Republic at 70: Story of the lions that form India’s national emblem
January 26 , 1950 is celebrated as the day Constitution came into force across the country, replacing the Government of India Act, 1935. On the same day, the emblem of India was also adopted.
The national emblem, which has strict laws to guide its usage, was the visual representation of the famous Lion Capital from 250 BC. It was originally discovered in Sarnath -- a small Uttar Pradesh town where Gautam Buddha taught the dharma to his disciples for the first time -- and in the original form, it was set atop the famous Ashoka Column.
The original Lion Capital, a fine scripture, had four lions looking at four directions. But in the two-dimensional representation for the original copy of Indian Constitution, the fourth lion was left out. In 2005, the government came up with The State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act to prohibit the improper use of the emblem for professional and commercial purposes. Indian police officers also wear the state emblem on their caps.
The emblem is the graphic representation of the Lion Capital that originally graced the top of the Ashok Stambh or Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath. It has the national motto, Satyamev Jayate (truth alone triumphs), written below it.
In the daily functioning of the government, the national emblem is considered as the symbol of authority of the government and all official communications have the state emblem on them.
The Members of Parliament can also use the national emblem on their letterheads and visiting cards. The law stipulates that no one can use the emblem for the purpose of any trade, business, calling or profession or in the title of any patent, or in any trade mark or design. Violations may attract imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of Rs 5,000.
It is widely believed that the three lions symbolise justice, peace and tolerance.
The story of the emblem would remain incomplete with the mention of Dinanath Bhargava, a 21-year-old artist who worked along with legendary painter Nandalal Bose for illustrating the first Constitution in Santiniketan, because the political leadership of the country wanted the blue cover of the Indian Constitution to be adorned with reliefs and the image of the Lion Capital.
While Bose and his select disciples were busy illustrating all pages of the original Constitution, Bhargava was entrusted to make a two-dimensional or pictorial representation of the Lion Capital and the motto of Satyameva Jayate. Bhargava even came down to the Alipore Zoo in Kolkata to see a lion before sketching one on paper.