Social Policy & Administration

National emblem: What is the image that a modern India wants to project?

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The changed outlook of the nation as reflected in the angry lions with bared fangs might tarnish its traditional image of being a liberal and tolerant nation, say the authors.


Abhinav Mehrotra, Assistant Professor, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.

Biswanath Gupta, Associate Professor, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.

Anindita Dutta, PhD candidate, Tezpur University, Tezpur, Assam.


The national emblem cast on the roof of the new Parliament building has sparked criticism, with the opposition and a section of vigilant citizens accusing the government of distorting the iconic symbol. The national emblem, adopted by the Republic of India on January 26, 1950, was modeled on the Lion Capital erected by Emperor Ashoka during 250 BC at Sarnath now in Uttar Pradesh.

The three-dimensional sculpture carved from a block of sandstone features four Asiatic lions standing back-to-back, on an elaborate circular base of lotus in full bloom, and includes other animals such as a horse, a bull and an elephant along with a Dharma Chakra at its center.  

Along with the symbol, a motto, “Satyameva Jayate” (Truth Alone Triumphs), was adopted from the Hindu Mundaka Upanishad. Through this sculpture, Emperor Ashoka wanted to capture the essence of Buddhism which he embraced after witnessing the bloodshed unleashed by his wars of conquest.

Thereafter, the doctrines of Buddhism such as non-violence, spiritualism, compassion and peaceful co-existence symbolized by the sculpture formed the bedrock of his administration.

The lion emblem, one of the distinctive symbols of national identity, captures the spirit of the nation. The four Asiatic lions with their graceful posture represent the power, confidence, courage and pride of the nation.

The galloping horse carved on the left of the Dharma Chakra stands for loyalty, speed and energy. The bull on the right symbolizes hard work and steadfastness. The lotus stands for creation, spirituality and illumination.

The Dharma Chakra, one of the auspicious symbols of Buddhism, represents the pan-India concept of Dharma — meaning righteousness, merit and religious and moral duties governing individual conduct and adhered to by Indic religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and others.

Published in: South Asia Monitor

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