Rediscovery of Lion Capital and how it strengthened India’s freedom struggle.


THE LION CAPITAL IS THE CROWN (TOP) OF THE ASHOKAN PILLAR found at Sarnath in Varanasi. During the archaeological excavations at Sarnath, in 1905 the Ashokan Pillar, the fragments of the 32-spoked wheel and the Lion Capital were unearthed. Today the remains of these findings are kept safe in the Sarnath Museum.

The credit for the discovery of Lion Capital goes to Mr. Oertel.

Ashokan Pillar is a statue of about seven feet. Its shape is like a blooming lotus. It is also considered to be bell shape.

In this idol, four lions are depicted in an aggressive posture sitting back to back. In the center of the statue is the shape of a round abacus, on which four animals, lion, elephant, horse, and bull are engraved. A wheel with 24 spokes (Ashoka Chakra) is made in between each of these animals. The total number of wheels is four which is obvious as there are 4 animals.

To understand Lion Capital, it is necessary to have brief information about Ashokan Pillar, Sarnath, and Emperor Ashoka. Therefore, the necessary information related to this topic is given below.

Sarnath:- Sarnath is the place where Buddha gave his first sermon later known as Dhamma Chakra Parivartan. (turning the wheel of dharma). It is located a few kilometers away from the main Banaras(Varanasi).



Ashoka has been addressed with the same name on the inscriptions and pillars received as mentioned above. Ashoka Raja Address is found in Brahman Purana, the meaning of Ashoka Raja — a king who does not have any grief.


@ Ashoka was the most prolific king of the Mauryan dynasty. He ruled from 269 BC to 232 BC.

@ He extended the boundaries of India to Hindukush in the north, Mysore in the south, Bangladesh in the east, and Persia in the west.

@ Emperor Ashoka is ranked among the greatest kings of the world, not just for conquering regions and boundaries, but also for establishing a welfare state.

@ Ashoka was probably the first emperor of the world to talk about human rights.

@ The credit for spreading the teachings of Buddha all over the world also goes to Emperor Ashoka.


The shaft is the cylindrical platform on which the Lion Capital is placed. Four large fragments of the pillar were found in the excavation.

The pillar was excavated by Mr. Oertel in 1904 -05.

The cylindrical shaft was built from Chunar sandstone and the shaft is estimated to have been about 50 feet tall. This sandstone is still used extensively in construction work in Banaras and Mirzapur (Chunar).

Please read my post for detailed information about Ashokan Pillar at Sarnath, Lion Capital. This post mainly targets how the Lion capital strengthened India’s freedom struggle.

What was the purpose of building Ashokan Pillar

ASHOKA’S WARNING IS ENGRAVED ON THIS PILLAR . Ashoka was troubled by the disruptive elements in Buddhism. The Ashokan Pillar at Sarnath was erected around 250 BC to give a clear warning to monks and nuns trying to divide Buddhism. This warning is directly from Ashoka,(King of patliputra, at present Patna) so it seems appropriate to call it an ordinance.

A huge Buddhist monastery was located in Sarnath, in which about 1500 Buddhist monks and nuns lived, undoubtedly this warning was given to these people.

Lion Capital as the National Emblem of India

The Government of India adopted the Lion Capital as the National Emblem on 26th January 1950.

Ashoka Chakra on the National Flag of India

The National Flag of India was adopted in its present form on22nd July 1947. The Ashoka Chakra in the center of the national flag of India, is also taken from the Lion Capital found at Sarnath.

Ashokan Pillar, Lion Capital before India’s independence

The Lion Capital was adopted as the national emblem of India and the Ashoka Chakra on the abacus also got a place in the National Flag after the independence of India, but the indelible impression of this Lion Capital was inscribed in the hearts of millions of Indians since 1905. Due to the Lion Capital being declared the National Symbol of India, it soon moved out of the history books and found a place in the Civics books.

Lion Capital’s Rediscovery and Historical Significance

DURING THE EXCAVATIONS AT SARNATH 1905, the ruins of Ashokan Pillar were found a few footsteps away from Moolgandha Kuti Vihar. Undoubtedly, the top of the pillar(Lion Capital) is a unique example of ancient Indian art. Soon the ancient history of India was lit up with the influence of the Lion Capital. The Ashokan Pillar, described by XUANZANG, and built by Ashoka, regained its prestige once again after being buried in the ground for nearly 700 years.

This rediscovery had far-reaching consequences.

@ The Ashokan Pillar told that the Golden Age of India was not just a mere fantasy. The pre-Islamic era of India was an era of glory.

@Western historians believed that the civilization of Greece was the highest ranking civilization in human history, but the teachings of Buddha, the history of the welfare state of Ashoka were now in a position to challenge this fact.


XUANZANG came to India from the Silk Route (silk route) during the reign of Harshavardhana between 627-643 AD.

Banaras as described by Xuanzang :-

“The people of Banaras were very rich and their homes were full of valuables. The citizens of Banaras were very civilized and had a special love for education. The yields were very good and the trees were laden with fruits.”

Can such a description of any city and citizens be considered as a backward civilization during 627-643 AD?

@ The discovery of ancient Indian history among the nationalists of India led to tremendous development of the spirit of nationalism. Ashoka Pillar and Buddha’s teachings are abundantly mentioned in the writings and texts of almost all the prominent leaders who participated in India’s independence movement.

@ Christian missionaries who were involved in the business of conversion in India, were now facing a lot of difficulties to convert Hindus by calling them backward because the glorious history of Hinduism was affecting crores of Hindus. The famous American scholar and littérateur Mark Twain came to India and then to Benares in 1897. During his visit to Banaras, he has also mentioned that their were many Christian missionaries involved in conversion in Banaras.

@ The curiosity to know about India increased not only in Indians but also in western countries, it was against the prevailing belief in which Hindu civilization was portrayed as a defeated and helpless civilization.

@ The sense of non-violence, equality, and tolerance, which is seen in Gandhi’s philosophy was not new, but all these elements were included in the Hindu culture of India for thousands of years.
Peace, coexistence, and fraternity have been incorporated as an essential factor in India’s foreign policy after independence and remain an essential part of foreign policy even today. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THIS SUBJECT PLEASE VISIT :-

Even today, whenever I see the Lion Capital in the Museum of Sarnath, one subject immediately catches my attention the use of geometry in the construction of the Lion Capital.

VARIOUS TYPES OF GEOMETRICAL SHAPES like drum, disc, circle, have been used in this 7 ft idol. The spokes of the wheels are of uniform division, the roundness of the lion’s face is commendable, seeing all this, one thing becomes very clear that the people of India not only had a concrete understanding in geometry in250 BCbut that they also applied this knowledge of theirs while crafting sculptures and also in their day to day life.

The development of mathematics is a continuous process, the society sticking to the old ideology, conservatism can never contribute to the field of mathematics.

THE ATTITUDE OF INDIANS towards mathematics at that time clearly shows that the society used to accept new ideas quite easily. This is a clear indication that how new ideas of Gautam Buddha and Mahavira ( Mahavir Swami, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara of Jainism, were a contemporary of Buddha. Jainism has more emphasis on non-violence than Buddhism.) were easily accepted in the society without much opposition.

PRESENTLY THE LION CAPITAL adorning the museum of Sarnath, is a symbol of the ever-moving and dynamic Hindu culture and civilization. Millions of people every year who come to see this Lion Capital in this museum will undoubtedly have a wonderful infusion of the spirit of nationalism in their hearts. You will feel proud of your history. It can be expected that future generations will also be inspired by this experience for centuries.