Buddhist or Hindu religious symbols appear on five national flags; in three of those cases, the symbols apply to both religions. The Cambodian flag depicts Angkor Wat, a temple historically associated with both Hinduism and Buddhism, while in Nepal, the flag features both Buddhist and Hindu symbols to represent the two predominant religious groups in the country.
And in India, the blue chakra at the center of the flag holds symbolic meaning for both Hindus and Buddhists.
___ National Flags of Africa
Israel is the lone country with Jewish symbols on its national flag , including the Star of David and a white and blue striped background representative of a traditional Jewish prayer shawl. Six countries have symbols associated with various other religions on their flags. The Japanese flag, for example, includes a hinomaru, or rising sun — representative of Shinto spiritual roots within the former Japanese empire.
In Uruguay and Argentina, both national flags include shining golden suns believed to be representative of the Incan sun god Inti. And the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli can be seen on the Mexican flag as an eagle perched atop a cactus with a snake in its beak — a legendary image that was believed to have appeared to the Aztec people, instructing them to build the ancient city of Tenochtitlan. Although the U. For instance, the state flag of New Mexico includes a red sun with its rays extending outward, representing the spiritual history of the Zia Pueblo.
Some U. Sources for this data include constituteproject. Download the data used in this analysis here. Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that India only had a Hindu symbol on its flag. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you. About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world.
It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Yet paradoxically, although they may be merely functional in their origin and purpose, colours in nature can also spark tremendous delight, tremendous elation in human spirits; and as someone who writes about the natural world and was pondering this paradox, I was led to flags, as a way of trying to understand how colours and combinations of colours affect us.
The point was, colours in nature had unconsciously evolved through the greatest of all designers, Natural Selection; but colours and colour combinations in flags, which in some ways were very similar, had been put there by human designers, quite consciously. How did they choose them? Why did they choose this one rather than that one? What was the trick? Did they have a secret, arcane knowledge of which colours would affect people in certain combinations, and why? I decide to seek instruction in vexillology, which is the scholarly study of flags.
The word comes from vexillum, a banner carried by the Roman legions. Vexillology is a sort of much younger brother of heraldry, the system of designing and registering knights' coats of arms which began in medieval Europe and still flourishes today. Heraldry, however, concerns itself with the emblems of individuals, or societies, or cities, but not with the flags of nations, largely because at its beginning, the nation-state was virtually unknown.
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But in the last century and a half, nation-states have sprung up across the world, from the unification of Italy in and Germany in , to the plethora of new states in Africa, the Middle East and Asia which emerged from the old colonial regimes after the Second World War, and the new countries formed after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Now there are member states of the United Nations, and though flags may indeed be rubbish, not one of these countries thinks it can do without one. Vexillology as such came along a little more than 50 years ago, invented by a young American political scientist, Whitney Smith he coined the term in Dr Smith is still a professional vexillologist, consultant, adviser and designer of flags, publishing The Flag Bulletin from his Flag Research Centre in Massachusetts.
Organised vexillology was formally brought to Britain by William Crampton, a flag-mad-from-boyhood adult education organiser who met and corresponded with Whitney Smith and who in , with Captain Edward Barraclough, the then editor of the standard British reference book, Flags of the World, founded the Flag Institute. Considering it has been in existence for fewer than 40 years and it is no more, constitutionally, than a membership society of interested people, and has hardly any public profile, the Flag Institute has achieved a remarkable position of acceptance within the establishment in Britain; it is now principal advisor and designer of flags to Her Majesty's Government, and as such is more or less on a par with the College of Arms, the venerable governing body for heraldry, which was founded by Richard III in It is has a lot of naval links and is based in the Naval Club in Mayfair, and it is there I go to seek enlightenment from the institute's current chief vexillologist, Graham Bartram, and its president, Captain Malcolm Farrow.
Bartram, author of British Flags and Emblems "Foreword by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh" is a cheerful,well-padded year-old Scot, and probably now the leading vexillological expert — did you say that correctly first time? He is someone the tabloids might label "Britain's Mister Flags". He has personally designed the flag of Tristan da Cunha, the flag of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, a flag for Antarctica and the symbols of the UK Border Agency, among other various commissions.
How does he go about deciding what he puts in a flag? There were six basic guidelines, he says. The first is, keep it simple. The third is about colours: don't use too many. There's not much use for brown, or grey, or pink in the flag world. In fact, I ask him if he knows of any pink flag, and he responds instantly, with what I come to realise is encyclopaedic expertise: "The old flag of Newfoundland.
And very much an exception. There is another important point about colours, Bartram says, which comes from the rules of heraldry: the difference between "metals", which are gold and silver, and by extension, yellow and white; and "colours", which take in everything else. They should alternate. The reason is to get contrast. Metals should not be placed on, or next to, other metals; colours should not be placed on, or next to, other colours.
The pattern should go, colour, metal, colour, as in most tricolours: red, white, blue; green, white, orange. Otherwise it won't work. It's quite hard to tell what it is. Then an example of colour on colour which doesn't really work, he says, is the flag of Bangladesh, which is a red circle on a green background. I look that up too, and I agree again.
There is, however, an exception to the rule of don't-use-too-many-colours, one which does work, and one which he and Farrow, a retired naval officer who served in the Falklands, enthuse about, and that is the modern, post-apartheid flag of South Africa, the rainbow Y on its side, which is a specific heraldic device, a pall.
Designed in by the South African state herald, Fred Brownell, there are six colours in it: black, yellow, green, white, red and blue. It was meant to be a temporary flag for the first post-apartheid election, but it was so popular that Nelson Mandela kept it. It works culturally. On that basis, they both enthuse about the flag of the United States.
It stands out against any background. Standing out again a background is important, they say, which is one of the reasons why there was not a lot of green, for example, in flags in Europe, where the background itself is largely green: green trees, green hedges, green fields. In the Arab world, however, where the background is largely yellow — the sand of the desert — green is much more in evidence, and it reaches a climax in the flag of Libya, which is a plain green rectangle.
And that's it. A tad on the boring side, perhaps? But if you flew it in England, it would be invisible. If you take an interest in flags, says Farrow, you begin to take an interest, not only in history and society, but in colour itself. That's across the human race, not just in northern Europe. Greens and blues give a cooler feel.
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The sea is cooler than the desert; the trees are cooler than the rocks. That's not something learned from a book.
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It just comes from where you are. Red, white and blue are the colours most commonly used in flags because of the terrific contrast they accord. The obvious example is the tricolour of France, supposedly created by the Marquis de Lafayette, commander of the National Guard during the French revolution, by bringing together the colours of Paris, which were red and blue, separated by the white of the French monarchy. Now tricolours, both vertical France, Italy, Ireland, Belgium and horizontal Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Spain, Russia , are among the most popular of all national flags, so much so that some are very similar: the horizontal red, yellow and green tricolour of Ghana is the flag of Ethiopia, upside down; while the blue, yellow and red vertical tricolours of Romania and Chad are, in fact, identical.
There are three more rules for designing flags, Bartram and Farrow explain. The fourth one is avoid using writing or lettering on the flag. This is because, unless the flag is double-sided, the lettering will be the wrong way round, seen from the the back; and not all of it might be visible when a flag flies, as it doesn't fly as a rectangle. The fifth flag guideline is, be distinctive; and the last one is, remember the wind. The design must remain recognisable both when rippling in a stiff breeze, and when hanging limply in still air.
The Cross of St George, it seems to me, fulfils all six conditions. It's simple: any child could draw it. It's meaningful: it carries the symbol of England's patron saint. It uses only two colours, red and white, a colour on a metal background. It's free from lettering. It's very distinctive. And you can always tell what it was, in a gale or in a calm. Is that the reason why so many people respond to it?
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It is the old flag of Montenegro, it is the flag of Genoa, and of Milan, and it is the basis of the flag of Georgia, where the red cross is surrounded by four more red crosses in each corner. Beyond that, it is found of the arms of numerous countries, provinces, cities and bodies who have St George as their patron, from Beirut to Barcelona, and from Aragon to Moscow. So if you see it today and you're one of those people who feel it's just the symbol for an exclusive national identity, you've got hold of the wrong end of the flagpole. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.
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