Friday, 21 October 2022

Sri Lanka National Flag

Sri Lanka National Flag
The National Flag of Sri Lanka (Sinhala: ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ජාතික කොඩිය; Tamil: இலங்கையின் தேசியக்கொடி) was first adopted officially on 2 March 1951 and slightly amended on 22 May 1972. It consists of a golden lion holding a Kastane Sword in a maroon background with two vertical stripes in teal and orange. The flag is incorporated in Section 6 Second Schedule of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka of September 9, 1978 (GID, 1994).

Although Sri Lanka gained independence on 4 February 1948, the necessity to have a National Flag for the country had been previously discussed. On 16 January 1948, a motion was tabled in the State Council by A. Sinnalebbe, an MP for Batticaloa suggesting that the Lion Flag of Sri Vikrama Rajasinhe (1798-1815 A.D.), the last King of Sri Lanka which was taken to Britain in 1815 should be made the country's National Flag (GID, 1994). This issue was debated until Prime Minister D.S. Senanayaka (1947-1952) formed an advisory committee for the formation of a National Flag. The members of this committee included S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake (Chairman), Sir John Kotalawala, J.R. Jayawardana, T.B. Jayah, L.A. Rajapakse, G.G. Ponnambalam and S. Nadesan (GID, 1994).

The committee had not reached a final decision when the first independence day was celebrated on 4 February 1948 but on the occasion, a Lion Flag was raised (GID, 1994). This Lion Flag was unfurled at the Pattirippuwa of Dalada Maligawa during the independence celebrations held on 12 February at Kandy (GID, 1994). The same flag along with the British Union Jack was also fluttered at the opening ceremony of the First Parliament of Independent Sri Lanka on 19 February 1948 (GID, 1994).

On 2 March 1951, the National Flag recommended by the committee was presented to the parliament by D.S. Senanayake and adopted (GID, 1994). However, the traditional Bo-leave designs that are depicted in the flag were replaced by natural Bo-leaves when Sri Lanka became a republic in 1972 (GID, 1994). This amended flag was first unfurled at the Republic Day celebration held on 22 May 1972 (GID, 1994).

The National Flag of Sri Lanka consists of a golden lion holding a Kastane sword in its right forepaw in a maroon background with four gold natural Bo-leaves, one in each corner. This is bordered by a gold border and to its left are two vertical stripes of equal size in teal and orange, with the orange stripe closest to the lion. 

Each element of the flag has a specific meaning. The lion and the maroon background represent the Sinhala people, while the four Bo-leaves represent concepts of Mettā, Karuṇā, Muditā and Upekshā (kindness, compassion, equanimity and happiness) respectively. The curly hair on the lion's head represents religious observance, wisdom and meditation and the eight hairs on the lion's tail symbolize the Noble Eightfold Path. The beard of the lion is to denote the purity of words while the nose is to represent intelligence. The two front paws of the lion represent purity in handling wealth and the handle of the sword represents the elements of water, fire, air and earth. The orange strip symbolizes Tamil people while the teal strip represents Muslim people. The yellow border represents all the other minority communities and the unity among all ethnicities.

1) GID, 1994. Sri Lanka. Overseas Publicity Division. Government Information Department.
This page was last updated on 21 April 2023


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