National emblem embroiled in controversy: A look at its origin, history and the 'change' that has angered many

The Opposition has slammed the expression of the four lions of the national emblem that was unveiled atop the new Parliament building, alleging that the Modi government has violated the Constitution

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India’s national emblem cast on the roof of the new Parliament building was unveiled by PM Modi on Monay. Several Opposition parties have slammed the expression of the four lions of the national emblem in the sculpture, and alleged that Modi government has violated the Constitution.

However, Central government justified the national emblem’s cast saying it was done after research and a well-laid procedure, reported Business Standard.

Here we try to briefly explain the importance of the National Emblem:

The national emblem is one of the most visible symbols of national identity and is used as the seal of the Republic. Ours was adopted from the Lion Capital of one of the Ashoka Pillars on January 26, 1950. The symbol was adopted along with the motto 'Satyamev Jayate', taken from the Mundaka Upanishad and meaning 'truth always wins'.

Our national emblem has four lions mounted back to back on a circular abacus, facing four different directions. They represent courage, pride, power and confidence.

A circular abacus on which the lions stand is adorned with the engravings of a bull, a horse, and an elephant. Along with the lions, it is believed that the animals represent the four stages of Gautam Buddha's life. Lions indicate the stage of achieving enlightenment.

The bull symbolises Taurus, the zodiac sign of Buddha. The elephant denotes his outset. The horse symbolises his ride after leaving the citadel where he gave his first sermon.

The animals are separated by Ashok Chakras or Dharmachakras. The above-mentioned structure rests on an inverted lotus, which was chosen as the National Flower of India. However, it is not a part of the Emblem.

In the 2D form of the National Emblem, only one Ashok Chakra is visible in the front with the galloping horse on the left and the bull on the right of it. The Ashok Chakra is believed to be a form of the Buddhist Dharma Chakra.

As per historians, the four animals are regarded as the guardians of four directions - the lion for the north, the elephant for the east, the horse for the south and the bull for the west.

The Lion Capital was erected in Sarnath 250 BC. Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh. It was excavated by Friedrich Oscar Oertel in 1905. And after independence, when the leaders were looking for the national emblem, Badruddin Tyabji, a civil services officer and a freedom fighter, and his wife Surayya Tyabji proposed the usage of the Lion Capital for the Emblem.

While the Constitution was being drafted, Dinanath Bhargava was selected to design the National Emblem. Under the mentorship of Nandalal Bose, who designed the illustrations in the document, Bhargava sketched the Emblem on the first page of the Constitution.

Controversy around the new structure:

The Opposition parties say the national emblem unveiled looks 'ferocious' with its exposed fangs and is different from the original. Congress said that the inscription 'Satyamev Jayate' is missing from the new structure atop the Parliament building.


Modi government dismissed the criticism. "Sense of proportion & perspective. Beauty is famously regarded as lying in the eyes of the beholder. So is the case with calm & anger," was the response by Hardeep Singh Puri.

Sunil Deora, one of the two sculptors who designed the new statue, said that the perceived difference in the lions demeanour is due to the scale of the new structure, reported The Indian Express.

According to a report in NDTV, Sunil admitted that there may be minor changes, mostly because of the damages in the original,, "The maximum, 99 per cent, is as per the Ashokan symbol. The photograph is out of zoom. The lower angle is changing the expression".

"As an artist, we have conducted researches going to the museum. We have only enlarged on the original, which is 2.5 feet. In such cases, everything gets magnified. You have to think of that. And this sculpture we will see from parliament, at least a 100 meters away. So we had to emphasise the details, so that they look similar even from a distance," he added.

"Like we said, you are going to view it from a very, very great distance. So all of that have been kept in mind and as such there is no deviation in the piece that you see…. At eye level, the outline will match the emblem," added his colleague Romel Moses.

On being asked what they will say to the people who say this is a deliberate attempt to make the lions look angry, Moses said, "It is a message of peace given by a very powerful character, that is a lion. A message of peace can never be given in anger".

But the fact remains that the lion of the national emblem on the new Parliament building flaunts bare fangs which is a major distortion from the original one. The sculptors did not seem to have a convincing answer to this change in their conversation with NDTV.

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