Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXI No. 9, August 16-31, 2021

When the flag was unfurled in 1947

by Karthik Bhatt

When the flag was unfurled in 1947

When the flag was unfurled in 1947

August 15, 1947 is a day that will be etched in the history of our nation forever. It marked the birth of a free country, breaking the shackles of foreign rule and the end of a long struggle.

The celebrations in Madras, much like in the rest of the country, were grand. The Hindu, in its edition dated August 15, 1947 reported on the celebrations across the city that had started in advance. Several commercial houses in Mount Road, Triplicane and Mylapore had hoisted the national flag on the eve of Independence and had decorated their premises with special lighting. Organisations such as the Hindi Prachar Sabha, the Triplicane Independence Committee, the Hindustan Scouts Association and the Harijan Sevak Sangh had all organised special lectures commemorating the occasion, where the national flag was unfurled. Interestingly, the flag at the Hindi Prachar Sabha was unfurled by a Subramania Aiyar, the oldest resident of T. Nagar at that time. The Port Trust, the paper reported, had arranged for the entire premises of the harbour, inclusive of the ships lying in the dock to be decorated with flags and festoons and be thrown open to the public. Traffic snarls were reported in areas such as George Town, as people with the national flag pinned on them came out in large numbers to witness the celebrations.

The Corporation of Madras had drawn up a detailed programme marking the special occasion. The children of the schools under its administration were to march through the streets at 7 a.m. that day and assemble at a central school selected for each division, with the flag to be unfurled by the Divisional Commissioner. The flag hoisting function at the Ripon Buildings was scheduled for 10 a.m., with the Prime Minister of the Presidency O.P. Ramaswamy Reddiar presiding over the function. Ripon Buildings was to be flood-lit from 7 p.m. till mid-night on that day and the succeeding two days as well.

An interesting incident surrounding the flag-hoisting at Ripon Buildings finds a mention in the birth centenary souvenir of the Mayor of Madras at that time, T. Sundar Rao Naidu. K. Chandramouli, the Local Administration Minister had sent a message stating that the flag would be handed over by a messenger. Sundar Rao Naidu flatly refused, stating that he would not receive it unless it was sent with proper protocol and respect befitting its sacredness. Realising his mistake, the minister then sent it with a military officer, accompanied by a military guard. Sundar Rao Naidu dressed in mayoral robes and his team of councillors then marched in procession accompanied by the Corporation Band and two decorated elephants from the Ripon Buildings and received it at the Central Station.

The flag at the seat of the government, Fort St George was unfurled early in the morning on August 15. People thronged the seafront throughout the day to witness the sight of the tri-colour flying on the historic flag-mast. The city, was in a way responsible for the beginning of the empire in the country and this marked the culmination of the long journey.

The photographs accompanying this piece are from the Shakti magazine, a popular monthly in the 1940s and 50s published by V. Govindan from his Shakti Karyalayam, which for some time functioned from the premises of the Music Academy.

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