Nepal Flag – History and Symbolism of the Unique Flag

The last Hindu Kingdom, has a rich heritage and culture that has helped give rise to the most unique flag in the world: The flag of Nepal. A landlocked country in South Asia, Nepal is home to one of three flags in the world that are not the typical rectangle shape. Moreover, the Nepal flag is the only flag belonging to a sovereign state that is a non-quadrilateral in shape.

Nepal as well as its flag are both unique and rich with history. In this article I cover the details surrounding Nepal’s flag, including: Why the flag of Nepal is different; History of the Nepal Flag as well as historical Nepalese flags; Meaning of Nepal’s current Flag, and what the symbols and colors represent; and finally, some other prominent flags of Nepal. 

Nepal Flag – Fast Facts

Flag Shape Two single pennons (or pennants), known as a double-pennon
Adopted on 16 December 1962
First Adopted byPrithivi Narayan Shah
Colors UsedCrimson Red, Blue and White
Symbols on Nepal’s FlagCrescent Moon with rays (top) and Sun (bottom) 
Dimension Ratio3:4

Flag of Nepal Design:

Nepal has a unique flag, and the only one of its kind. The flag, unlike any other in the world, is non-quadratic, and has two single pennons (or pennants), known as a double-pennon in its design. Moreover, one pennant is superimposed over the other, making it look like one triangle sitting on top of the other.  

The flag of Nepal is tri-color with red, blue and white, and has a symbol of a sun and a crescent moon on it. Although simple looking at first, the design is actually complex with the constitution in 1990 outlining the mathematical design of the shape. Moreover, ensuring that the design is perfect in shape, the new constitution, signed in 2015, outlines the mathematical design of the flag again. The formula is as follows:

Nepal Flag Mathematical Equation
The Nepal Flag Mathematical Equation to derive the correct size

This ratio is the least root of the quartic polynomial and arises from the addition of the blue border after construction of the red field. The bounding rectangle of the red field alone has the rational aspect ratio 3:4 (=1:1.333…) (wikipedia). In simple terms, this means that the Nepal Flag should have  proportions of 4:3 plus width of the blue border around the outside. And therefore, making the upper pendant longer than the lower because of the sharper angle.

With such a complex design, there have been issues with reproduction of Nepal’s flag, both at home and abroad. Whereas, at the 2016 Olympics, Nepal’s flag proved to be difficult to produce for the host country Brazil, and thus they superimposed the double-pennon design on a traditional rectangular cloth. With the flag being colored correctly, and the empty space being left white.

Another example of misproduction of the flag was in Janakpur, Nepal, during a visit from India’s prime minister Narendra Modi. Whereas, as reported by Kathmandu post in 2018, officials in Janakpur were unable to produce the flag of Nepal to the correct dimensions, resulting in a disfigured flag being shown, and an outrage by nationals.

Color of Nepal Flag:

Nepal’s flag is tritoned with a blue border, red background, and two white symbols in the middle of the red backgrounds (one is a sun and one is a moon). The color codes for each of the three colors on the flag of Nepal can be seen in the table below:

Color SchemeBlueRedWhite
CMYK 100–81–0–230–100–80–50–0–0–0
HEX #003893#DC143C#FFFFFF

The three colors of the flag also each have their own individual meaning. However, while I was conducting research for this article, different sources have presented different meanings for each of the colors. I have done my best to compile the different answers from credible sources. Even though the definitions may differ slightly, I have compiled the most common definitions.

Meaning of the Nepal Flag:

As mentioned there have been different interpretations of what the colors of Nepal’s flag represent. Therefore, I have worked to compile the various representations of the colors presented online. Whereas, for each of the independent colors and their definitions, there are common themes, with many words being synonyms of each other 

What do the colors of Nepal’s flag mean?

The meaning of the colors of Nepal’s flag include the following:

  • Blue: Symbolizes peace and harmony in the nation. Additionally, some sources extend the meaning of the color blue to mean, knowledge, wisdom, tranquility, and peace
  • Red: Is the national color of Nepal as well the color of the national flower of Nepal, Rhododendron. Finally, and most popularly, the color red on Nepal’s flag represents the bravery and brave spirit of the Nepalese people as well as being a sign of victory in war.
  • White: Symbolizes purity and neutrality as well as light and awakening.

The definitions of the colors of Nepal’s flag can go even deeper than what I highlighted above. With some individuals claiming the colors represent ideas such as: Red symbolizing closeness and blue symbolizing distance, and white symbolizing neutrality.

Now that we have covered the colors, let us dive into the meanings behind the symbols.

What do the symbols on Nepal’s flag mean?

There are three prominent symbols on Nepal’s Flag: the sun, the moon and its shape. Whereas, the shape originally symbolized the Himalayan Mountains while their charges represented the families of the king (upper) and the prime minister (lower). However, now they are understood to represent Hinduism and Buddhism, the country’s two main religions. 

Moreover, by itself the moon represents the serenity of the Nepalese people and the shade and cool weather in the Himalayas. While the sun represents the heat and higher temperatures of the lower parts of Nepal (terai). Finally, it is said that the moon and the sun also represent the hope that the nation will endure as long as these heavenly bodies do.

Reference: World Factbook

History of the flag of Nepal:

The history of Nepal’s flag is rich and dates back to an unknown year, which is thought to have originated many years before the unification of Nepal. Whereas, a similar design of the current flag of Nepal, was adopted as the national flag in 1768 by Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha, after his successful campaign to take over the Kathmandu Valley from the Malla Kings.

The main difference between the historic flag and the current flag of Nepal, is that historically the two pennants were separated and stand alone. These two pennants were not combined into one flag until the 19th century. We can get a glimpse of what the old Nepali flag looked like by examining a historic flag that is cast in metal at the Rudra Varna temple in Patan, Lalitpur. 

Historic Nepal Flag

As you can see, the original design had faces on both the sun and moon symbol on the flag. These designs with faces can be also seen in some of the more recent flags of Nepal, all the way up to 1962, which was when King Mahendra and Nepal adopted a new constitution as well as modernized the historical flag for Nepal. The timeline of different flags in Nepal can be seen below:

  • 19th century Nepal Flag
  • Historic Modern Nepal Flag
  • Prior 1962 Historic Nepal Flag
  • Current Nepal Flag

Other Prominent Flags of Nepal

To showcase the dynamics of Nepal, I have also included Royal flags of Nepal and flags used during the unification campaign of Nepal. 

Royal flags Unification:

  • 1928 - 1969 Royal Flag of Nepal
  • 1969 – 2001 Royal Flag, Nepal
  • 2001 – 2008 Royal Flag of Nepal

Nepal Flag FAQs and Facts

Why Nepal’s Flag is different / Shaped Weird?

Easy answer, Nepal was never colonized and thus was not influenced by other countries – especially by British rule, who had significant influence in Asia and India. This means the traditional rectangular shaped flag was never introduced to Nepal (or was never forced to use the rectangular shaped flag).

As for the shape of the flag, it is said to have various meanings. With people crediting the shape to representing Buddhism and Hinduism, the two dominant religions in Nepal. Additionally, it has been said to represent the Shah Monarchy and Rana Prime minister wings of the government. And finally, to represent the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal!

Nepal held the record for largest human flag.

In August 2014, during an event organized by Human Values for Peace and Prosperity an NGO in Nepal, Nepal won a Guinness Book of World Record by beating Pakistan’s previous record for making the largest human flag. The previous record held by Pakistan had 29,000+ people, which Nepal was able to beat with 35,907 people!

Human Made World Record Nepal Flag
August, 2014 a human made Nepal flag record beating effort succeeded with 35,907 people

Sadly, Nepal only held the record for a short period of time, as the neighboring country India, beat it in December of the same year. Creating an Indian flag with 43,000+ people in Chennai, India.

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