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Laos, 1952-1975

Lao People's Democratic Republic

Last modified: 2011-07-02 by ian macdonald
Keywords: laos | elephant: 3 |
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[Laos - 1952] image by Vincent Morley and Antonio Martins

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The 1952-1975 flag

The September 1961 issue of the National Geographic [u9s61] magazine contains an article about the flags of the 99 states which were then UN members. The introduction to it says that where the 'national flag' and 'government flag' differed, the former was shown. Unfortunately, the commentary on the individual flags does not specify when this has been done.
Vincent Morley - 25 May 1997

I must make two corrections to the gif of the former Laotian flag. Firstly, I notice that only one tusk was shown for the elephants on the left and right; in fact, both tusks should be visible. Secondly, the date of the flag's adoption should be 1952, not 1955.
Vincent Morley - 26 May 1997

This old flag was used during the monarchial times. The image was the three headed elephant on top of a stand with an umbrella (or parasol) on top.

The three headed elephant image is Buddhist/Hindu in origin - its called Airavata (or Erawan in Thai & Cambodia). The elephant has always been a symbol of greatness, wisdom and as a vehicle.

Many former Lao kings prized these huge beasts, especially the light colour/albino-like elephants. To this day, the current Lao government still keeps a few for special occasions and celebrations. Coincidentally, the three headed mythic elephant symbol had the same number as there were principalities. Thus the three heads came to represent the former small kingdoms of Vientiane, Luangprabang, and Xiengkhoung.

The umbrella also has certain meanings. In Sri Lanka and India, Buddhist temples were in the shape of huge domes and on top of the dome there would be a small umbrella (or parasol) surrounded by square railings. The highest point of the dome or pillar, in this case, the umbrella represents the Buddhist cosmological myth of Mt. Meru being the center of the universe.

The flag's background color red represents the blood of the people. The stand on which the elephant is standing on represents the laws of the country/kingdom.

contributed by Jaume Ollé 26 July 2003