This is 26th January – the day we as a country got ourselves a new identity. The new identity needed some symbols – symbols of India that collectively reflect the different aspects of the country.
So this republic day, Let me take you around India with National Symbols of India.
Sarnath for the National emblem – Lion Capital of Ashoka
The Lion capital from a pillar of Ashoka found at Sarnath near Varanasi can now be seen at ASI museum in Sarnath. As soon as you enter the museum, the giant sculpture of 4 Asiatic lions facing four sides welcomes you. Lions sit on a pedestal with the relief of a wheel, a horse, a lion, a bull and an elephant. This pedestal, in turn, sits on an inverted lotus.
I have seen lion capitals at places like Vaishali in Bihar, but since this one at Sarnath is in front of you – you realize the size of the capital. They say a huge wheel with 24 spokes used to sit on top of this capital. Remember, Sarnath is the place associated with setting the wheel of dharma in motion. This is where Buddha gave his first sermon to his first 5 followers.
The lion capital together with the verse from Mundaka Upanishad saying Satyamev Jayate (truth alone shall triumph) completes the emblem. It can be seen on all the government stationary and all the visiting cards of government officials.
Of course, you can see it on all possible currency denominations.
Read more about others things to see in Sarnath.
Village Ponds for National Flower – Lotus
Lotus flower is found literally across the country. If you travel across India, you would appreciate that Lotus truly is a flower to represent India.
My favorite place to spot Lotus is in small ponds in villages across India. I remember we saw blue lotus at ponds of Sibasagar in Assam, in villages of Goa we see small versions of lotus along with big ones. When you see the water floating on the leaves and petals of the lotus, without impacting it a bit – you know why lotus is such a revered flower.
Lotus can also be found in ancient Indian art across the country. It is seen in both Hindu and Buddhist iconography. It is a symbol of purity & auspiciousness.
Check out this list of Rural Tourism Companies in India.
Jungles for National Animal – Royal Bengal Tiger
Royal Bengal Tiger is found only in the Indian subcontinent. Once upon a time, it could be found in most regions of India – if you do not believe me, look at the small Gram Devta temples where you will always find a tiger in some way or the other.
Unfortunately today you have travel some distance to meet these royal tigers. Thankfully, their population is increasing once again.
Other good places to see tigers are Sunderbans in Bengal, Ranthambore in Rajasthan, Bandhavgarh National Park in MP. There are many tiger reserves across the country but not many are open to the public or have enough tigers.
Chambal for National Aquatic Animal – River Dolphin
River Dolphin or Susu is the fresh water river Dolphin that used to be found in abundance in River Ganga. Other major rivers like Brahmaputra and Indus also had their share of river dolphins.
At this point in time, your best bet to see an in-situ River Dolphin is Chambal River that still has some riverine ecosystem left in it. Although the reducing depth of the river is posing its own problems for the dolphins.
Do you know there is even a Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary in Bhagalpur, Bihar?
Bodh Gaya for National Tree – Banyan Tree
Banyan tree is a native Indian tree and can be traced back in all ancient Indian literature.
I had goosebumps when I saw the 5 Vat Vriksha or 5 Banyan trees that make Panchvati near Nashik. It is under this tree that Buddha attained Nirvana in Bodhgaya. You can still visit Mahabodhi temple at Bodhgaya and see a descendant of the same tree. Buddhist devotees pick up the fallen leaves of this tree and take them home to worship. You are not allowed to pluck leaves of this tree.
Remember the stories of Vikram & Betal, all happened on a Banyan tree.
Because of the cyclic nature and self-perpetuating qualities, Banyan tree is considered sacred. It is interesting how some of the symbols of India depicts the philosophy of the land.
A lot of places in India claim to have the biggest Banyan tree. It is impossible to find the original tree trunk most of the times as the child trees are almost as old as the parent.The biggest Banyan tree I have seen is near Bangalore – somewhere in Mysore Road, I think. It is an experience to walk around the tree as if it is a palace in itself. You can easily be lost in the labyrinth.
Rajasthan for National Bird – Indian Peacock
India’s nation bird Peacock is a colorful and beautiful bird. You have to see it dancing with its feathers open when it is trying to woo a peafowl.
Peacocks again can be found across India but I have seen most of them in Rajasthan. In Pench, I saw him beautifully posing on a tree branch showing off its colors.
Varanasi for National River – Ganga
Who does not know Ganga in India?
It originates from the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, then it flows through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar & Bengal before merging with the Indian ocean in the Bay of Bengal. You can visit Ganga at any part of its 2500+ km length.
My favorite place to visit Ganga is Varanasi. I know it is not clean enough there, but the ghats of Ganga at Varanasi have to be experienced, they can not be explained.
I also enjoy Ganga at Rishikesh, especially with its newly built Aastha path that lets you walk with the river peacefully. Although I am yet to go to Allahabad, where the three rivers meet.
Ganga though is one of the iconic symbols of India.
Delhi for Indian National Flag – Tiranga
You can see it on top any government building. Indian flag becomes ubiquitous on Republic day and Independence Day. On 15th August it graces the historic Red fort in Delhi.
However, on your next visit to Delhi see it atop the Indian Parliament.
Read More – How to visit Indian Parliament.
Orchard near you for Nation fruit of India – Mango
I do not think any Indian would disagree that Mango is the kind of fruits. Now, what Mango you like is purely a function of which one you grew up eating.
I love the Khatta Meetha Banarasi Langda or Chausa. People in western India swear by Alphonso or Hapus that I never developed a taste for. In Hyderabad, it was Banganapalli mango whose one piece was good enough for a meal for two.
Whichever Mango you like, make sure you pluck and eat straight from the tree at least once in your life.
What is your favorite Mango?