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Buddhist flag variants seen in Sri Lanka

Last modified: 2018-09-01 by rob raeside
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Introduction

In Sri Lanka, the birthplace of Buddhist flag, many variations of the basic design have also appeared in the course of time. Given the frequency of their appearance in the photos found online, they might actually be used as much as, or even more than the basic variant, although most of these changes are actually minor enough so as not to obscure the recognition of the basic design and its meaning. These flags are sometimes used outside Sri Lanka as well, usually by the Sri Lankan expatriates, but not limited to them.
Tomislav Todorović, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 1

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

The smallest change introduced is the swallow-tailed ending, which is done in the horizontal stripes' part only. All known photos of such flags are from the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy [1, 2, 3, 4].
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 2

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

The most frequent addition is a white border all around. The border may have an even width, which may vary on different flags [5, 6, 7, 8], but very frequently, it may be visibly wider at the top and bottom, or at the hoist and fly [9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15].
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 3

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

The border may be widened at the hoist so much that it makes an additional white stripe. This appears frequently enough to be considered a distinctive variant [16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21].
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 4

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

In some cases, the border may run only along the top, fly and bottom edges. Again, the width may be even [22, 23, 24], but also narrower at the fly than at the other edges [25, 26] or wider at the fly, even so much that it sometimes resembles an additional stripe [27, 28, 29]. It shall be noted that in some cases, the flag sleeve makes it difficult to tell if the border runs along the hoist edge as well, still there seem to be enough examples to confirm the existence of both variants.
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 5

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

There are also few examples of white border along the top and bottom edges only [15, 30]. As for other variants, there are examples when it is difficult to tell which edges are really bordered, for white threads are often ripped off, leaving only those in other colors; still there are enough edges which look "sharp" enough in the photos to tell when this is not the case, even in case of badly damaged borders [31]. As in the other cases, the border width varies greatly here as well.
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 6

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

A number of variants have the height much greater than the width, the horizontal stripes being repeated as many times as needed. A group of such flags, with the horizontal stripes repeated four times, was photographed in Balangoda, Sabaragamuwa Province in 2006 [32].
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 7

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

A group of similar flags, only with the horizontal stripes repeated six times and being much shorter, was photographed in Hambantota, Southern Province in 2011 [33]. It is not quite clear from the photo if the blue horizontal stripe is always at the top and orange at the bottom, nor whether there are always exactly six sets of horizontal stripes - as if the flags could have been created by cutting from an "endless" stripe of fabric with repeating pattern; still that clearly has no impact on the flag symbolism.
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 8

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

Another similar flag, with short horizontal stripes repeated five times, was used in Kandy in 2013 [34]. Again, it is not quite clear from the photo if there are exactly five sets of horizontal stripes, which would begin with blue and end with orange, but the design does not seem to clearly differ from that.
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 9

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

A group of similar flags were photographed at Bogoda Bridge, Badulla, Uva Province in March 2018 [35, 36]. Here, the flags have had only three sets of horizontal stripes, which did not always begin with blue and end with orange; there were also white vertical stripes along the hoist and fly edges.
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 10

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

One of these flags from Bogoda Bridge was hung horizontally, with the repeating stripes in bottom part [35, 37].
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 11

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

A rarely used variant of flag replaces the horizontal stripes with three complete patterns of Buddhist flag, which are surrounded and separated by white border of uneven width. The only currently known  photo, showing rows of such flags near a stupa at an unspecified location, dates from 2011 [38].
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 12

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

Some flags, instead of repeating the horizontal stripes, omit them altogether. Their height is much greater than the width, the ratio varying between 3:1 , as seen in Dambulla, Central Province in 2011 [39], and 7:1 or 8:1 (the photo does not allow easy identification), as seen at an unspecified location in southwestern Sri Lanka in February 2018 [40]. This may be used jointly with the standard Buddhist flag, which is then hoisted at the very top of the flagstaff [40].
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 13

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

When the horizontal stripes are omitted, the vertical ones may be repeated. Such flags were photographed at Bogoda Bridge, Badulla, Uva Province in March 2018 [35, 36, 37]. They had two sets of vertical stripes, the one at fly being mirror-image of the one at hoist, separated by a narrow white stripe; other two narrow white stripes were along the hoist and fly edges.
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 14

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

Very rarely, it is the vertical stripes, not horizontal, which are omitted. The only currently known photo of such flags was taken in Hambantota, Southern Province in 2011 [33]. There, a group of flags was used with two sets of horizontal fields (too wide to be called "stripes").
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 15

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

Buddhist flags may be charged with the Dharma wheel, composed as follows: an orange disc surrounded with concentric rings in white (innermost), red, yellow and blue (outermost) and placed over four radially arranged blue bars, which are placed in turn over the white, red and yellow rings and conjoined with the blue ring [41, 42, 43]. The center of wheel is placed on white vertical field and may or may not be centered on the field itself, and also may or may not be centered on the flag as the whole.
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 16

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

The flags with Dharma wheel may also have a white border all around [42, 44]. As with other bordered variants [31], borders often look damaged in the photos, white threads being ripped off, leaving only those in other colors [45]. One reason for this may be that a number of flags may be produced together, as a single sheet of fabric [46], and separated by simple cutting before the sale, which would make the border more "vulnerable". This flag, as well as the variant without Dharma wheel, are also used outside Sri Lanka, e.g. in Myanmar [47].
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 17

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

On bordered flags with Dharma wheel, the border may be widened at the hoist so much that it makes an additional white stripe [48].
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 18

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

Sometimes, the border may run only along the top, fly and bottom edges; the width may be even, or differ at the fly from that at the top and bottom [26, 31, 49].
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Flag variant 19

[Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018

There are also few examples of white border along the top and bottom edges only. It may be difficult to tell which edges are really meant not to be bordered, due to white threads being ripped off; still there are examples of edges which look "sharp" enough in the photos to tell when this is not the case [49].
Tomislav Todorovic, 8 July 2018


Sources

Sources:

[1] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags at Temple of the Tooth, Kandy on 2008-10-28: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sexnthecity/3784429601
[2] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags at Temple of the Tooth, Kandy on 2010-02-26: www.flickr.com/photos/gaz_n_nic/4480929405/
[3] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags at Temple of the Tooth, Kandy on 2010-03-12: https://www.flickr.com/photos/langsx2/4470431521
[4] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags at Temple of the Tooth, Kandy on 2012-08-06: https://www.flickr.com/photos/littleraven/8394137609
[5] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2011-05-17: https://www.flickr.com/photos/akashmondal/5737331203
[6] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2011-05-20: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattjacobsen/5858955725
[7] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2012-04-29: https://www.flickr.com/photos/legolasf1/7271349992/
[8] Alamy photo archive - Photo from Anuradhapura on 2009 -12-28: https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-a-young-girl-hanging-colorful-buddhist-flags-at-sri-maha-bodi-a-sacrat-27976167.html
[9] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2007-07-01: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sweetdollyvindya/2260978492
[10] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2011-03-20: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thewandererstravel/5929367558
[11] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags at Gangaramaya, Colombo on 2011-10-02: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hiranyamm/6222745534
[12] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Anuradhapura on 2012-03-11: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jhfoto/6825514866/
[13] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Colombo on 2013-01-19: https://www.flickr.com/photos/120751667@N03/13511867163
[14] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Colombo on 2013-04-21: https://www.flickr.com/photos/smithymeerkat/8680840734
[15] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Kandy on 2013-04-22: https://www.flickr.com/photos/drriss/8927117687
[16] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flag in Sri Lanka on 2006-07-11: www.flickr.com/photos/63928959@N00/198607890/
[17] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Colombo on 2010-05-27: www.flickr.com/photos/perambara/4643978181/
[18] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2011-05-14: https://www.flickr.com/photos/photosofsrilanka/5726418570/
[19] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2013-11-03: https://www.flickr.com/photos/103202566@N07/11926690666
[20] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2013-11-03: https://www.flickr.com/photos/scalino/10797229284
[21] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2014-05-14: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tinted/14218980285
[22] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2009-06-14: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sachd/3731899697
[23] Asian Tribune website - Photo of Buddhist flags in Kathmandu, Nepal on 2014-05-15: http://www.asiantribune.com/node/79762 (image: http://www.asiantribune.com/sites/asiantribune.com/files/imagecache/Original/images/2012/Kathmandu_1.jpg)
[24] Dreamstime.com website - Photo of Buddhist flags in Kandy on 2016-08-11: https://www.dreamstime.com/editorial-stock-image-buddhist-flag-bearers-begin-their-march-past-temple-sacred-tooth-relic-kandy-sri-lanka-esala-perahera-image76774064
[25] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2011-03-20: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thewandererstravel/5929367558
[26] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2017-04-28: https://www.flickr.com/photos/47919372@N05/34195419311/
[27] Flickr - Photo from the Tooth Relic Temple, Kandy, on 2009-11-30: https://www.flickr.com/photos/whitecatsg/4239036655/
[28] TripAdvisor webiste - Photo of Buddhist flags at Anuradhapura in June 2014: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g304132-d3548095-i100222791-Sri_Maha_Boodhi_Temple-Anuradhapura_North_Central_Province.html#100222791
[29] TripAdvisor webiste - Photo of Buddhist flags at Anuradhapura in June 2014: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g304132-d3548095-Reviews-Sri_Maha_Boodhi_Temple-Anuradhapura_North_Central_Province.html#photos;aggregationId=101&albumid=101&filter=7&ff=100222791
[30] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flag in Colombo on 2015-05-10: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ams78/17462942276/
[31] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flag in Ella, Uva, Sri Lanka on 2010-10-11: https://www.flickr.com/photos/melissaenderle/5093152455/
[32] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Balangoda, Sabaragamuwa, Sri Lanka on 2006-05-11: https://www.flickr.com/photos/36338186@N05/4616648030
[33] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Hambantota, Southern Province on 2011-06-15: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chris5aw/5848044249
[34] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flag in Kandy on 2013-09-12: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hanshendriksen/9729458677
[35] TripAdvisor website - Photos of Bogoda Bridge, Badulla, Sri Lanka in March 2018: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g1950222-d1950108-i310013126-Bogoda_Bridge-Badulla_Uva_Province.html
[36] TripAdvisor website - Photo of Buddhist flags at Bogoda Bridge, Badulla, Sri Lanka in March 2018: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1950222-d1950108-Reviews-Bogoda_Bridge-Badulla_Uva_Province.html#photos;aggregationId=101&albumid=101&filter=7&ff=310013126
[37] TripAdvisor website - Photo of Buddhist flags at Bogoda Bridge, Badulla, Sri Lanka in March 2018: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1950222-d1950108-Reviews-Bogoda_Bridge-Badulla_Uva_Province.html#photos;aggregationId=101&albumid=101&filter=7&ff=310013006
[38] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in Sri Lanka on 2011-10-11: https://www.flickr.com/photos/juliac2006/6271800281
[39] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in front of the Golden Temple of Dambulla on 2011-10-14 https://www.flickr.com/photos/juliac2006/6272679322/
[40] Flickr - Photo of Buddhist flags in southwestern Sri Lanka on 2018-02-28: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fransdad/42384273551/