Uproar over national emblem's 'angry' lions

India's national emblem unveiled atop the new parliament building by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday has sparked a huge controversy.

Opposition parties have questioned why the Prime Minister, as head of the Executive, unveiled the emblem. They also said the emblem had been modified and "insulted".

The designers of the massive sculpture, however, claimed there was "no deviation".

Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav's party Rashtriya Janata Dal tweeted that the lions in the national emblem are known to have a mild expression, but those on the new sculpture appear to have a "man-eater's tendency to consume everything in the country".

Mr Jawhar Sircar, a Rajya Sabha member of Trinamool Congress and former CEO of the government-run Prasar Bharati, said it was an "insult to our national symbol, the majestic Ashokan Lions".

India's national emblem is an adaptation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka, an ancient sculpture dating to the Mauryan empire (322 BCE to 185 BCE).

Sharing photos of the emblem and its new version side by side, Mr Sircar tweeted: "Original is on the left, graceful, regally confident. The one on the right is Modi's version, put above new Parliament building - snarling, unnecessarily aggressive and disproportionate. Shame! Change it immediately!"

Responding to Mr Sircar's remarks, Bharatiya Janata Party's Chandra Kumar Bose said: "Everything evolves in society, we have also evolved 75 years after Independence.

"An artist's expression is not necessarily like a government approval. You cannot blame the government of India or the honourable Prime Minister for everything.

"I accept Mr Jawhar Sircar's view that there is a change, a modification to the structure. But let us not always criticise. Maybe India is different today."

Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra, who is at the centre of a row over her recent remarks on goddess Kali, tweeted the two pictures of the national emblem without comment.

Mr Sunil Deore and Mr Romiel Moses, designers of the emblem atop the new parliament building, stressed there was "no deviation".

"We paid attention to the detail. The character of the lions are 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," they said, adding that as artists, they are proud of the sculpture.

The national emblem is made of bronze, weighs 9,500kg and is 6.5m tall. A supporting steel structure weighing around 6,500kg supports the emblem, a government note said.

The State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act, 2005 lays down that the state emblem "shall conform to the designs as set out in Appendix I or Appendix II" of the Act.

Earlier, opposition leaders targeted the government for not inviting them to the unveiling ceremony.

Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi tweeted that the "parliament and the national emblem belong to the people of India and not one man".

Indo-Asian News Service

"Everything evolves in society, we have also evolved 75 years after Independence. I accept Mr Jawhar Sircar's view that there is a change, a modification to the structure. But let us not always criticise. Maybe India is different today."

- Bharatiya Janata Party's Chandra Kumar Bose

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