The wheel of truth
K Natwar Singh

LK Advani uses words with care. He is not given to thoughtless verbal overkill in which some of the loud mouths of the BJP and its parivar specialise. 
The other day, Advani was in Ahmedabad and there he picked on our Chakra Dhuaja — the national flag. Not only did he distort history, he castigated Jawaharlal Nehru for choosing a Buddhist symbol instead of a Hindu one. Emperor Ashoka was one of the greatest Indians of all time and it was unworthy of the deputy prime minister to cast aspersions on Buddhism. 

I am told that Advani is a lover of books. That for me is a plus point for him. Obviously, there are serious gaps in his knowledge of our history and culture. Otherwise he would not have made the extraordinary and, if I may say so, strange observations about the tricolour. I take it that for 55 years he has been saluting this very flag — or has he not? I doubt if his boss, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, gets an attack of nerves while unfurling the Chakra Dhuaja on August 15 each year. 

The evolution of our national flag is well documented. I do not know if Advani is familiar with the debates in the Constituent Assembly and the Flag Committee. A great deal of thought was given to the designing of the national flag. The flag was designed by Badruddin Tyabji. Her husband B.H.F. Tyabji was joint secretary in the Constituent Assembly and a grandson of the great Tyabji who was president of the Congress in its earlier days. 

The original idea was to make the Congress flag with a charkha (spinning-wheel) on it as free India's dhuaja, but for technical and practical reasons this was not done. The practical difficulty of making the charkha on the Congress flag look right from both sides was impossible. So a committee was appointed and Ms Tyabji designed the flag. 

The Ashoka Chakra is called the Dharma Chakra. Here I would draw Advani's attention to a scholarly book written by the late Vasudeva A. Agrawala, who was professor at the Banaras Hindu University. The title of his book is The Wheel Flag of India: Chakra-Dhuaja. The book is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, "who revived the 'Chakravarti-Yogi Ideal', and set in motion 'the Wheel of Law: Dharma-Chakra'. The opening paragraph of Agrawala's book reads as follows: 
The Chakra Dhuaja or the Wheel Flag of India is the symbol of her civilisation as evolved through the ages. The whole Indian people have taken part in the emergence of the chakra as a perfect token of their ideals and life. The present thesis explains the meaning of chakra in the context of Indian culture. The material is taken from Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain literature, religion, art and philosophy. It has been shown that the worship of the chakra as representing the supreme ideals underlying the cosmic manifestation on the one hand and of the individual life on the other has been a part of Indian tradition from the most ancient times. It is by divine providence that the chakra has been accepted as the flag of modern India, as if 'man' under the Indian sky, and living on the Indian soil, is to work out his destiny in accordance with the ideals symbolised by the chakra. 

The report of the Flag Committee was unanimously adopted by the Constituent Assembly and the cabinet (the patron saint of the BJP, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was, if I am not mistaken, a member of both), and the Congress Working Committee. Before Nehru spoke in the Constituent Assembly, he had consulted Rajendra Prasad, president of the Constituent Assembly, and had obtained Gandhiji's approval. Nehru being a historian had also read Radha Kamal Mukherjee's book on Indian civilisation. 

Introducing the 'flag resolution' in the assembly on July 22, 1947, Nehru said: "Resolved that the national flag of India shall be a horizontal tricolour of deep saffron, white and dark green in equal proportion. In the centre of the white band, there shall be a wheel in navy blue to represent the chakra. This design of the wheel shall be that of the wheel (chakra) which appears on the abacus of the Sarnath lion capital of Ashoka." Nehru added "that wheel of course, was no invention of Ashoka, it was older than Ashoka". 

The disc or wheel is one of the central symbol of Indian civilisation, common to Vedic, Buddhist and Jain thought. A chakra from Vedic references denotes the solar disc which is a symbol of time and ultimately becomes the emblem of the solar deity, Vishnu. 
It is then considered a powerful weapon — Sudarshan Chakra. 
In the Upanishads too, the cosmic wheel is called the Vishwa Chakra, Brahma Chakra, Bhav Chakra and Sansar Chakra. (I am grateful to Kapila Vatsyayan for giving me this information.) The chakra also denotes movement. Thus the chakra on our dhuaja combines tradition with modernity. 
Advani should be proud of the greatness of Ashoka, who is among the greatest rulers in world history. The sad part is that, perhaps for the BJP and Co., history begins in 1925 when the RSS was founded. The word Hindutva, as far as I know, appears in no Hindu scripture. It was invented by V.D. Savarkar. Hindu dharma has nothing to do with the Hindutva being hawked around by people without a sense of history, without proper knowledge of India's great culture, civilisation and pluralistic ethos.