Experiential travel stories from India and 31 other countries!

Pingali Venkayya : Visit Bhatlapenumarru to know about the Flag Designer of India

Flag man of India

Who designed the NATIONAL FLAG of India?

Our Indian National Flag never fails to imbue a sense of patriotism. The combination of meaningful tricolors and the Ashoka chakra in the center is a beautiful reminder of our independence, sacrifices, sovereignty and unity. It is not just a piece of cloth but a tangible part of our heritage and culture. Interestingly, all flag designs have an evolution story. The colors and design are chosen very carefully before they are retained as a national symbol. The current Indian flag was also modified subsequently, over the years of our struggle for freedom. Honestly, I had never been curious enough to find out what led to its design and who was the Andhra boy who had impressed Mahatma Gandhi with his design in Bezwada in 1921 (now Vijayawada), until one Sunday when I had an impromptu visit to Bhatlapenumarru, the native village of Pingali Venkayya. Mr. Venkayya is hailed as the designer of the Indian National flag and to my ignorance, I had heard his name for the first time. He was the Andhra boy who had presented his flag to the Father of the Nation and his vision was further improvised to make our flag today.

Who was Pingali Venkayya or Jhanda Venkaiah?

“I am sure you know “Jhanda Venkaiah”, the freedom stalwart from Andhra? His village is close-by. No one from his family lives there but if you have time, you may go there”, said one of the dance gurus at Kuchipudi village.

Kuchipudi village needs no introduction. It is the dance village of India. It is located fifty kilometres away from my current city Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. One Sunday, before the lockdown, I was there to interact with some of the classical dance teachers to gain a first-hand experience of the neighbourhood that has nurtured world class dance form. After spending a couple of hours there and learning about the exquisite dance form of Kuchipudi, I curiously asked about the surroundings. It was then that one of the dance teachers mentioned Pingali Venkayya and his village Bhatlapenumarru. I googled it on the internet and the next thing I knew was that my chauffeur was driving me to Bhatlapenumarru. To be precise, the village is only six kilometers away from Kuchipudi and we reached there in hardly twenty minutes.

Bhatlapenumarru and Mr. Rao

The village appeared calm and peaceful. As soon as my vehicle touched the premises, an unmissable sprawling memorial of Pingali Venkayya caught my eye. The national flag in his hand and the writings below spoke of his accomplishments. The statue looked in good shape and the year of its installation made it obvious that it had been installed much later after his demise. I had been warned that there is not much in the village but I stood there silently, waiting for a local to tell me more about him. As I fiddled with my camera, I saw someone arrive on a bicycle. He greeted me with a warm and subtle smile on his face as if he had deduced my purpose of the visit. He waved hands and guided my car towards a newly built multi-purpose hall, beaming as Pingali Venkayya Bhavan. The elderly gentleman walked me inside the neat and clean hall. There was no furniture except his cot and a chair. I spotted the Indian flag and some framed pictures of Pingali Venkayya on the walls. He immediately brought to my notice that the bhavan was used as a wedding venue for the locals. This was the source of income for him and the locals who had come together in the making of this place in honor of Pingali Venkayya.

Indian flag designer
This is the statue of Pingali Vankaiyya in his village in Bhatlapennamarru

In his fluent English, the elderly gentleman introduced himself as Mr. Sangisetti Sambasiva Rao. He proudly mentioned that he hailed from the same village and had been given the complete charge of the building by the common consensus of the locals. His sons were well employed in the cities but he had decided to stay back in the village to spread information about Pingali Venkayya. His love and admiration for the freedom fighter showed in his collection of hundreds of cuttings of articles of magazines and newspapers mentioning Pingali Venkayya. He was not just a caretaker but a poet too. He had composed a song ‘Ghana Keerthi Jhanda’ dedicated to Pingali Venkayya. A few years ago, he had inspired the local villagers to put up a book for their ideal Venkayya. Every time he talked about the flag designer, I could see a gleam and joy in his eyes. He was happy like a child as he took me through the life and research work of Pingali. In return, all he expected was my attention and time. Even my driver was inspired to hear his engaging talks.

Pingali Venkayya and his accomplishments

Mr. Rao showed me hundreds of old pictures related to the initial designs of the flags. What really caught my fascination was the research and study that Pingali Venkayya had done before coming up a design for India. He had studied the flags of almost thirty countries to be able to present a rudimentary design of the national flag to Father of the Nation, in Vijayawada. Initially, there were only two colors- saffron and green but gradually white came in the picture and Ashoka Chakra was adopted as the emblem. After India’s freedom, Pingali Venkayya also published a book on the various flag designs and models that he made for Indian flag. This Andhra lad was a very well-read person and had the knowledge of many languages. Apart from flags, he did a lot of research on farming of cottons as well. It was very sad that he died in poverty and only a few decades ago, his work has been acknowledged well. Some of his memorials were installed in the state and a postage stamp was issued in his honor in 2009. The state did recommend his name for Bharat Ratna but there has been no breakthrough there.

Based on some of facts reiterated by Mr. Rao again and again, I could deduce that Pingali Venkayya was a freedom fighter from Andhra Pradesh and later came to be known as ‘Jhanda Venkaiah’ as the current national flag is based on his design.  He was born on 2nd August, 1876 and lived a very humble life until his death in 1963. He was part of British army and had met Mahatama Gandhi in South Africa. They share a special bond. Pingali Venkayya insisted on the need for their own flag and finally came up with a design too. While he was alive, he lived a very humble living and not much is known about his last days, except that he wrote a few books. He was also conferred with titles of Japan Venkayya (for giving speech in Japanese language) and Patti (Cotton) Venkayya for his research on cotton farming.

Currently, all travel plans remain deferred but such impromptu stories from roads of India have kept me inspired. Hope you are enjoying my #backyardtourism series from Andhra?

The article was published in Deccan Herald first!

8 thoughts on “Pingali Venkayya : Visit Bhatlapenumarru to know about the Flag Designer of India

  1. This is a wonderful article, and actually made me remember who designed our own Philippine flag. I totally forgot the names of these ladies, but based on the story, they hand-stitched the flag while in the middle of a war. National flag is a very important symbol, that must be respected and symbolizes oour patriotism to where we came from.

  2. Oh wow. This is an incredible find. While I’ve read about the evolution and changes of the design of Indian National Flag, I actually never thought about the people who designed it! I’m having goosebumps right now. You’re not alone. I’m hearing his name for the first time as well. Why isn’t his name on our school textbooks? Its awesome that they made a Bhavan there and also use it as a wedding hall. Good idea!

  3. An excellent post about a significant symbol that the flag is for every nation. You have provided so much interesting and important historical information about the Indian flag. It is a fascinating and evolution story of the creation of the Indian flag. Ashoka chakra in the center is such a beautiful reminder of independence, sacrifices, and unity. Bhatlapenumarru, the native village of Pingali Venkayya, must be worth visiting a place.

  4. I love how you dive deep on these relativelly small details of your culture. the stories end up being so deep. I would have loved to be able to see those early designs of the flag, but I’m not sure if the photos didn’t load correctly. There was a large space between the text.

  5. I am less curious about flag design and history. Buy my ex-navy husband is always spouting little flag tidbits as we travel. So I am sure he would be interested in learning more about the history of the India flag. Fascinating that so much research about other flags went into the design process.

  6. This was some new learning. Never knew that our national flag was designed by Mr.Pingali Venkayaa. It was a real eye opener learning about the history and the story of the evolution.I would have loved to meet him myself as such people are always an inspiration and great to learn what goes on in their mind.

  7. It’s great that you did not miss the opportunity to visit Bhatlapenumarru. This is my first time to hear about Pingali Venkayya and it’s nice to know that the design he created was intentional and well-studied. This post made curious as well on the story behind my own country’s flag. You just inspired me to learn more about it.

  8. This was a journey worth making. The very flag that we feel so much pride in and its creator is a story worth discovering. Loved the fact that at least they have kept some history of the process alive in the Bhavan. It is interesting to note the fervor and passion he had for the freedom movement too, with all those newspaper cuttings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.