Navy Introduces New Epaulettes: A Symbolic Shift

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December 30, 2023

Navy Introduces New Epaulettes: A Symbolic Shift


  • In a significant move towards shedding colonial legacies, the Indian Navy recently revealed a new design for epaulettes, marking a departure from traditional customs and embracing a more culturally rooted insignia. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement during the Navy Day address at Sindhudurg, Maharashtra, set the stage for this transformative shift, unveiled on December 29.

The New Design Unveiled

Purpose of the Epaulettes:

  • The newly introduced epaulettes cater to Admirals, Vice Admirals, Rear Admirals, Surgeon Vice Admirals, and Surgeon Rear Admirals, a distinctive mark for senior officers within the Navy. Notably, this change impacts nearly 100 officers above the rank of Rear Admiral, representing a conscious step in revitalizing the Navy’s identity.

Distinguishing Features:

  • Contrasting the previous designs, the new epaulettes showcase a golden Navy button adorned with the recent naval crest, replacing the erstwhile emblem featuring a fouled anchor, symbolizing a colonial era imprint. The redesigned epaulettes incorporate a red octagon, a departure from the earlier red backing, inspired by the Rajmudra of Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, reflecting the profound maritime heritage of the Marathas.

Symbolism Behind the Change

Significance of the Elements:

  • The revamped epaulettes hold profound symbolism. The inclusion of an Indian sword, representing the cutting edge of national power and a resolve to triumph over challenges, and a telescope, denoting foresight and adaptability in a dynamic world, underlines the Navy’s narrative of dominance and long-term vision. Moreover, the red octagon signifies a comprehensive and enduring vision, aligned with the eight cardinal directions.

Context and Rationale

Purpose of the Transition:

  • This transformative step resonates with the broader narrative within the Indian Armed Forces to relinquish colonial vestiges and embrace indigenous ethos. Beyond the epaulettes, the Navy’s move to introduce Indian attire in officers’ mess, review ranks inherited from the British, and replace traditional hymns at ceremonies highlights a concerted effort to recalibrate customs and traditions.


  • The unveiling of the new epaulettes marks a symbolic departure, signifying the Navy’s resolute endeavor to embrace indigenous heritage while shedding remnants of colonial influence. This shift exemplifies the broader narrative within the Indian Armed Forces, reflecting a conscious move towards reclaiming and celebrating India’s rich cultural legacy within its military identity.

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Navy Introduces New Epaulettes: A Symbolic Shift | Vaid ICS Institute