wheel symbol (charka) used by Gandhi but this was a party symbol which Tyabji thought might strike the wrong note. After much persuasion Gandhi agreed to the wheel because the Emperor Ashoka was venerated by Hindu and Muslim alike. The flag which flew on Nehru’s car that night had been specially made by Tyabji’s wife.” (Trevor Royle, The Last Days of the Raj, Cornet Books, Hodder and Stoughton, London, pg. 217)
Tyabji was an ICS officer in the Prime Minister’s office in 1947. He was known for erudition and scholarship and his wife’s name was Suraiyya. She was none other than niece of Sir Akbar Hydari of Hyderabad. Her wedding was performed at Hyderabad city. Thus the Indian tricolour was made by a woman from Hyderabad, but history does not record the contribution of Hyderabad people as was done in the case of Maulvi Allauddin, the first 1857 martyr who was transported for life to Kalapani, Andamans and Abdul Hasan Safrani a Hyderabadi who coined Jaihind slogan.
Dramatist Shakespeare is right: “when beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heaven’s blaze from the death of princes”.