July 15, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the depiction of the Lion Capital of Sarnath atop the new Parliament building is a distortion of our National Emblem. We also look at Uttarakhand’s plan of building a film city, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
The Parliament’s New Lions: How different are they?
On 11 July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Parliament’s four new 6.5 m tall bronze Asiatic lions. While the grandeur of the National Emblem blew the ruling party away, activists and the Opposition, unfortunately, could not share that excitement. As it turns out, there seems to be something off about them. The lions look… a little angry?
Twitter has been pretty busy lately, talking about these pissed-off lions that will sit on top of our Parliament. According to some, the statue even violates the rules and regulations that guide the use of the National Emblem. But, at the end of the day, what is a lion without its fangs?
Here is the breakdown of the lions, the art and the controversy.
It didn’t take long for the criticism to pour in once the lions were unveiled. As a part of the Central Vista project of the Indian government, more than 100 artisans took over nine months to make this 16,000 kg bronze statue. This version of the “State Emblem of India” was especially tricky to craft as it was already placed 33 metres above ground level, i.e. on top of the central foyer of the new Parliament building.
For the uninitiated, the State Emblem is basically an adaptation of the Sarnath Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka. At the moment, the original is preserved in the Sarnath Museum. This Lion Capital has four lions facing away from each other on a circular platform. The side of that platform, also known as an abacus, has an elephant, a horse, a bull and a lion separated by Dharma Chakras.
Since it was first built by Ashoka, the lions facing the four cardinal directions are supposed to represent the Buddha. This is because he is also called the “Lion of the Shakyas” or Shakyasimha, referring to his birth clan. But even when it comes to the symbolism of the pillar, there is disagreement.
Some Buddhist interpretations say that the piece represents the life of Buddha and its different stages. Others say that this depicts the rule of Emperor Ashoka, a Buddhist himself. The wheels, in this context, represent the emperor’s “enlightened rule”. It was in 1950 that this was chosen as the State Emblem of the country.
As a symbol of the Indian government and the official seal of our institutions, a couple of stringent rules guard its likeness. The State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act, 2005, and the State Emblem of India (Regulation of Use) Rules, 2007 currently govern its use. Before this, a bunch of official instructions that did not come with any legal backing regulated it.
Now, the question everybody’s asking is, does the new iteration violate these laws?
VIEW: You’re looking at it all wrong!
Before jumping to conclusions, let’s learn about the tedious design process this new statue was subject to before becoming Indian Twitter’s favourite punching bag. The emblem has gone through a total of eight trial stages. This includes computer graphic renderings, clay and thermocol models, castings and bronze polishing. That’s a lot of versions to get “wrong”. Since the emblem comes with its own rules, it wasn’t too hard to create an appropriate copy. The issue was with sizing, the artists say.
Artists Sunil Deore and Romiel Moses were commissioned to design the cast, and they claim that they never deviated from the original design. Well, they couldn’t have even if they tried. As per the State Emblem of India Act, 2005, recreations must conform to the design already in the Act. Any deviation from it will require an amendment from the central government, which was never done. The only change that the project did see was an unexpected growth spurt.
As the artists have explained, originally, the emblem was supposed to be a structure not bigger than 2.5 ft. But then, the notion of visibility came into play. The government wanted something visible from 100 m away. This called for the statue to get larger, which immediately left a lot of space for details. Details that aren’t necessarily visible in any 2D drawing or instruction manual. The goal here wasn’t to make the lions more menacing. It just so happens that large 3D teeth are scary to some.
The artists responsible for the structure also say that perspective has a lot to do with its perception. The pictures available of it were all taken from a very close distance. Ideally, it should be seen from 1 to 2 km away, say the artists. The large magnification of some of its details would certainly be jarring to some patrons. If beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so is aggression.
COUNTERVIEW: Fear and loathing of our lions
In 1950, the Lion Capital was chosen as our national emblem to show that independent India still values its “ancient commitment to world peace and goodwill”. The fact that this symbol has been around since 250 BC shows the nation’s complete backing of this idea. And unfortunately, the new structure that is set to sit atop our Parliament seems to be following a more ancient West Asian tradition. As SP Gupta puts it in The Roots of Indian Art, our lions weren’t supposed to “rouse fear in the minds of the onlookers while their West Asian cousins were invariably meant to inspire awe and fear”.
According to historians, the new emblem has some prominent muscles and veins in its body. Something that definitely deviates from the original at Sarnath. That version has a vein or two, but they mostly run in relief. Eminent art historian R Siva Kumar also agrees that the structure on top of the new Parliament artistically deviates from its original. According to him, the original did a great job meeting decorativeness in realism. The proportions of the face and eyes of these lions have definitely taken a hit when compared to the ones at Sarnath. And the manes… Well, that’s where the main difference lies.
Other historians have also said that this was a distortion of the original emblem. Artist Nandalal Bose, who was in charge of the emblem’s original design, never changed anything about the lions. While designing, he simply took the proportions of the lions at Sarnath and put them down on paper. The only difference was going from 3D to 2D. To those actively involved in the arts, the distortion is as clear as day. One look at the smaller eyes, and it’s done. These lions are feral. According to the Opposition, they seem to be “visibly snarling” as well.
As historian Rajat Kanta Ray put it, “The lions in both Ashoka’s pillar at Sarnath and those designed under the supervision of Nandalal Bose sent a message of non-violence while the new ones set atop the parliament building send a message of violence.”
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The structure atop the new Parliament building is a distortion of our National Emblem.
b) The structure atop the new Parliament building is not a distortion of our National Emblem.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
A NITI Aayog-Commissioned Report Unveils The Hypocrisy Of Modi Government’s ‘Climate Concerns’
For the Left:
India’s Response To Sri Lankan Crisis Is Sign Of A Rising And Assertive India
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Building a film city (Uttarakhand) – The Uttarakhand government wants to take advantage of the state being a popular filming destination and build a film city with the possibility of a film institute. For the institute, the government will approach a national-level training centre to make the necessary arrangements. Popular destinations include Tehri, Mussoorie, and Rishikesh. Among the films shot here were Bimal Roy’s 1958 movie Madhumati, Shekhar Kapur’s Masoom in 1983, and 2010’s Paan Singh Tomar.
Why it matters: Since 2018, more than 700 films, documentaries, web series, and ads have been shot in the state. In 2019, the state’s film policy was amended to make it easier for filmmakers. Due to the pandemic, the policy was made further flexible. The new policy provided a single-window clearance system when they had to go through the district magistrate for approvals earlier.
Spice exports (Telangana) – The state exported spices worth almost $200 million in 2020-21 fiscal. It represents a 37% compound annual growth rate over the past five years. Chillies are driving the exports, despite the state producing 30% of India’s turmeric. The increase in demand and exports will help spice traders cater to international markets. It’s a valuable cash crop despite its high production costs.
Why it matters: The terrains of the state are ideal for chilli production. Along with Andhra Pradesh, both states combined accounted for more than 60% of India’s chilli exports in 2020-21. The pandemic has increased the demand for Ayurveda and ethnic food, thus increasing the demand for Indian spices like turmeric, which has medicinal value.
Unassigned variants (West Bengal) – There have been reports of unassigned Covid-19 variants found in the state. However, experts say they aren’t a cause for concern as they haven’t exhibited any mutations. Officials from the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics have double-checked the sequences. The results haven’t shown anything out of the ordinary. A percentage of the samples collected in the state for genome sequencing didn’t match any of the known variants.
Why it matters: With no unusual mutations being shown, experts said there’s no need to classify them as variants of concern (VoC). These are variants that have increased transmissibility. Even if they are later classified as a VoC by the WHO, they won’t be as deadly as the Delta or previous strains.
Adani’s telecoms plans (Gujarat) – Adani Data Networks, a subsidiary of the Adani Group will soon provide wireless internet services, beginning with Gujarat. The Group has received a letter of intent (LoI) from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to provide telecom services, starting with the Gujarat circle. It will allow the company to provide long-distance call and internet facilities in the Gujarat circle.
Why it matters: According to analysts, it’s the first step before a full-fledged entry into the telecom sector. The company already said it’s participating in the 5G spectrum auctions later this month. The company did mention it doesn’t intend to offer consumer mobility service, and the spectrum will be used for captive private networks.
Protests over highway construction (Arunachal Pradesh) – Hundreds of people protested at the headquarters of the West Siang district demanding the construction of the national highway between Bam in West Siang and Likabali in Lower Siang. The Aalo Township Public Welfare Development Society (ATPWDS) also organised a rally with the support of various organisations. They want the government to begin work on it within 30 days.
Why it matters: The stretch of highway was sanctioned 10 years ago and connects six districts, including West Siang. Currently, the road is in poor condition affecting the residents, especially during the monsoon. People have been asking the government to complete the 100-km stretch by next March.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
165 – The number of start-up mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in the first half of 2022. It’s an all-time high. The Indian start-up ecosystem is currently going through a rocky patch after a stellar 2021 with almost $42 billion raised.