“Satyameva Jayate" is a phrase we have all seen on the National Emblem of India. You might have assumed that this quote was originally a part of the Lion Capital of Ashoka, but in fact, the original statue never had anything written on it. So where was this line picked from, and what is its context?
This is the first line of a poem in the Mundaka Upanishad. What is the Mundaka Upanishad, you ask? It is a poetic text of 64 verses that consists of a dialogue between the Sage Angirasa and, a person named Saunaka who was seeking spiritual enlightenment.
The original poem is something like this:
सत्यमेव जयते नानृतं
सत्येन पन्ता विततो देवयान:।
योनाक्रमन्त्य ऋश्षयो ह्याप्तकामा
यत्र तथ सत्यस्या परमं निधानम्।।
satyameva jayate nānṛtaṃ
satyena panthā vitato devayānaḥ yenākramantyṛṣayo hyāptakāmā
yatra tat satyasyaa paramaṃ nidhānamm
Translated, it means: "The truth alone triumphs, not falsehood. Through truth, the divine path is spread out by which the sages whose desires have been completely fulfilled reach the source of ultimate truth."
Now you might think that "Satyameva Jayate" is all about speaking the truth. If that were the case, there is another line in the Rig Veda that says "Ekam Sat Viprah Bahuda Vadanti," which means "Truth is one, but the wise speak of it in many ways." So what is the truth in the context of "Satyameva Jayate"?
Taken out of context, we might assume that "Satyameva Jayate" is about speaking only the truth. But when we delve into the real context of the original poem, it becomes clear that the phrase means an individual can live a happy life by being truthful to oneself and accepting one's reality. This helps one fulfil their desires and ultimately leads them to the source of ultimate truth, that is God.
Now we know the real source of "Satyameva Jayate," but how did it end up being a part of the Indian National Emblem? Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, while presiding over the Congress Session in 1918, declared that this phrase from the Mundaka Upanishad should be the slogan for the free nation of India. Later, in July 1947, Pandit Nehru introduced a resolution to adopt Ashoka's Lion Capital along with "Satyameva Jayate" as the emblem of India, and the resolution was accepted in December 1947.
So that's the story of this simple yet profound phrase, "Satyameva Jayate." Until next time, let the truth alone triumph!