High Dimension

The “fierce lions” of the Indian Parliament and the problem of the statues

YOU can always count on a statue to provoke debate.

Not just the elders commemorating those with a dark and deplorable past whose legacy is now doomed.

There is always a risk of setting anything in stone.

Or bronze.

The Indian government has been forced to defend the appearance of a national emblem statue atop the new parliament building amid criticism over its appearance.

Adapted from an ancient Indian sculpture, it was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week.

The 6.5 m (21 ft 3 in) high bronze cast shows four Asiatic lions mounted back to back on a circular disc.

Critics say the new lions look “fierce” and a departure from their original portrayal.

Opposition leaders have also criticized the government, saying the new depiction of the emblem – adapted from the Lion Capital of Ashoka, a sculpture that sat atop one of the many pillars erected by the Emperor Ashoka during his reign in 250 BC – was a “brazen insult to India’s national symbol”.

But a federal government minister dismissed the criticism, saying the statue was a “perfect replica” of the original “except for the size”.

“Sense of proportion and perspective. Beauty is said to be located in the eyes of the beholder. The same goes for calm and anger. The original Sarnath emblem is 1.6 meters tall while the emblem atop the new parliament building is huge at 6.5 meters,” Hardeep Singh Puri wrote on Twitter, posting photos comparing the original emblem and the new statue.

Sunil Deora, one of the two sculptors who created the statue, said the perceived difference in the lion’s behavior was due to the “scale and dimension” of the new emblem.

“If you look at the lion capital of Sarnath from below, it will look like the emblem of parliament,” the 49-year-old sculptor told The Indian Express.

Prime Minister Modi had shared a video of the unveiling which showed the cast – weighing 9,500kg (20,943lbs) – atop the central foyer of the new parliament building.

A senior government official called the installation of the emblem an “important milestone in the decolonization” of the capital.

But many social media users have pointed out that the behavior of the lions in the new cast differs significantly from the original depiction and that instead of looking “benevolent and majestic” they are now “growling”.

That’s the problem with the eyes of the beholder. Everyone sees things differently. Is this statue of Cristiano Ronaldo at Madeira airport really ugly or is he really an epitome of true beauty?

My favorite terrible statue is that of Andy Murray.

When you win the Shanghai Masters tennis tournament in China, it’s not just a nice check you get.

In 2010, organizers presented the winner – who turned out to be Murray – with a larger-than-life representation of themselves as a Chinese warrior.

A Chinese warrior holding a tennis racket.

There’s a classic shot of Murray standing next to his giant statue trying not to wince.

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