A unifier flag
The flag design has evolved since the country (previously called Ceylon and in bygone days Serendip) gained independence from Britain in 1948. After the independence, the Lion Flag replaced the Union Jack and became the national flag of Ceylon. It represented a yellow lion holding a sword on a reddish background, bordered yellow, and four “spearheads” at the four corners. Then, the flag was subjected to several modifications, notably the substitution of leaves of a fig tree to the “spearheads”. It was adopted in its present drawing in 1972, when the country took the name of Sri Lanka, and officially approved in 1978.
The flag is based on two rectangular panels bordered with yellow. The panel next to the fly contains a yellow pattern with a lion holding a sword upright in his right fore paw and four leaves of a fig tree on a reddish background. The panel next to the hoist is made up of two vertical green and orange bands.
There is no doubt that the final flag project intended to reflect the population of Sri Lanka in its totality, which is composed of Buddhists in its great majority, Hindus, Muslims and Christians:
- Firstly, yellow, the medium colour of the rainbow spectrum, tempers the perception of the other colours. It emphasizes the common features rather than the differences.
- Secondly, the four leaves in the corners refer to the four spiritual or religious branches within the country gathered around the a single Axis symbolized by the Tree. The Bodhi Tree for Buddhists, the Banian for Hindous, the Universal Tree for Muslins and the Tree of Life for Christians. As for the lion holding a sword, it takes on symbolic meanings common to diverse traditions.
The Lion flag is at once civil, state and merchant flag of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. It highlights the fact that banners are, principally, gathering emblems.