What Is Controversial About Lions On Top Of The New Parliament Building?
Modi government was blamed for changing the state symbol and hence, insulting it after a few people argued that the lions on top of the new parliament building, have been depicted baring their fangs and, consequently, look too aggressive.
Is this criticism justified? The most obvious thing to check is whether or not the original Mauryan lions of Sarnath bare their fangs and one can see them showing their teeth.
The Mauryans were unapologetic empire builders and the lions stood at the place where ancient India’s most important highways met – the Uttarapath and the Dakshinapath.
It was a proclamation of the power of the State to be carried in all directions. This is why it was chosen as the emblem of the Indian Republic.
Why false impression that the Sarnath lions are shy of their canines?
An important reason is that official depictions since the nineteen-fifties had distorted the image to make them look more benign in order to conform to the myth of a pacifist past.
There are several ways this was done. In some cases, the mouth was closed or the growl is turned into a grin. One example is the depiction on top of Bengaluru’s Vidhana Soudha where the lions have their mouths firmly shut.
The irony: To stop improper depiction of the state emblem, The State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act 2005 was brought and it includes an officially sanctioned version.
Ironically, the version is itself a distortion that shows the front lion without fangs but seeming to laugh with its tongue hanging out (the lions on the side do retain their canines).
Post-independence distortions: A mythical pacifist history was presented to conform to an equally tilted narrative about India’s Freedom Struggle being almost entirely non-violent.
The story of Emperor Ashoka becoming a pacifist Buddhist after the Kalinga War is another example of this distortion.
The truth is that no primary text links Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism to regret over the death and destruction in Kalinga. All the evidence suggests that he was already a practicing Buddhist years before the war.
The new bronze lions: The replicas do deviate from the original in two significant ways.
First, the new lions seem better fed than the Mauryan lions.
Second, they have eyes inserted into the empty sockets of the originals.
This may give the impression of being more aggressive at some angles – but do remember that the Sarnath lions too had eyes when the Mauryans had first put them up.
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