India's Independence Day: 70 Years of Reflection

India's Independence Day: 70 Years of Reflection

Last week, India turned 70.  Happy Belated Birthday.


Seven decades ago, India managed to rid itself of British rule and form the world’s largest democracy. 

We all know that India is home to Taj Mahal, royal palaces in Rajasthan, ancient relics such as Ajanta
and Ellora caves, and the beautiful Himalayan range.

But here are some lesser known tidbits about how India came into being:


1. India’s constitution is the longest in the world. It has a whopping 448 articles and took over two
years to draft, edit, and finalize. Thank you, Mr. Ambedkar.



2. When Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, shortly after Independence, the Nobel Peace
Prize was withdrawn that year.  It was a tribute to the leader and his monumental life -- though he
was never personally awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


 3. The Indian flag was originally designed with just red and green, illustrating the two major
communities in India, Hindus and Muslims.  But Gandhi recommended that white be added to the
selection of colors. Why white? It would represent the rest of the communities in India (and peace).  
Hence the current flag has a white strip, accompanied by Gandhi’s spinning wheel.



4. Independence was a time of joy and immense pain for the country.  The Great Migration, or the
mass movement of people who went back and forth between India and Pakistan’s borders in Punjab,
resulted in more than 1 million deaths.  To date, it’s been the most extreme refugee situation in
modern times. More than 15 million people went from east to west, or west to east.



5. Despite the massive scale of the migration, few images chronicling the events remain.  Ironically,
some of the best images were not taken by an Indian, but by American journalist,
Margaret Bourke-White for LIFE magazine.  She was accompanied by another female journalist at LIFE,
Lee Etingon.  The women escaped the brutality of the crisis (women were being raped, abused, and
killed), to produce a set of images that ran in LIFE magazine.


6. In 1857, Mangal Pandey, an Indian soldier, challenged British rule. It would be nearly 100 years later --
in August 1947-that India would finally gain its independence from the Brits.



7.Writer, poet, and artist Rabindranath Tagore wrote India’s national anthem.  He’s actually the first
Indian to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; it was given to him well before Independence -- in
1913 for his writings.  At the time, he was the first Asian to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.


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