The Ashoka Chakra is present on a number of edicts from the Ashokan period. This includes the Lion Capital at Sarnath which incidentally has been modified to become the national emblem of India. The Chakra symbolises the Budhhist Dharmachakra. The chakra in navy blue with its 24 spokes is placed in the centre of the Indian National Flag thus occupying a prominent space. On 22 July 1947, it replaced the existing symbol of charkha on the version of the flag which existed prior to independence.
There a few stories behind the origin of the chakra. In the Hindu holy books, the Puranas, there is a mention of 24 Rishis who had the power of the Gayatri Mantra. The 24 letters of the mantra are said to stand for these 24 Himalayan Rishis. The spokes of the chakra too represent these 24 Rishis amongst who Vishvamitra is the first and Yajnavalkya is the last. They are supposed to govern religion or dharma. In another intepretation of the Ashok Chakra it symbolises the Samay Chakra or the wheel of time. Hence, the 24 spokes stand for 24 hours of the day. The chakra thus represents the progress of time. At Gaya, when Budhha attained nirvana or enlightenment, he went to Sarnath near Varanasi and found his five disciples. Ashwajeet, Mahanaam, Kaundinya, Bhadrak and Kashyap were his disciples who had left him. His first sermon was to them and thus the Dharmachakra continued. Out of the 24 spokes, 12 are said to stand for the links that were taught by The Buddha. Ashoka took this motif and inscribed it on the pillars.
The Ashoka Chakra is also known as the Bhavachakra. The presence of this chakra, a Buddhist symbol, on the national Flag of India is an indication of the bond that India has with Buddhism.
The twelve causal links, paired with their corresponding symbols, are:
Avidyā lack of knowledge – a blind person, often walking, or a person peering out
Saṃskāra constructive volitional activity – a potter shaping a vessel or vessels
Vijñāna consciousness – a man or a monkey grasping a fruit
NāmarÅ«pa name and form (constituent elements of mental and physical existence) – two men afloat in a boat
á¹¢aḍāyatana six senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) – a dwelling with six windows
SparÅ›a contact – lovers consorting, kissing, or entwined
Vedanā pain – an arrow to the eye
Tṛṣṇa thirst – a drinker receiving drink
Upādāna grasping – a man or a monkey picking fruit
Bhava coming to be – a couple engaged in intercourse, a standing, leaping or reflective person
Jāti being born – woman giving birth
Jarāmaraṇa old age and death – corpse being carried
These 12 in reverse represent a total 24 spokes representing the Life-The Dhamma(Pali).
24 Spokes of Ashok Chakra according Hindu religion:
Self Sacrifice
Spiritual Knowledge
Moral Values
Spiritual Wisdom
The Fear of God
Faith or Belief or Hope