The National Emblem – why the lions smile?

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’M always fascinated by our National Emblem. The Sarnath Pillar of Asoka. The Lions on the Capital. I always found the lions hilarious. Tongues sticking out and smirky eyes. As though enjoying a good joke. I always found them an odd choice for a national emblem. Like the laughing buddha, we have unintentional laughing ferocious lions as our national emblem. It’s as though they are laughing at our national project. Why wouldn’t they? Trying to consolidate this large diverse country into one united Republic, was and still sounds like a fool’s errand. But it is an errand that we run every day nonetheless.


Our Constituent Assembly was made up of delegates from the Provincial Legislatures of British India and the Princely States. The delegates from the Provinces of British India were elected via limited franchise i.e mostly rich people could only vote in those elections for the Provincial Legislatures and these legislatures nominated the delegates. The other members were nominees of the Princely States who in most cases were appointees of the princes or again elected via limited franchise. It was to put it shortly a very undemocratic body that drafted our Constitution, they adopted the document and never put it to a referendum. Making the process a highly undemocratic one by modern standards. So it begs the question, why do we celebrate Republic Day as a great day for democracy?


But here’s where Asoka and his lions become important. When he stood at the banks of the Daya River in Kalinga (Orissa) all those years ago, he possessed something few human beings who walked on this earth possessed. Absolute power over India. But Asoka didn’t choose the path of absolute conquest and consolidation, he chose the path of rule by dharma and for this one act alone his name goes on to live in infamy. Like Asoka, our own Constituent Assembly possessed absolute power on 15 August 1947.


On 26 January 1950, they passed it on to the people via an instrument we call our Constitution. Which is why you will see a little person behind bulletproof glass in the morning of January 26 reviewing the world’s third-largest army while being the first citizen of the worlds largest democracy. That person holds the office of our President and can claim to legitimately be the successor to the throne of Asoka Maurya. That’s why the lions smile, the Dharmacharka under them turns and boldly they proclaim that this truth shall always triumph. That the Absolute Power over India lies with her people and with them alone.

The Leaflet