The national symbol of India, the Lion capital of Ashoka stands tall at Sarnath. It is a sculpture of four Indian lions that are standing back to back and was originally placed atop the Aśoka pillar at Sarnath.
The famous Mauryan emperor Ashoka in 250 BC had placed it. The Asoka Column stands where it stood originally but the Lion Capital has now been placed in the Sarnath Museum. The National Emblem of India was taken from the Lion Capital of Ashoka and the wheel “Ashoka Chakra” that stands at the centre of the Indian national flag was taken from the base of the Lion Capital of Ashoka.
There are four Indian/Asiatic Lions standing back to back on the Lion Capital and it has been mounted on a short cylindrical abacus with 24-spoked Dharma wheels. There are sculptures of elephant, a bull, a galloping horse and a lion. It is believed that these animals symbolize the different steps of Lord Buddha’s life. Buddha’s idea in context to the dream of Queen Maya of a white elephant entering her womb has been depicted by the elephant. The desires of Buddha as a prince have been depicted by the bull. Buddha’s departure from sumptuous life is represented by the galloping horse while the accomplishment of Buddha is reflected by the lion.
These are not the only interpretations that can be gathered from the capital. Apart from the religious representation of the capital, there are certain non-religious depictions and symbolism of the Lion Capital of Ashoka. The non-religious depictions say that the four lions represent Ashoka’s rule in four directions, his enlightened rule is represented by the wheels and the four animals depict the four adjoining territories in India.
The capital has been carved out of single block of polished sandstone and it is also said that it was crowned by a “Wheel of Dharma” which is known as “Ashoka Chakra” is no more there.