Since the photos and videos of the sculpture of the National Emblem over the new Parliament were unveiled, the Opposition has been flaying Prime Minister Narendra Modi for replacing the majestic and graceful lions of the Ashoka pillar with grumbling and frightening ones. The national emblem is of a bronze structure, weighing around 9,500 kg and standing about 6.5 metres high. A supporting steel structure weighing 6,500 kg has been constructed to support the emblem.
The new national emblem has undergone eight different stages of trials, from computer graphic/ clay modelling to bronze polishing and casting. Further, over 100 artisans from all over the country worked on the design, and on crafting and casting the emblem for over six months.
According to the government, the difference in size and perspective between the original and the new was the reason behind the alleged differences in expression. Barring the size, the government has said, the new structure is a replica of the original emblem. Artists Sunil Deore and Romiel Moses, who designed the emblem cast, have also claimed that there has been no deviation from the original design.
The installation of the 9.5-tonne national emblem is a part of the government’s Central Vista Project, which aims to “strengthen governance infrastructure by building new facilities for India’s Parliament, an efficient and sustainable Central Secretariat to house all the ministries of the Government of India.”
Aurangabad-based sculptor Sunil Deore, who created the national emblem, has said that the sculpture is a replica of the Sarnath sculpture. He said that they took the viral photo of the national emblem from a wide-angle because of which the lion’s face looks aggressive. “We’ve not changed anything,” he said.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal’s official handle tweeted in Hindi, saying the lions in the new sculpture had a “man-eater tendency” while the originals had a mild expression. Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jawhar Sircar said the new lions were “snarling, unnecessarily aggressive and disproportionate”.
The national emblem, adopted by the Republic of India on 26 January 1950, is an adaptation of the Lion Capital that stood atop the Ashoka Pillar in Uttar Pradesh’s Sarnath. The pillar, built by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, stands at the site of Buddha’s First Sermon where he is believed to have shared the Four Noble Truths (the dharma or the law), and represents India’s sovereignty and its birth as a republic.
Four lions are sitting back to back facing the four directions. The lion references the Buddha, who was known as the ‘Lion of the Shakyas’ (Shakyasimha) in reference to the clan of his birth, the Shakyas. The lions are seated atop a circular abacus with a frieze of sculptures of a bull, a horse, a lion and an elephant facing the four directions. The sculptures are in high relief, and a dharma chakra can be seen between the bull and the horse.
Some Buddhist interpretations say the sculptures represent different stages of Buddha’s life, while some contend, they represent the reign of Emperor Ashoka (himself a Buddhist), while the wheels are interpreted to represent his enlightened rule. Below the abacus is a base shaped like a lotus, an important symbol of Buddhism. The Lion Capital was chosen by India in 1950 as a reaffirmation of independent and contemporary India’s “ancient commitment to world peace and goodwill”, values espoused by the Buddha and Emperor Ashoka through the Lion Capital.
Actor Anupam Kher said this is the lion of independent India which will also bite if need be. “If the lion has got teeth, it will, of course, show them,” the actor tweeted amid the row over the National Emblem atop the new Parliament building.
Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the difference is because of the difference in the height and the scale of the two structures. “If an exact replica of the original were to be placed on the new building, it would barely be visible beyond the peripheral rail. The ‘experts’ should also know that the original place in Sarnath is at ground level while the new emblem is at a height of 33 mtrs from the ground,” the minister tweeted.
The Aam Aadmi Party has also disapproved of the “aggressive” portrayal of the lions and said nobody has permission to tamper with any constitutional heritage in any manner.