Pingali Venkayya, a notable freedom fighter, was the mastermind behind India’s National Flag. Beyond his role as a farmer and geologist, he was also a lecturer at Andhra National College in Machilipatnam and possessed fluent proficiency in Japanese, earning him the nickname ‘Japan Venkayya’ due to his language skills.
Born near Machilipatnam on August 2, 1876, Venkayya served as a soldier in the British Indian Army during the war in South Africa. It was there that he was deeply moved by the strong sense of nationhood the Union Jack evoked among British soldiers.
Venkayya tirelessly worked on various models of the national flag and presented one to Mahatma Gandhi in 1921 during an Indian National Congress meeting in Vijayawada. Initially, the flag had two stripes – green and red – with the Gandhian charkha at its center. Following Gandhi’s suggestion, a white stripe was added to the top, resulting in the creation of the original Tricolour.
Since its approval, the flag was informally used in all Congress meetings. In 1931, during the Congress’ session, the Tricolour was officially adopted with the color scheme we know today – saffron, white, and green – and with the charkha at the center.
This flag then became the symbol of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent freedom movement.
To honor Pingali Venkayya’s birth anniversary, the Central government will release a special commemorative postage stamp on August 2. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead the stamp’s unveiling in New Delhi, with the event attended by Venkayya’s family members.
Despite his significant contributions, Pingali Venkayya lived a life of poverty and obscurity until his passing in 1963. In 2009, a postage stamp was released in his honor, and in 2014, the All India Radio (AIR) station in Vijayawada was named after him.
Currently, there is a growing demand to posthumously confer the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, upon Pingali Venkayya. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy proposed his name for the award last year, and Union Minister for Tourism and Culture, G Kishan Reddy, also acknowledges the same request.