Part 2


Modern India


Part 1 The Indian Empires


The Moghul Empire

Part 2  Modern India

Invaders from the West

The British

The Republic


Armed Forces


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Invaders from the West


From the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century European traders sailed to the Indian peninsula in search for spices. In 1502 the Portuguese settled in Cochin and Cannanore and in 1510 in Goa. In the 17th century they were followed by the Dutch in Pulikat, Cannanore, Ceylon, Negapatnam and Cochin. In 1620 the Danes settled in Tranquebar and in 1674 the French in Pondicherry.

All these trade-companies have left their traces in India.


The British


The United East India Company


By a charter of Queen Elizabeth I passed on 31 December 1600 a company for the trade on the Est In dies was founded. In the beginning the Company was not very succesful but when business offices were opened in Surat, Agra, Ahmedadbad and Broach the trade bacame more lucrative. In 1661 Charles II gave Bombay, formerly an Portuguese posession, which he had received as a dowry at his wedding with Catherine of Bragança to the Company. In 1687 the city became the capital of the Company in India.  In the mean time new offices were founded on the east coast.  

In 1698 another Company was founded, the English Company Trading to the East Indies. After some struggle the two companies merged in 1708 into the United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies, commonly styled the Honourable East India Company, and abbreviated, HEIC. The next hundred and fifty years this trade union acquired sovereign rights in many parts of the Moghul Empire and the Indian Peninsula. Company rule in India, which effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey, lasted until 1858, when, following the events of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and under the Government of India Act 1858, the British Crown assumed direct administration of India in the new British Raj. The Company itself was finally dissolved on 1 January 1874, as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act.

The Companies were granted achievements in 1600 and 1698.


The Raj


In 1857 some units of the Companies army rebelled in the Indian Mutiny. The rebellion could be supressed because none of the large princely states joined it. Bahadur Shah and his adoptive son Nana Sahib were accused of complicity and banned and with their departure the Moghul Empire came to an end.

In 1858, the rule of the British East India Company was transferred to the Crown in the person of Queen Victoria.

In India itself British direct rule was exercised by a viceroy, the office instituted by India Councils Act, the first viceroy being Lord Canning who held the office from 1 November 1858 until 21 March 1862.


The National Emblem



A quasi national emblem was created when the Order of the Star of India was founded by proclamation of Queen Victoria, dated 25 June 1861. The star of this Order, worn only by Knights Grand Commanders and Knights Commanders, consisted of a sunburst, with twenty-six large rays alternating with twenty-six small rays. In the centre of the sunburst is a light blue strap bearing the motto of the Order: HEAVEN’S LIGHT OUR GUIDE. Within the ribbon was a five-pointed star, decorated with diamonds for Knights Grand Commanders.

Apparently the sunburst is inspired by the emblem of the former Mughal Empire, a star and a motto being added. No information about the design-process of this order could be obtained.


The Royal Arms



From 1858 until India became a Republic on 26 January 1950, the royal British arms were the arms of the Queen and later the kings of Great Britain. This consisted of a quarterly opf England Scotland and Ireland, crowned with the royal crown and surrounded by the strap of the Order of the Garter.

The adoption of the imperial title in 1876 did not have consequences for the royal arms.


This coat of arms however was hardly displayed in India, the image i.e. the bust of the reigning queen or king being used instead.


The Viceregal emblem



From about 1870, when Lord Mayo was in office, the viceregal flag consisted of the union jack charged in the middle with the Star of India, royally crowned.

This flag was not the Governor-General's personal flag; it was also used by Governors, Lieutenant Governors, Chief Commissioners and other British officers in India. When at sea, only the Governor-General flew the flag from the mainmast, while other officials flew it from the foremast.

From 1947 to 1950, the Governor-General of India used a dark blue flag bearing the royal crest (a lion standing on a crown), beneath which was the word "India" in gold majuscules. The same design is still used by many other Governors-General. This last flag was the personal flag of the Governor-General only.


The Royal Achievement




At the same time the royal achievement was the official emblem of government in India. It consisted of the royal arms crowned with the royal crown or crested with the royal crown and the royal crest, surrounded by the strap of the Order of the Garter, supported by a lion and a unicorn and with the motto DIEU ET MON DROIT. It was printed on official documents, displayed on a tympanon of Government House in Calcutta, in the throne room in Delhi and on many other occasions.


European Heraldry in India


The Durbar of Delhi, 1877 [1]


Until 1858 most of the Indian princes had considered themselves the equals of the Company which had ruled British India until then. As a consequence of the mutiny the Indian Princes were confronted with direct British rule and british royal authority. As a feaction the prices tried to be recognized as hereditary rulers of the properties and, as a means to achieve this purpose, as Indian Noble of the British Empire. In a sunnud, dated 11 March 1862 and signed by Lord Canning, some hundred and fifty princes were recognized.

Taking into consideration the changed situation in India, Queen Victoria, on instigation of Benjamin Disraeli, adopted the title of “Indiæ Imperatrix” on 28 April 1876. This was about to mean that the tradition of the Delhi Sultanate and the Moghul Empire was continued. The proclamation of the Indian Empire took place on 1 January 1877 on the durbar in Delhi in the presence of one hundred recognized Indian princes.

The proclamation was mainly of symbolic significance because everything remained as it was before. Nevertheless, the proclamation, read aloud by the Viceroy, was an impressive happening, attended not only by Indian princes but also by British Indian officials and army officers.


On the occasion of the 1877 durbar a coat of arms was designed for every recognized attending prince by a member of the Bengal civil service, Robert Taylor.

Robert Taylor did not seem aware of the actual heraldic background of the princes. [2]) It was not that he regarded the ancient Indian symbols as heraldic, but that he translated  them into western heraldic styles with many charges which were usually allusive to some fact, legend or myth in a particular prince’s genealogy. The reigning houses of Mewar had  the sun as their emblem. This was adapted by Taylor in the form of a sun in splendour.i.e. with a human face as in Western heraldry. The sun in spledour also appeared in some of the Mewar shields as the main charge, as ij the arms of Idar. For Barwani, tyhe sun charge was on a canton, the blazon of the arms devised by Taylor being: vairy three barrulets gules, a chief wavy argent on a canton of the second, a sun in splendour. There is a crest and there are supporters. The motto has been translated as ‘Lord of the road, pass and mart’. The charges of the coat of arms of this state of Barwani  have been explained as denoting, in the three barrulets, the road, pass and mart in the state as the chief sources of revenue, while the vairy field signifies the jungle of the country and the wavy chief, the river Nerbudda. This explanation shows a coat very much in accord with the priciples on which many English coats of arms have been prepared. e.g.  the representation of the Thames in the arms of the Westminster Bank, and six fountains denoting springs in the shield of Lord Stourton.

Robert Taylor’s designs were emblazoned on banners which were presented by the Viceroy to ruling chiefs entitled to salute at the Delhi Durbar in 1877. In 1902, a complete set of Taylor’s designs, together with his notes, were obtained by the Indian Government and reproduced in a volume entitled The Princely Arrmory. [3] It is stated that Taylor obtained information from local political agents about the ruling families and based his designs on these details.

By the time of the Delhi Durbar of 1911 for King George V, most of the Indian princes were using arms. A book was compiled, it is understood, which showed the arms of the princes as in 1911, but subsequently they were ‘regularized’ by registration in the College of Arms. At the Durbar of 1911, the foundations of New Delhi were laid, and in the Chamber of Princes the arms of the variuous princes were placed in alphabetical order on metal plaques.


In the time of the Raj European styled heraldry flourished among Indian royalty for some time. After 1947 it disappeared almost entirely from public life because the Indian princes lost their governing powers. In 1971, by the 26th amendment of the Constitution of India, the Indian princes ceased to be recognized by the government. The new states adopted seals and logo’s as their emblems. Only in a very few cases these continue the heraldic traditions of the Raj. 


As for the military heraldry, or the heraldry in the stricter sense of the word, the armed forces of the former independent Indian Princely states were incorporated into the Indian Army. Its heraldry consisted of banners, uniforms and badges.


The Republic


The National Emblem

India adopted the Sarnath lion-capital of Aśoka as her National Emblem on January 26, 1950 the day she became a Republic. The Resolution describes its exact features as follows:


“The National Emblem of India, which is the replica of the capital of the Aśoka pillar at Sarnath, is formed of three lions, mounted on an abacus with the dharmachakra carved in relief in the center:  a bull on the right and a horse on the left.”


In the Sarnath lion-capital, which is a great master-piece of plastic art, there are four lions mounted back to back, on a circular abacus. The frieze of the abacus is adorned with sculptures in high relief of an elephant, a galloping horse, a bull and a lion. These are separated by intervening chakras (wheels). The wholes rests on a bell-shaped lotus.


In the National Emblem, only tree lions appear on the abacus, the fourth being hidden from view. The frieze of the abacus shows one chakra in the center, with a bull on the right and a horse on the left. Also visible partly are the outlines of dharmachakras on edge to the extreme left and right. The bell-shaped lotus at the bottom does not figure in the Emblem. Below the abacus is inscribed, in Devanagiri script, the legend ‘Sayameva jayate’ which means ‘Truth alone triumphs’.



.....It is significant that our Emblem is associated with the name of Aśoka, one of the magnificent names of India’s history and the world. In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru “the Aśokan period was essentially an international period of Indian history. It was not a narrowly national period. It was a period when Indian ambassadors went abroad to far-off countries and went abroad not in the way of emperors and imperialists but as ambassadors of peace and culture and goodwill”.  The Emblem, more than anything else represents India’s past as well as her aspirations for the future.


This outstanding sculpture represents the highest in Indian Symbolism, which has been variously explained. The simplest explanation appears to be that, in the original and complet form, the crowning dharmachakra represented the rotating wheel of righteousness which was considered to be supreme. The four lions facing the four directions symbolized kāma or passion as also the brute force. The lotus below represented artha or wealth. The inference is that dharma is above both kāma and artha and they are to hbe kept in constant check by improving the force and weight of dharma. The symbolism of the four animals on the frieze of the abacus has been explained at length by Prof. Foucher as follows:


“The bull symbolizes the Zodiacal constellation at the time of the birth of Siddharta, Vrishabha lagna; the elephant suggests Mayādevi’s dream of her conception, the Bodhisattva entering her womb as a white elephant; the horse suggests the Great Renunciation and the favourite steed Kanthaka on which the Prince rode away from Kapilvatu giving up his empire; the lion stands for Śākyasimha, the great roar of the lion heard when Buddha turned the Wheel of Law to preach to the world the great wisdom that had dawned on him under the Bodhi Tree.”

The dharmachakra on the frieze of the abacus contains 24 spokes. They stand for the 24 modes of principal causal relations spoken of in Buddhisty philosophy. As a whole, it represents the Wheel of Law which is considered the king of kings and whose message of righteousness was binding even on the greatest monarch. This wheel also appears in the centre of the National Flag.

Another interpretation is that the wheel signifies motion and progress, the four lions gacing the four directions symbolise limitless sovereignty, the lion itself representing the power of State. The lotus represents creative activity.

The Motto

The motto Satyameva jayate  has been taken from the Mundaka Upanishad. Satyameva jayate is the opening phase of a longer verse from this Upanishad - Satyam eva jayate nānritam, satyena pantha vi tato devayānah yenakramanty rishayo hy āptakāmā yatra tat satyasya paramam nidhānam. “Truth alone conquers, not untruth. By truth is laid out the path leading to the gods by which the sages who have their desires fulfilled travel to where is that supreme abode of truth.”[4]


As the motto is included in the State Emblem, it should not be used privately. It can only appear below the Aśoka capital crest where the crest itself is permitted to be used.


- It will be observed also that some states of the Indian Union have adopted separate crests of their own and some of these crests incorporate, as a part thereof, the National Emblem. The National Emblem itself cannot be and has not been modified in any way. [5]


See illustration in the head of this essay.


Presidential Flag



The actual presidential flag is the successor of the flag of the Governor General. It is:

Flag: Quarterly Blue and Red, in the first the Asoka capital, in the second an elephant, in the third a balance and in the fourth a lotus vase, all in yellow rendering.


In this flag

  • the Asoka capital symbolizes national unity;
  • the elephant, taken from Ajanta frescoes, symbolizes patience and strength;
  • the balance, a drawing of the balance in the Red Fort in Delhi, symbolizes justice;
  • the lotus-vase from Sarnath symbolizes prosperity.


Central Bureau of Investigation




The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency of India. Operating under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the CBI is headed by the Director. Originally set up to investigate bribery and governmental corruption, in 1965 it received expanded jurisdiction to investigate breaches of central laws enforceable by the Government of India, multi-state organised crime, multi-agency or international cases. The agency has been known to investigate several economic crimes, special crimes, cases of corruption and other high-profile cases. CBI is exempted from the provisions of the Right to Information Act. CBI is India's officially designated single point of contact for liaison with the Interpol.




Imperial  Police

The first hundred years of British rule in India saw a number of remarkable changes in the system of criminal justice administration. With the East India Company’s interference in the country’s administration, laws were revised to suit the imperial needs. Warren Hastings suggested the first major amendments in 1772, when he prepared a detailed note indicating the remedial measures necessary to maintain law and order in Bengal. His report was later amended from time to time but the basic features are still discernible.

Report of The First Police Commission, appointed on 17th August, 1860, contained detailed guidelines for the desired system of police in India. The Second Police Commission (1902-1903) went into details of the organisational structure of police at the district level, functioning of the railway police and the river police, recruitment, training and pay structure of different subordinate ranks of police.

The British contribution was to put the system of policing on a professional footing and to bring about a large measure of uniformity in its laws, procedures and practices.The Present Policing System in the country is based on the Police Act of 1861.

Iimperial Police badge


Prior to Independence, superior police officers belonged to the Indian (Imperial) Police appointed by the Secretary of State on the basis of competitive examination. The first open competition for the service was held in England in June, 1893 and the top ten candidates were appointed as probationers of the Indian Police.It is not possible to pinpoint a date on which it could positively be claimed that the Indian Police came into being. However, in 1907 the Secretary of State’s officers were directed to wear the letters "IP" on their epaulettes to distinguish them from the other officers not recruited by the Secretary of State. In this sense, 1907 could be regarded as the starting point for the Indian Police.

In 1948, a year after India gained independence from Britain, the Imperial Police (IP) was replaced by the Indian Police Service (IPS).


The Indian Police Service (IPS) (Bhāratīya Polīce Sevā), simply known as Indian Police or IPS, is one of the three All India Services of the Government of India.

Indian Police Service Badge (1948)


Armed Forces


TRI-Servive coat of arms




Army Emblem


Army Flag


Ceremonial Army Flag


Field Marshal of the Indian Army

Showing the commander’s baton

[Sam Manekshaw 1973-2008]


Flag of the Indian Field marshal



Navy coat of arms

adopted 15 August 2001


The Naval Crest consists of the Ashoka emblem, a foul anchor and a shield, and its navy blue colour. Below the crest is the motto of the Service- 'Shano Varuna' - meaning 'May the Lord of the Oceans be Auspicious Unto Us'.


The Indian Naval White Ensign has evolved from the White Ensign of the Royal Navy, which itself developed over the centuries. The red St George's Cross became an emblem of the Royal Navy after the crusades. However, the background colour varied till about the seventeenth century, when three colours viz. white, red and blue, were adopted for the Ensign and represented different sections of the Fleet. The Squadron in the van was commanded by the White Admiral and wore a White Ensign; the middle by the Red Admiral with the Red Ensign; and the Rear became the Blue Admiral's position with his Blue Ensign. The order of seniority was red, white and blue, but was changed to red, blue and white in 1653. However, during the Battle of Trafalgar, Lord Nelson ordered the entire British Fleet to hoist the White Ensign to avoid any possibility of confusion. It was only in 1864 that the Royal Navy adopted the White Ensign as its Colours. The Red Ensign became the Colours of the Merchant Navy, and the privilege of wearing a Blue Ensign was granted to naval auxiliaries as well as merchant vessels commanded by officers belonging to the Naval Reserve, or merchant vessels having a prescribed percentage of ex-naval personnel in their crew or those on charter to the Navy. This tradition continues even today.


On attaining Independence, the White Ensign of the Indian Navy was modified in that the colours of the British Flag in the upper canton were replaced by the Indian Tri-Colour. In all other respects, the Ensign remained the same as that of the Royal Navy



From: Flags of All Nations, 1958



The Ensign was later changed by the Indian Navy on 15 August 2001. This Ensign consisted of the National Flag superimposed on the Top Quarter adjoining the flagstaff and a Navy Crest superimposed on the part displaced away from the Flag Staff.







White ensign: White, a red cross charged wit the national emblem in gold, the dexter chief of the national flag: L´H = 2´1


A New Naval Ensign has been adopted by the Indian Navy on 25 April 2004. A White Ensign, with a Horizontal Red Stripe and a Vertical Red Stripe intersecting at the center of the flag, a golden yellow State Emblem superimposed on the intersection, and the National Flag in the upper canton next to the staff.


13. The Admiral of the Fleet will fly the National Flag at the main as his proper flag.



14. Description. A White Flag with a Horizontal Red Stripe and a Vertical Red Stripe intersecting at the center of the flag, a Navy Blue Dharma Chakra superimposed on the intersection.


Vice Admiral

16. Description. A White Flag with a Horizontal Red Stripe and a Vertical Red Stripe intersecting at the center of the flag, a Navy Blue Dharma Chakra superimposed on the intersection, with one red roundel in the upper canton of the flag next to the staff.


Rear Admiral

18. Description. A White Flag with a Horizontal Red Stripe and a Vertical Red Stripe intersecting at the center of the flag, a Navy Blue Dharma Chakra superimposed on the intersection, with one red roundel in the upper canton and one in the lower canton next to the staff.



20. Description. A White Broad Pendant with a Horizontal Red Stripe and a Vertical Red Stripe intersecting at the center of the pendant, a Navy Blue Dharma Chakra superimposed on the intersection, with one red roundel in the upper canton next to the staff. (Former Commodore second class)


Senior Officer’s Pendant

22. Description. A white triangular Pendant with a horizontal red stripe and a vertical red stripe intersecting at the center of the pendant, a Navy Blue Dharma Chakra superimposed on the intersection.


Navy Crests



Destroyers: five sided shield

[INS Mysore]


Other INS Ships: round shield

[INS Satavahana]

Air Force


Crest, August 1940 [6]






Marshal and mace of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh DFC, (2002-2017)




From: Flags of All Nations, 1958


Squadron badges [7]

Example of Squadron badge

Here: No. 22 Squadron







Cap badges [8]

World War II  era. Officer and OR's Sidecap badge.

Since the letter 'R' is missing, this would put the badge in the pre-1945 era.

Royal Indian Air Force badge

IAF cap badge post independence


Officers cap badge

Officers cap badge in metal



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© Hubert de Vries 2009-12-18. Updated 2020-08-04




[1]  Valentine Prinsep, London 1877-’80. The Royal Collection Trust.

[2]  The following section is a quote from: Pine, L.G.: International Heraldry. David and Charles Newton Abbot. 1970. Pp. 207-208.

[3]  Taylor, Robert M.A. Cantab Bengal Civil Service: The Princely Armory. Being a display of the arms of the ruling chiefs of India prepared for the Imperial Assembly held at Delhi on the 1st day of January 1877. Printed for the Government of India at the Government Central Printing Office, 8 Hastings Street, Calcutta 1902.

[4]  S. Radhakrishnan: The Principal Upanishads.

[5]  Cited from: Naik, Y.G.: Indian National Emblems. Their significance. Visual Education Society, 23 Wandby Road. Fort. Bombay, 1957. Sivaramamurti, C. : Our National Emblem. Publications Division Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Government of India, 1966



[8] From: