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Colonial St. George’s Cross dropped for Chhatrapati Shivaji’s seal on Indian Navy’s new flag

This is the fourth time since 1950 that the naval ensign has undergone a change.

The new naval ensign | Photo: The Indian Navy
The new naval ensign | Photo: The Indian Navy

Kochi: The Indian Navy Friday got its new “Indianised” naval ensign (Nishaan) which saw the colonial Saint George’s Cross being replaced with a blue octagonal shape encompassing the national emblem sitting atop an anchor, inspired by the royal seal of Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji.

The new ensign was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kochi during the commissioning of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

“We have today shed colonial past,” Modi said in his address at the commissioning ceremony.

Earlier in the week, the Prime Minister’s Office had said the new ensign would do “away with the colonial past… befitting the rich Indian maritime heritage”.

The old ensign of the Navy was a white flag with horizontal and vertical red stripes, symbolising the Cross of Saint George, with the emblem of India superimposed on the intersection. The tricolour is placed in the upper canton next to the staff.

ThePrint had earlier reported that the new ensign has the naval crest depicting an anchor.

The significance of new naval ensign 

The new naval ensign now comprises two main constituents – the National Flag in the upper left canton, and a navy blue-gold octagon at the centre of the fly side (away from the staff).

The octagon is with twin golden borders encompassing the golden National Emblem (Lion Capital of Ashoka – underscribed with ‘Satyamev Jayate’ in blue Devanagari script) resting atop an anchor and superimposed on a shield.

Below the shield, within the octagon, in a golden bordered ribbon on a navy blue background, where the motto of the Indian Navy ‘Sam No Varunah’ is inscribed in golden Devanagari script.

The design encompassed within the octagon has been taken from the Indian Naval crest, wherein the fouled anchor, which is also associated with colonial  legacy, has been replaced with a clear anchor underscoring the  steadfastness of the Indian Navy. The navy blue colour of the octagonal shape depicts the blue water capabilities of the Indian Navy.

In a statement, the Navy said the twin octagonal borders draw their inspiration from Shivaji Maharaj Rajmudra  or the Seal of Chhatrapati Shivaji, who “built a credible Naval Fleet that earned grudging admiration from European Navies operating in the region  at the time.”

The octagonal shape also represents the eight directions (four cardinal and four inter cardinal), symbolising the Indian Navy’s global outreach.

The Navy added that the octagon stands for good fortune, eternity, renewal and draws  positive energy from all directions.

The new Naval White Ensign is thus rooted in the” glorious maritime heritage of India, as well as reflective of our Navy’s present–day capabilities”, it added.

Naval Ensign changed four times, including by Vajpayee govt

This is the fourth time since 1950 that the Naval Ensign has undergone a change.

On 26 January 1950, when India became a republic, the Navy Crest and flags were duly ‘Indianised’. However, the latter (Ensign and Distinguishing Flags) retained a touch of the British legacy — the red St. George’s Cross – though the Union flag was replaced by India’s tricolour.

While during the post-colonial period, other ex-colonial Navies discarded the red St George’s Cross in their new ensigns and flags, the Indian Navy retained it till 2001.

It was on 15 August 2001, that the design of the ensign was changed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government and the Cross made its way out of the Indian Navy ensign.

The idea to change the Navy’s ensign came from Vice Admiral Vivian Barboza in the early 1970s. Admiral Barboza later retired from the Indian Navy as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command.

However, in April 2004 — a month before the UPA government was sworn in — the original ensign was adopted again with certain additions as there were complaints within the force that the blue of the naval crest was indistinguishable from the sky and the ocean. The ensign was changed back to St George’s Cross with the addition of the Indian emblem in its intersection.

In 2014, the ensign as well as the naval crest were updated to include the national motto “Satyameva Jayate” in the Devanagari script.


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