Top of broken pillar in foreground with the famous Sarnath lion capital standing on the ground beyond - 1905
Photograph of the Lion Capital at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, from the Kitchener of Khartoum Collection: 'Views of Benares. Presented by the Maharaja of Benares' by Madho Prasad, c.1905 . Sarnath is the sacred place where the Buddha preached his first sermon known as the Wheel of Law, the Dharmachakra, in the sixth century BC. The Lion capital comes from a column at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh, built by Ashoka, the Mauryan king who flourished in the third century BC. According to tradition, the pillars were raised at various points on the route of a pilgrimage that he undertook in the twentieth year of his reign. The capital, which became the national emblem of India in 1950, is in a museum in Sarnath. The Lion capital is a polished sandstone carving of four lions atop an abacus (the slab forming the top of a column). The lions are facing in four directions and on the abacus are eight images. Immediately below each lion is a dharmachakra, or wheel, with twenty-four spokes. This wheel has been incorporated into the national flag of India. Between the wheels are four animals – a lion, a horse, an elephant and a bull. Falling from the abacus is an upturned, bell-shaped lotus flower.
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