The Buddhist Flag
It was first hoisted in public on Vesak day, 28 May 1885 at the Dipaduttamarama, Kotahena, by Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera. This was the first Vesak public holiday under British rule.
Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, an American journalist, founder and first president of the Theosophical Society, felt that its long streaming shape made it inconvenient for general use. He therefore suggested modifying it so that it was the size and shape of national flags.
In 1889 the modified flag was introduced to Japan by Anagarika Dharmapala and Olcott—who presented it to Emperor Meiji—and subsequently to Burma.
At the 1952 World Fellowship of Buddhists, the flag of Buddhists was adopted as the International Buddhist Flag
The Middle Path
Purity and Liberation
The sixth colour is a conglomeration of the five, but for the design, it has been separated into its constituent colours.
The colonel’s flag later came to symbolize the unity of Buddhists. Thereafter, it has been used worldwide and has been used in nearly 60 countries during Buddhist festive seasons, particularly during the Vesak celebrations.
Colonel Olcott was one of the greatest American Buddhists who dedicated his later life entirely to the people of Asia. He is known as the father of the Buddhist education movement since he initiated the establishment of close to 400 Buddhist schools and colleges in Sri Lanka.