Ashoka Pillar

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Ashoka Pillar


While in Sarnath don’t miss to visit the renowned Ashoka Pillar. Built by Emperor Ashoka during his reign this pillar is one amongst 19 pillars which were erected throughout northern India. The Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath is about 15.24 m in height and weighs 50 tons. The four-lion sculpture placed atop this pillar is now treasured in the Archeological Museum of Sarnath.

The Ashoka Pillar can be visited in the museum. An inverted lotus flower forms a platform for this pillar and at the top are four lions sitting back to back facing the four directions. Other illustrations on the pillar include an elephant, a galloping horse, a bull, and a lion, separated by intervening spooked chariot-wheels – the Dharma Chakra with 24 spokes.

The Ashoka Column, now placed in the Sarnath’s Archaeological Museum, is carved out of a single block of polished sandstone. The lion sculpture on the pillar also known as the Lion Capital of Ashoka has been adopted as the national emblem of India and the wheel ‘Ashoka Chakra’ from its base was placed onto the centre of India’s National Flag. The Sarnath Pillar also bears one of the edicts of Ashoka, which reads, ‘No one shall cause division in the order of monks.’ Emperor Ashoka used to believe in Buddhism and was against any type of division within the Buddhist community.

The four lions on the Capital Pillar symbolise Ashoka's rule over the four directions, the wheels are the symbols of his enlightened rule and the four animals (elephant, bull, horse, lion) symbolise four adjoining territories of India.

Best time to visit

Best time to visit Sarnath is during the winter months of October to March, when the climate is favourable.


There has been a religious interpretation of the Ashoka Capital Pillar according to which the four animals (elephant, bull, horse, lion) on the sculpture are believed to symbolise different steps of Lord Buddha's life.

The Elephant is a representation of Queen Maya's (Buddha’s mother) conception of Buddha when she saw a white elephant entering her womb in a dream. The bull represents desire during the life of Lord Buddha as a prince, the horse signifies his departure from his royal life and the lion finally represents the accomplishment of Buddha’s goal of attaining Nirvana.


One can visit the Archaeological Museum to see the Ashoka Pillar, which remains open from 10:00 am till 5:00 pm on all weekdays except Friday.

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