Ashoka Chakra: India’s Symbol of Enlightenment and Unity

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Ashoka Chakra: India’s Symbol of Enlightenment and Unity

The Ashoka Chakra, an emblem prominent in Indian iconography, finds its origins in the representation of the Dharmachakra, a seminal concept within Buddhism symbolizing the “Wheel of Dharma” or the pathway towards enlightenment. Historically, this emblematic representation can be traced to numerous edicts of Emperor Ashoka, with the Lion Capital of Ashoka being one of the most notable examples.

In contemporary times, the Ashoka Chakra occupies a central position in the Flag of India, having been officially incorporated on 22 July 1947. Here, it is depicted in a navy blue hue against a white backdrop, effectively replacing the charkha (spinning wheel) that featured in pre-independence flag iterations. Additionally, the Ashoka Chakra is the central motif in the Ashoka Chakra medal, which stands as the pinnacle recognition for valor in non-combat situations.

The intricate design of the Ashoka Chakra, with its 24 spokes, is imbued with profound symbolic meaning.

Specifically, the spokes correspond to the twelve causal links as expounded by Buddha, coupled with the doctrine of paṭiccasamuppāda (Dependent Origination, Conditional Arising), articulated in both forward and reverse sequences.

The initial 12 spokes are symbolic of the 12 stages of suffering. Their subsequent counterparts symbolize the absence of causality and effect, suggesting that, through heightened cognizance, the cycle of samsara, or birth and death, is halted, leading to the state of nibbāna. This wheel also serves as a metaphor for the cyclical nature of time. The twelve causal links and their associative symbols are as follows:

Avidya – Ignorance
Sankhara – Unconscious conditioning of the mind
Vijnana – Absence of consciousness
Namarupa – Name and form (elements delineating mental and physical existence)
Ṣalayatana – The six senses (comprising the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind)
Sparsa – Contact
Vedana – Sensation
Taṇha – Thirst or craving
Upadana – Grasping
Bhava – Becoming or existence
Jati – Birth
Jaramaraṇa – Old age and mortality.

Collectively, these 24 spokes symbolize the guiding principles of dharma. The incorporation of the Ashoka Chakra within India’s national flag conveys the dynamism inherent in life and the inertia associated with death.

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar played a pivotal role in revitalizing Ashoka’s legacy. His advocacy for the Ashokan Wheel’s inclusion in the flag served as a tribute to the Buddhist monarch.

Dr. Ambedkar underscored the need for celebrating India’s multifaceted heritage and viewed the Ashoka Chakra as a symbol transcending religious and cultural divides. Its integration into the national flag is a testament to India’s reverence for its ancient roots while simultaneously sculpting its contemporary identity.

Also Read: National Flag Of India-Know About It

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