National flag :
The symbol of Independence
The national flag or Sinha Kodiya continues to flutter in homes, shops, schools, temples, churches and other institutions to mark the Independence of our paradise isle, especially after the dawn of peace after three decades of turmoil, conflict and confusion. The national flag was flown high on Friday in every nook and corner of Sri Lanka as a symbol of true freedom.
The significance of the flag was truly felt on this landmark day. The national flag showed the pride of freedom with the people of Sri Lanka. When the first Parliament was inaugurated, the Duke of Gloucester represented his brother King George VI of Britain and together with the Dutchess were welcomed, at a royal ceremony, at the Independence Square.
At the proceedings, when the Duke read out the message, to officially declare Lanka’s Independence, the first Prime Minister of Independent Sri Lanka D.S. Senanayake hoisted the national flag which flew at high mast amidst the blue sky, bringing tears of joy to those who watched the lion flag flutter with a deep sense of pride and patriotism.
The historic first Independence Day celebrations is the first occasion when the nation saluted, honoured and venerated the national flag which stood as a monument of true freedom. The Lion flag which had been used by the early royalty of Lanka went up majestically on the flagstaff at Independence Square, signifying the independence of yet another worthy crown colony of the Imperial Regime.
It was also hoisted at the Dalada Maligawa Octagon by the then Prime Minister and a special perahera had been organised to mark the occasion. The royal visitors too were present at the special function held, thus the national flag flew high in Kandy too (the last bastion to fall) amidst the sounds of Magul Bera and the chanting of Seth Pirith to invoke blessings on the country.
Origin and history
The Vijaya episode has been the beginning of Lankan history. When Vijaya, banished from his native land, arrived in Sri Lanka in 486 BC at Tambapanni, he planted on the sea-shore a flag with a symbol of a lion on it. Ever since, this symbol had played a vital role throughout the history of Sri Lanka.
According to ancient chronicles, it had been widely used by the subsequent kings as a symbol of freedom, unity and harmony.
E.W. Perera, a prominent figure in the freedom struggle, states in his book that the three lions on the gateway of Sanchi Stupa have been identified as the royal arms of Ceylon. The arch depicts the despatch of the Bo tree to then Ceylon and the symbols on either side depict the royal flags of Asoka and Devanampiyatissa. Even the Mahavihara, the Buddhist Monastery at Anuradhapura, was laid out in the shape of a lion.
The Lion flag is considered the oldest national flag in the world. Historically the lion flag of King Dutugemunu is said to be illustrated in Cave 2 of Rangiri Dambulu Vihara which is supported by Professor Anuradha Seneviratna in his book on the subject. It is said that Dutugemunu’s flag has a lion and the sun and moon symbols. The flag of the kings of Kotte is said to have had a lion. The Perakumba Siritha composed during this period describes the flag with the lion fluttering on the Northern ramparts, used by King Parakramabahu of Kotte.
E.W. Perera states in his book that an ola manuscript records that a banner bearing the symbol of a lion holding a sword in the right paw was the flag of Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe, the last king to rule the Kandyan Kingdom, before it came under British rule. In 1815, they replaced the Lion flag with the Union Jack as the national flag of Sri Lanka.
Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, 2,600 years ago, had referred to the use of flags in the Dhajagga Sutta and it is of very special significance to Buddhists. The flag is the identity of a nation, country and a kingdom. The flag is the reflection of a national and cultural adaptation in its true perspective.
“National sentiments are borne out in the flag. History reports that the king was taken prisoner and deported to Vellore in South India, the Lion flag was taken to England and kept at the Royal Military Hospital in Chelsea. E.W. Perera among the galaxy of national leaders, who were at the helm in the quest for freedom had discovered the original lion flag at Chelsea. This was displayed in a special edition of the Dinamina and this focused the attention of the entire nation. Unaware of the former as to its actual design they were in great anxiety to see the present flag.
The true national flag
The national flag of Sri Lanka was designed on the recommendations of D.S. Senanayake, the Father of the Nation and the first Prime Minister. This masterpiece in national tradition is unmatched and is sacred to the entire nation. The national glory and culture is embodied very clearly. Each feature has its own distinctive meaning and significance. The brilliant crimson in the background indicates immortality. The gold border running right round represent the Sangha who motivated and guided the royalty. The four gold Bo leaves, at the four corners of the background depict Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upekkha - the four noble qualities to be developed by humanity. The two equal vertical stripes in saffron and green represent the Tamil and Muslim communities.
The picture of a lion in gold in the centre reflects the strength of the nation while the gold sword held by the lion symbolises righteous rule, justice and fairplay to all, heralding a time of peace and harmony, for the welfare of all beings.
Our national flag is a symbol of Sri Lanka and its people. In short it has a message for each citizen. Our original flag has seen many changes over the years. History says that at one time, the royal flag had a red lion holding a sword in the right paw on a white background.
However, regardless of the colours of the lion or the background, the lion has adorned the flags of the kings of Lanka for over 20 centuries and still continues to be the symbol of the national flag of Independent Sri Lanka.
The existing flag since the dawn of independence is respected, honoured and held in high esteem by every citizen of Sri Lanka. Hence, it is revered in the country. With the passage of time, people have become the rightful owners of the national flag - the 2,000-year-old Lion flag belonging to a heroic, fearless and duty-conscious people of Sri Lanka. It is a genuine symbol of unity.