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Title : Sarnath Lion Capital or Lion Capital of King Asoka Previous topic PreviousNext Next topic

The Ashoka lion capital of Sarnath is the National emblem of India. This Sarnath Lion capital is displayed in the Sarnath Archaeological Museum. The Sarnath Lion Capital is a fairly ubiquitous sculpture because of its adaptation as the national emblem of India. The Lion Capital of Ashoka is a sculpture of four Indian lions standing back to back, on an elaborate base that includes other animals. A graphic representation of it was adopted as the official Emblem of India in 1950. It was originally placed atop the Asoka pillar at the important Buddhist site of Sarnath by the Emperor Ashoka, in about 250 BCE. The pillar, sometimes called the Asoka Column, is still in its original location, but the Lion Capital is now in the Sarnath Museum, in the state of Uttar Pradesh for better preservation.

It has also been monikered as the Lion Capital of Ashoka after Maurya king Ashoka who reigned in the northern part of India during the 3rd century BCE. The Lion Capital originally crowned the Ashoka pillar at Sarnath, one of the many pillars erected by Ashoka to propagate the tenets of Buddhism. The four animals in the Sarnath capital are believed to symbolize different phases in Lord Buddha's life. The Elephant is a representation of Queen Maya's conception of Buddha when she saw a white elephant entering her womb in dream. The Bull represents desire during the life of the Buddha as a prince. The Horse symbolizes Buddha's departure from palatial life while the Lion represents the attainment of Nirvana by Lord Buddha.

Ashoka built the Sarnath pillar to commemorate the site of the first preaching of Lord Buddha, where he taught the Dharma to five monks. The capital was originally probably crowned by a 'Wheel of Dharma' (Dharmachakra popularly known in India as the "Ashoka Chakra"), with 24 spokes, of which a few fragments were found on the site. A 13th-century replica of the Sarnath pillar and capital in Wat U Mong near Chiang Mai, Thailand built by King Mangrai, preserves its crowning Ashoka Chakra or Dharmachakra. The wheel on the capital, below the lions, is the model for the one in the flag of India.

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