Artists say no distortion amid row over ‘aggressive’ emblem

A controversy broke out on Tuesday over the National Emblem cast atop the new Parliament building with the Opposition saying it’s “aggressive look” deviated from the Lion Capital at Sarnath, and the artists refuting the charge, saying the iconic design was completely adhered to.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 9,500kg bronze structure at a ceremony on Monday, attended by Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla, Union ministers Hardeep Puri and Pralhad Joshi, Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Harivansh, and others.

Opposition leaders said the 6.5 metre high structure showed lions with bared fangs, unlike the Lion Capital in Sarnath, which comprises four Asiatic lions standing back to back and was adopted as India’s official emblem in 1950.

The Congress called the “deviation” in the design an “insult” to the emblem. Congress MP in Rajya Sabha Jairam Ramesh tweeted, “To completely change the character and nature of the lions on Ashoka’s pillar at Sarnath is nothing but a brazen insult to India’s national symbol!”

But Sunil Deore and Romiel Moses, who designed the 9,500kg bronze emblem, told news channel NDTV that there is “no deviation” in design. “We’ve paid attention to detail. The character of lions is the same. There may be very minor differences. People may have different interpretations. It’s a large statue, and a view from below may give a distorted impression,” Deore said.

“The Emblem atop the new Parliament is meant to be viewed from at least 100m away. So, the detailing on the sculpture had to be such that it is visible from such a distance,” he added.

In a series of tweets, Union housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that one needed to appreciate the impact of “angle, height and scale when comparing the two structures” as the emblem atop the new Parliament building is 6.5m tall, while the original is 1.6m.

“One needs to appreciate the impact of angle, height & scale when comparing the two structures. If one looks at the Sarnath emblem from below it would look as calm or angry as the one being discussed,” Puri tweeted.

In another tweet, Puri said, “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 placed in Sarnath is at ground level while the new emblem is at a height of 33 mtrs from ground.” He added that there will be no difference in design if the Sarnath emblem was to be scaled up or the emblem on the new Parliament building is reduced to that size.

The State Emblem of India is an adaptation from the Sarnath Lion Capital of Asoka which is preserved in the Sarnath Museum. The Lion Capital, which dates back to 250BC, has four lions mounted back-to-back on a circular abacus. The frieze of the abacus is adorned with sculptures in high relief of an elephant, a galloping horse, a bull, and a lion separated by intervening Dharma Chakras. The abacus rests on a bell-shaped lotus, as mentioned in the state Emblem of India (prohibition of improper use) Act, 2005.

The 2005 Act prohibits the illicit and improper use of the emblem or its colourable imitation for commercial or any other purposes without a prior approval of the government. The emblem cannot be a part of any trademark, patent or design too, and the violations can fetch a jail term up to two years in jail along with a monetary penalty.

However, the law, which exclusively authorises the central government in regulating the use of the emblem, does not mention consequences if there is any design deviation.

Housing ministry officials said the structure was a perfect replica of the National Emblem.

“The Lion Capital of our National Emblem is the adoption of the Lion Capital of Ashoka. Sarnath Lion Capital is around 7 feet and the emblem cast on the new Parliament is around 21 feet. Except for the size, the adaptation of the emblem is the exact replica,” a senior official said.

But opposition parties, which were not invited for the event, and a few civil society members slammed the government for the alleged design change.

Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, said that everyone was aware of PM’s “who_cares_whom” attitude while referring to the Centre’s decision to not invite the opposition leaders to the event where Modi unveiled the emblem. “The solo show of unveiling the national emblem by PM @narendramodi Ji, has already drawn a flurry of questions including constitutional propriety, let alone democratic values. We are all familiar with our PM’s “#Who_Cares_Whom” attitude.”

The Rashtriya Janata Dal said the lions in the original emblem had a “gentleness” on the face whereas the one designed in the “Amrit Kaal” looks like “man-eater’s tendency to swallow everything in the country”. Amrit Kaal refers to the period between 2022 and 2047, when India marks 100 years of independence and was coined by the PM.