Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath (also called the Sarnath Pillar), carved out of stone with a height of 50m, marks Emperor Asoka’s visit to Sarnath and one of the most attractive sight for the visitors.
An impressive statue, Ashoka Pillar is depicting four lions on the top in standing posture back to back and a chakra (wheel), renowned as Ashoka Chakra, at its bottom. The top is mounted on a fresco bearing the images of an elephant, a galloping horse, a bull, and a lion. All these animals are separated by overriding wheels of chariot over a bell-shaped lotus. The pillar is carved out of a single block of polished sandstone.
These animals symbolize the four different phases of Gautama Buddha’s life. The Elephant stands for the Buddha's notion in reference to the dream of Queen Maya, a white elephant entering her tomb. The Bull points out the birth of Buddha which happened during the full moon in the month of Vesak under the zodiacal sign Taurus. The Horse denotes the horse Kanthaka, which Buddha used for going away from palatial life. The Lion shows the attainment of enlightenment, the Buddhahood.
Ashoka Chakra has remarkably wedded to Indian culture and history. The significance of the figures of the lion lies in its selection as the official emblem of India and the inclusion of Ashoka Chakra in the Indian national flag. Though the Ashoka pillar is in a ruined state, collapsed and mutilated, its ruins still give a feel of its past grandeur.