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National Emblem Row: What Led The Artists To Change Ashokan Lions Atop New Parliament Building

The artists say the controversy over the massive bronze national emblem atop the new parliament building could be because of the angle at which the lions are being viewed.

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The new National Emblem atop new Parliament building.
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The massive National Emblem, weighing 16,000 kg, was unveiled atop the new Parliament building on Monday. Over 100 artisans and craftsmen from various parts of the country worked for over nine months to create the bronze structure. 

For the artisans, the installation of the "State Emblem of India" made of "high-purity bronze" at the top of the central foyer of the building, currently under construction, itself was a challenge as it was 33 metres above ground level.

The 6.5-metre installation, weighing 16,000 kg including supporting structure (9,500 kg - national emblem, and 6500 kg - supporting structure), is fully handcrafted by the artisans. The State Emblem of India is an adaptation from the Sarnath Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka which is preserved in the Sarnath Museum. The Lion Capital has four lions mounted back to back on a circular abacus. The frieze of the abacus is adorned with sculptures in high relief of an elephant, a galloping horse, a bull and a lion separated by intervening Dharma Chakras.

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However, the strong criticism around the structure, because of the alleged mismatched details, has given rise to new controversies. With the opposition calling it a 'menacing, snarling version of the majestic and graceful Ashokan lion capital' that has 'distorted the message of peace', artists have said that the controversy over the massive bronze national emblem could be because of the angle at which the lions are being viewed, reports NDTV. 

According to the artists, the original structure is only 2.5ft. Hence, while enlarging the new structure, that would be visible from 100 meters away, a lot of detailing had to be taken care of. 

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Speaking to the media outlet, sculptor Sunil Deore who was in charge of the project said, "The maximum, 99 per cent, is as per the Ashokan symbol". However, the minute changes could be because of the damage to the original structure. 

"Like we said, you are going to view it from a very, very great distance. So all of that have been kept in mind and as such there is no deviation in the piece that you see…. At eye level, the outline will match the emblem," says his colleague Romel Moses.

In another statement, a senior official in the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs said, "there is no other similar depiction of the emblem, from the perspective of material and craftsmanship, anywhere else in India. Over 100 artisans from various parts of the country tirelessly worked on the design, crafting and casting of the emblem for over nine months to bring out the quality that could be seen in the final installation."

The concept sketch and process of casting of the national emblem on the roof of the new Parliament building has gone through eight different stages of preparation from clay modelling and computer graphics to bronze casting and polishing, officials said.

As suggested by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), the initial concept design was prepared by HCP of Ahmedabad. Then the clay and thermocol models were prepared by Sunil Deore of Deore & Associates, Aurangabad through Tata Projects Limited. The remaining processes were done in Jaipur and Delhi through specialised artisans, they said.

"Computer graphics, clay modelling and FPR model from moulds" were done at Aurangabad and the remaining parts -- "piece moulding from FRP statue, wax modelling process, mould baking and bronze casting (foundry process)" were done at Jaipur through specialised artisans. The last part -- "brazing and polishing" was executed and completed at New Parliament site itself, officials said. 

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The wall thickness of the installation is 5 -7 mm, they said.

During the unveiling event, Modi was joined by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh and Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.

The prime minister also attended a religious ceremony at the site.

PM Modi also interacted with workers involved in the building's construction and told them that they should feel proud of their work. They are making a very big contribution to the nation's pride, he said.

"I had a wonderful interaction with the Shramjeevis who have been involved in the making of Parliament. We are proud of their efforts and will always remember their contribution to our nation," he tweeted.

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The officials in the ministry said, the installation, depicts various elements of 'AtmaNirbhar Bharat', and "when it is seated at the top of the temple of our democracy – the Parliament building, it truly represents the paradigm of "for the people, by the people".

The Prime Minister on December 10, 2020, had laid the foundation stone of the new Parliament building here at an event that was attended by leaders from various political parties, cabinet ministers and ambassadors of different countries.

Modi had also performed the ground-breaking ceremony for the new building, being constructed near the old Parliament building.

The new building will have an area of 64,500 square metres.

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It will also have a grand Constitution Hall to showcase India's democratic heritage, a lounge for members of Parliament, a library, multiple committee rooms, dining areas and ample parking space.

The existing building is a massive circular edifice of 560 ft in diameter. The Parliament House Estate is enclosed by an ornamental red sandstone wall or iron grills with iron gates that can be closed when occasions demand. The building has 12 gates. 

(with PTI inputs)

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