The Malaysian National flag has its roots in an opinion poll held throughout Malaya in 1949 - as the country was known then - to help pick out the right one from three designs by finalists in a nationwide contest.

The first design had a symbol of two sheaths of keris crossed in the middle of the flag surrounded by a sea of 1 five-pointed stars. The second one had an almost similar pattern of the traditional Malay weapon, except that it had two circles of 11 five-pointed stars around it. The third design was the slightly familiar grid of 11 white and blue stripes, topped with a yellow crescent moon on the left hand corner.

When the final results of the poll was announced on November 29 that same year, the majority of citizens had chosen the third design to be their national flag. The winner of the contest and the designer of the national flag Mohamad Hamzah was a government architect working in Johor.

But it was only on April 19, 1950 that the national flag - after a few improvements - was gazetted. Instead of the blue and white stripes, the council decided that these should be red and white. A blue quarter with a crescent and 11-pointed star - both in yellow - was superimposed on the overall design. A standard size of 1.82m (six feet) by 0.91m (three feet) was fixed. The star symbolised the united 11 Malay states while the alternate red-white stripes signified equal membership enjoyed by these under the federation.

The Malayan flag was flown for the first time on May 26, 1950 at a flag-rasing ceremony held by the British High Commission and attended by Malay sovereigns and representatives of the English King George VI.

However, this is still not the Jalur Gemilang as we know it.

It was with the formation of Malaysia in 1963 when Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joined the federation that the national flag finally came about. At the momentous meeting before the formation, the Council of Rulers approved the Malaysian flag to be based on the existing design with a few adjustments. The yellow star now has 14-points gesturing the inclusion of three more states into the federation. Similarly, the stripes now number 14.

To mark the birthday of a new country Malaysia, this flag was flown for the first time throughout the ountry on September 16, 1963. Although Singapore eventually seperated itself from the federation in 1965, the number of points in the star and the stripes remained. In the years to come, this extra stripe and point would come to symbolise the Federal Government.

Today, the stripes and the 14-point star denotes the 13 states and one Federal Territory in Malaysia.

The dark blue square at the top left corner, which reaches until the fifth red stripe, is a symbol of the peace enjoyed by the people of various ethnic groups. The colour white is a sign of Malaysians’ purity and red - their courage to overcome obstacles and challenges. Yellow, the royal colour, is a mark of respect for the Malay sultans while the crescent moon represents the official religion of Malaysia, which is Islam.

It was only in the year 2001, however, that the national flag was dubbed Jalur Gemilang (Stripes of Glory) by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohammad to mark the country’s 44th year of independence and with it, came a host ofother more contemporary meanings. Apart from denoting the number of members states, the straight stripes (Jalur) of the flag suggest the upright path being pursued by all Malaysians towards a common goal of attaining excellence for race and nation. Gemilang (glory) means light and brilliance.

Therefore, Jalur Gemilang is an emblem of the excellence of the country and tenacity of the rakyat to rise above the trials of life, and to heighten the image of the nation.