Ashoka Chakra

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This article is about the symbol. For the military decoration, see Ashoka Chakra (military decoration).
Illustration of the Ashoka Chakra, as depicted on the National flag of the Republic of India.
Depiction of a Chakravartin, possibly Ashoka, with a 16-spoked wheel (1st century BCE/CE)

The Ashoka Chakra is a depiction of the dharmachakra; represented with 24 spokes. It is so called because it appears on a number of edicts of Ashoka, most prominent among which is the Lion Capital of Sarnath.

The most visible use of the Ashoka Chakra today is at the centre of the national flag of the Republic of India (adopted on 22 July 1947), where it is rendered in a navy-blue colour on a white background, replacing the symbol of charkha (spinning wheel) of the pre-independence versions of the flag.

When Buddha achieved nirvana (Nibbana) at Gaya, he came to Sarnath on the outskirts of Varanasi. There he found his five disciples (panch vargiya Bhikshu) Ashwajeet, Mahanaam, Kaundinya, Bhadrak and Kashyap, who had earlier abandoned him. He preached his first sermon to them, thereby promulgating the Dharmachakra. This is the motif taken up by Ashoka and portrayed on top of his pillars.

However, the 12 out of 24 spokes represent the twelve causal links taught by the Buddha. It shows cause and effects i.e. Pratītyasamutpāda. First 12 spokes represent 12 stages of suffering. Next 12 spokes represent no cause no effect. So, due to awareness of mind formation of mental conditioning stops. This process stops the process of birth and death i.e. nibbana. The twelve causal links, paired with their corresponding symbols, are:

  1. Avidyā lack of awareness -
  2. Sanskāra conditioning of mind unknowingly
  3. Vijñāna consciousness
  4. Nāmarūpa name and form (constituent elements of mental and physical existence)
  5. Ṣaḍāyatana six senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) -
  6. Sparśa contact -
  7. Vedanā sensation -
  8. Tahāna thirst -
  9. Upādāna grasping[1] -
  10. Bhava coming to be -
  11. Jāti being born -
  12. Jarāmaraṇa old age[2] and death[3] - corpse being carried

These 12 in reverse represent a total 24 spokes representing the Life-The Dhamma(Pali).

The "Ashoka Chakra" in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principle of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.[4][5][6]

The real reason for having 24 spokes on the Chakra is: According to Hindu religion, Puranas mentioned that only 24 Rishis wielded the whole power of the Gayatri Mantra. These 24 rishi in Himalayas are represented through the 24 letters of Gayatri Mantra. The all the 24 spokes of Dharmachakra are representation of all these 24 rishi of Himalayas in which Vishvamitra is first and Yajnavalkya is last who governs the religion (Dharma). Ashok Chakra is symbol of Dharmchakra and also known as Samay Chakra in which all the 24 spokes represented 24 hours of the day and symbol of the movement of the time[7][8][9]

The 24 Spokes of Ashok Chakra, according to a recent re-interpretation deviating from the Buddha's non-theistic teachings:[10][11][12]

  • 1. Love
  • 2. Courage
  • 3. Patience
  • 4. Peacefulness
  • 5. Magnanimity
  • 6. Goodness
  • 7. Faithfulness
  • 8. Gentleness
  • 9. Selflessness
  • 10. Self-Control
  • 11. Self Sacrifice
  • 12. Truthfulness
  • 13. Righteousness
  • 14. Justice
  • 15. Mercy
  • 16. Gracefulness
  • 17. Humility
  • 18. Empathy
  • 19. Sympathy
  • 20. Spiritual Knowledge
  • 21. Moral Values
  • 22. Spiritual Wisdom
  • 23. The Fear of God
  • 24. The Faith or Trust or belief.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See, for example, Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 149; and, Gombrich (2005).
  2. ^ See Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 279, entry for "Jarā," retrieved 19 Nov 2008 from "U. Chicago" at . More than simply "old age," the PED provides the additional meanings of "decay, decrepitude"; and, these additional translations are reflected in the Buddha's reputed words in the Jarā Sutta (below). However, for the sake of semantic conciseness, the compound term jarā-maraṇa is here represented as "old age and death."
  3. ^ See Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 524, entry for "Maraṇa," retrieved 19 Nov 2008 from "U. Chicago" at . The PED further contextualizes maraṇa with "death, as ending this (visible) existence, physical death...." That is, in Buddhism, maraṇa does not refer to death of the conscious process or the end of the associated suffering.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "flag of India". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  7. ^ “Representation of the 24 Spokes of the Ashoka Chakra” Ashokchakra/DharmChakra
  8. ^ “Viswamitra Composed Gayatrimantra”. Gayatri Mantra related book
  9. ^ National Perspective of the region and its people: Bharata to India: Chrysee the Golden, Volume 1 Chrysee the Golden, 2012, By M. K. Agarwal, ISBN 978-1-4759-07650, Page 156: What is Ashok Chakra/Dharma Chakra and what is 24 virtues of the spokes of the Ashok Chakra from a printed book from United States of America
  10. ^ “The Canon Law Society of India: the Dharm Chakra(Wheel of Truth)”. Is the one of web stated Dharmchakra page
  11. ^ National Perspective of the region and its people: Bharata to India: Chrysee the Golden, Volume 1 Chrysee the Golden, 2012, By M. K. Agarwal, ISBN 978-1-4759-07650, Page 156:24 virtues of the spokes of the Ashok Chakra Printed book from United States of America
  12. ^ “Ashok Chakra”. One of the Ashok Chakra's definition in Eastern Panorama