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The National Emblem of India has an origin steeped in the culture and myriad colors of India. A symbol of the modern Indian republic, the emblem is an adaptation from the Sarnath Lion, capital of Emperor Ashoka the Great as preserved in the Sarnath Museum situated near Varanasi in the north Indian province of Uttar Pradesh.
The National Emblem of India is a near-replica of the Lion Capital of Sarnath. The Lion Capital was erected atop a Pillar in around 250 BC by Emperor Ashoka the Great to mark the spot where Buddha first preached his Dharma (gospel of peace and emancipation) and where the Buddhist Sangha was founded.
In the original Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka, there stand four Asiatic lions, back to back, mounted on a circular abacus with a frieze carrying sculptures in high relief of an elephant, a galloping horse, a bull and a lion separated by intervening wheels over a bell-shaped lotus. These wheels stand for the "Ashoka Chakra" or "Dharmachakra" or the "Eternal wheel of law" as mentioned in the Hindu scriptures. The whole of the Lion Capital was carved out of a single block of polished sandstone.
The Indian National Emblem, modeled on the Lion Capital, features 3 lions. The fourth lion is hidden from sight since it is positioned at the rear end; so is the bell-shaped lotus flower situated beneath. The frieze beneath the lions is shown with a wheel in the center, a bull on the right, a galloping horse on the left, and outlines of Dharma Chakras on the extreme right and left. The wheel at the centre of the abacus symbolizes the "Dharma Chakra".
The three lions (the one hidden from the front view excluded) represent power, courage and confidence, and rest on a circular abacus girded by four smaller animals that are separated by intervening wheels. These four animals are the guardians of the four directions:
the lion of the north,
the elephant of the east,
the horse of the south and
the bull of the west.
The abacus rests on a lotus in full bloom, instancing the fountainhead of life and creative inspiration. Inscribed below the emblem in Devanagari script is the motto 'Satyameva Jayate' meaning "Truth Alone Triumphs". It is a quote from the Mundaka Upanishad, the concluding part of the sacred Hindu Vedas.
The Lion Pillar was adopted as the National Emblem of India on 26 January 1950, the day India became a republic.
The National emblem is used only for official purposes and commands the highest respect and loyalty. It is the official seal of the President of India and Central and State Governments. It forms a part of the official letterhead of the Government of India. It also appears prominently on all Indian currency as well as on the diplomatic and national Passport of the Republic of India. The wheel on it, known as "Dharma Chakra" or popularly "Ashoka Chakra", has even been placed onto the center of the modern National Flag of India.
In the contemporary times, the national emblem of India stands as a symbol of modern India's reassertion of its ancient commitment to world peace and goodwill. To the 1 billion Indians, it serves as an inspiration and is a matter of pride. To the world, it stands as glowing symbol of independent India's identity and sovereignty.
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