In the month of July, 75 years ago, a soon to be independent India chose the tricolour as its national flag. A spirited debate followed in the Constituent Assembly before it was adopted. However, the national emblem, inspired by the Sarnath lions, was adopted on 26 January 1950 without debate.
According to the historian Madhavan Palat, the four lions found in the excavations at the Buddhist site of Sarnath, in Uttar Pradesh, “standing together, facing the world in all four directions, represented a spirit of courage, calm and control.” Palat, the editor of Jawaharlal Nehru’s multi-volume Selected Works, understood Nehru and the imagery he wanted to invoke. Nehru, he said, believed firmly in projecting a view of India that was suitable to the deep turmoil and violence the region was emerging from. That meant projecting strength, as the lions did. But they did so explicitly with grace and elegance. It was important to showcase calm lions, to underscore that those who possessed power rarely needed to bare their fangs.