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The Indian government has defended the look of the national emblem on top of the new parliament building amid criticism over its appearance.

The new statue, adapted from an ancient Indian sculpture, was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

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

Critics say the new lions look “ferocious” and stray from their original depiction.

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

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

“Sense of proportion and perspective. Beauty is famously regarded as lying in the eyes of the beholder. So is the case with calm and anger. The original Sarnath Emblem is 1.6-metre high whereas the emblem on the top of the New Parliament building is huge at 6.5 metres,” Hardeep Singh Puri wrote on Twitter, posting photos comparing the original emblem and the new statue.

The minister added that the if an exact replica of the original were to be placed on the new building, “it would barely be visible beyond the peripheral rail”.

Sunil Deora, one of the two sculptors behind the statue, said that the perceived difference in the lion’s demeanour was because of the “scale and dimension” of the new emblem.

“If you look at the Sarnath Lion Capital from below, it will look the same as the parliament emblem does,” the 49-year-old sculptor told The Indian Express.

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

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

But many social media users pointed out that the demeanour of the lions in the new cast differed significantly from the original depiction and that instead of looking “benevolent and regal”, they now “snarled”.

Some Opposition leaders said the change in the look seemed like an addition by the government.

Chandra Kumar Bose, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told NDTV news channel that he accepted the view that there was a change in the structure. “But let us not always criticise. Maybe India is different today,” he said.

The new parliament building – which is still under construction – is part of the government’s 200bn-rupee ($2.7bn; £2bn) plan to modernise old colonial government buildings in Delhi.

Opposition parties have criticised the government for the cost of the project and its aesthetics.

On Monday, Sitaram Yechury, a leader of the opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist), said that PM Modi’s involvement in unveiling the national emblem violated the constitution as it “subverted” the separation of power between the executive, represented by Mr Modi, and the legislature, which the parliament building symbolised.

Mr Yechury also criticised the prime minister for performing a puja – Hindu religious ceremony – at the event. Opposition parties also said that they had not been invited to the unveiling.

The new parliament building was expected to be completed by August 2022 in time for the country’s celebrations of 75 years of independence. But officials later said the building would be complete only in October.

Published By Odoh Dominic Chukwuemeka

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