At the heart of symbolism

The flag of India

(Detailed page)


The Indian flag

The colours of the flag

The flag background is composed of three colours:

  • Saffron or a mix of red and yellow;
  • White;
  • Dark green or a mix of dark blue and yellow.

White represents the visible light, source of all colours of the rainbow spectrum. Therefore, it symbolizes the Principle of the manifestation of colours in particular and all things and beings in general.

The two other colours, saffron and dark green, combine two extreme colours of the rainbow (red, blue) with a medium colour (yellow). The last colour tempers the extremes framing most the spectrum, which is representative of the manifestation diversity of colours in particular, and things and beings in general.

This temperance feature goes far beyond the ideas about:

  • A “third way” between the communist and capitalist systems foreseen in the 1960s;
  • And more recently, the emergence of a middle class within the Indian society.

From the spiritual point of view, yellow represents the warmest colour of the light spectrum. It is often related to sun and gold, two symbols of the spiritual influence. That is why yellow is linked to the re-birth of the being and symbolizes the “Middle Path”, the communication channel between Gods and beings.

From the temporal point of view, yellow is situated half-way between red (the “upper arch”) and blue (the “lower arch”) within the rainbow spectrum. It represents the vaishyas caste of the Hindu tradition, the average path between the royal path of the kshatriyas (red) and the common path of all beings (blue). That is why blue symbolizes the achievement of the manifestation of colours in particular and everything in general as attested by the central drawing known as the “Wheel of the Law”, a law which applies to all beings and things.

The Wheel of the Law

The Centre and the periphery

The Centre and the circumferenceThe 8 spoke wheelThe Wheel of the Law on the Indian flagThe Principle, the Unity, source of all beings and things, is often pictured as a point from which everything is radiating. The whole radiance is represented by a circle and symbolizes the World in its full manifestation.

The circumference has no existence without the centre that subtends it whereas the centre exists independently of the circumference. The World, the manifestation of the Principle has no reality outside the Centre.

The connection between the Principle and its manifestation is underlined by the spokes emanating from the centre, which are giving to the picture the appearance of a wheel (“chakra” in Sanskrit). The “Wheel of the Law”, represented as an 8, 16 or 24 spoke wheel, is often brought into question in India.

The 8 directions coming from the centre depict the compass and intermediary points and describe the all-out manifestation development. The 8 spoke wheel is equivalent to the 8 petal lotus.

The 24 directions of the central drawing of the flag depict the relationships between night and daylight hours 1, darkness and light, the non-manifested and the manifested, the Principle and the existence of things and beings.

During the manifestation development, the Principle expresses itself according to the Law (“Dharma” in Sanskrit) that governs all manifested beings and things and accounts for the Order ruling the World. The same Law applies to the way back from the manifested to the Principle.

Back to the Centre

The picture of the wheel (in Latin “rota”) spontaneously evokes the rotation idea, the continual movement to which manifested beings and things are submitted. During the movement, only the hub of the wheel remains fixed. The same applies to the Centre, symbol of the immutable Principle.

The Centre is the middle between the extremes represented by two opposite points of the circumference. This is the place of the resolution of opposites within the Unity. This is the place where all beings and things find their balance in the perfect simultaneity of the eternal present.

As everything is coming from the Centre, the “Invariable Middle”, finally everything must return there. The wheel spokes are able, in fact, to be run in both directions: from the Centre towards the points of the circumference and from these points to the Centre. Leaving the wheel circumference, place of manifestation (“samsara”) and liberating oneself from the world agitation (“nirvana”) in order to go back to the Centre we all come from leads to the being realization.

Returning to the Centre means to overcome the apparent contradictions between the extremes and rediscover the harmony within oneself and with the outer world. The harmony is nothing but the reflection of the principial Unity within the diversity of the manifested world. To reach it, one must follow the “Dharma”, source of the essential nature of all manifested beings.


  • René Guénon:
  • “Symbols of Sacred Science”, Sophia Perennis Publisher 2004;
  • More specifically, chapter 8 on “the Idea of Centre in Antic traditions”.
  • “The Great Triad”, South Asia Books Publisher;
  • Particularly, chapter 23 devoted to “the Cosmic Wheel”

1 back By the way, the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, better known as the Dome, contains a clock, the dial of which points out the 24 night and daylight hours.