In Hyderabad’s Sanjeeviah Park, on the banks of Hussain Sagar Lake, a flagpole stands 88 metres tall. Atop it flies one of the largest Indian tricolours in the country, measuring 22 metres by 33 metres. The flag, which frequently tears in the windy conditions, is repaired every week and replaced with a new one every month.
Each replacement is stitched by the same team, headed by Kambhampati Sanjeeva Rao—a 55-year-old man with a passion for flags. “I was completely in awe of the Indian tricolour, even as a child,” Rao told me. His fascination led him to “notice the flags of other countries as well,” he said. “I came to admire the ideals and struggles they stood for.”
Rao wanted to start an international flag collection in the 1990s, but purchasing the flags from his home in Khammam, a town about 200 kilometres east of Hyderabad, was nearly impossible. He began stitching them instead. Rao wrote to many embassies to ask for the specifications of their national flags, often waiting months before hearing back. Once he had the requisite information about a flag, he would begin to stitch a one-metre-long copy of it from strips of cloth he gathered. “Stitching was my hobby,” he said. “I took immense pleasure in it, and I learnt the tricks.” Rao now has homemade flags of over 200 countries, currently stored in wooden boxes in his home.