King Ashoka AND it’s Legecy


Ashoka the Great

Bindusara died in 272 BCE, and was succeeded by his son, Ashoka the Great (304-232 BCE). As a young prince, Ashoka (r. 272-232 BCE) was a brilliant commander who crushed revolts in Ujjain and Taxila. As monarch, he was ambitious and aggressive, reasserting the Empire’s superiority in southern and western India. But it was his conquest of Kalinga (262-261 BCE) that proved to be the pivotal event of his life. Although Ashoka’s army succeeded in overwhelming Kalinga forces of royal soldiers and civilian units, an estimated 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed in the furious warfare, including over 10,000 of Ashoka’s own men. Hundreds of thousands of people were adversely affected by the destruction and fallout of war. When he personally witnessed the devastation, Ashoka began feeling remorse. Although the annexation of Kalinga was completed, Ashoka embraced the teachings of Buddhism, and renounced war and violence. He sent out missionaries to travel around Asia and spread Buddhism to other countries.

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credit:Extent of the Maurya Empire at its height in 265 BCE: Ashoka the Great extended into Kalinga during the Kalinga War c. 265 BCE, and established superiority over the southern kingdoms.

As ruler, Ashoka implemented principles of ahimsa (the principle of “to not injure”) by banning hunting and violent sports activities, and ending indentured and forced labor (many thousands of people in war-ravaged Kalinga had been forced into hard labor and servitude). While he maintained a large and powerful army to keep the peace, Ashoka expanded friendly relations with states across Asia and Europe, and sponsored Buddhist missions. He undertook a massive public works building campaign across the country. Among these works were the construction of stupas, or Buddhist religious structures, containing relics. One notable stupas created during the reign of Ashoka was The Great Stupawhich stands in Sanchi, India. Over 40 years of peace, harmony, and prosperity made Ashoka one of the most successful and famous monarchs in Indian history. He remains an idealized figure of inspiration in modern India.

The Edicts of Ashoka

Perhaps one of the greatest-known accomplishments of Ashoka was his creation of his edicts, which were erected between 269 BCE and 232 BCE. The Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, are found throughout the Subcontinent. Ranging from as far west as Afghanistan, and as far south as Andhra (Nellore District), Ashoka’s edicts state his policies and accomplishments. Although predominantly written in Prakrit, two of them were written in Greek, and one in both Greek and Aramaic. Ashoka’s edicts refer to the Greeks, Kambojas, and Gandharas as peoples forming a frontier region of his empire. They also attest to Ashoka’s envoys’ travels to the Greek rulers in the west as far as the Mediterranean. Ashoka’s edicts also mentioned social and cultural attributes of his empire, emphasizing Buddhism, though not condemning other religions. For this, the Edicts of Ashoka are known as an early document that promoted religious tolerance.

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An Edict of Asoka: Bilingual inscription (Greek and Aramaic) by king Asoka, from Kandahar. Kabul Museum

Early Life and Rise to Power 

 Ashoka, born in 273 BC, was the son of Emperor Bindusara and Queen Dharma. His birthplace, Pataliputra (modern-day Patna, India), marked the heart of the Mauryan Empire. Raised in a royal environment, Ashoka received a comprehensive education that included military training, philosophy, and statecraft. His early life was marked by a spirit of adventure and curiosity, traits that would later shape his reign.

His Ascension to the Mauryan Throne:

 After the death of his father, Ashoka’s ascent to the throne was not immediate. A power struggle for the Mauryan Empire ensued among several claimants. Ashoka, displaying his military prowess and leadership skills, eventually emerged victorious and assumed the title of Emperor in 268 BC. His rise to power marked a significant turning point in Mauryan history.

Initial Expansion of the Mauryan Empire: 

One of Ashoka’s initial acts as emperor was to expand the Mauryan Empire further. He embarked on a series of military campaigns, which saw the Mauryan Empire extending its boundaries to regions in the Deccan Plateau, Kalinga, and modern-day Afghanistan. His early rule was characterized by military conquests and the consolidation of power within the vast empire.

This phase of Ashoka’s life set the stage for the dramatic transformation he would undergo following the Kalinga War, a turning point in his reign and the history of the Mauryan Empire.

The Kalinga War


Details of the Kalinga War and its Impact on Ashoka:

 The Kalinga War, fought around 261 BC, was a pivotal event in Ashoka’s life and his rule as the Mauryan Emperor. It was a conflict between the Mauryan Empire, led by Ashoka, and the powerful Kalinga region, located on the eastern coast of India. The war was marked by intense bloodshed and massive casualties on both sides. The Mauryan army emerged victorious, but the cost of this victory was significant.

The impact of the Kalinga War on Ashoka was profound. Witnessing the devastating consequences of the conflict, including the loss of countless lives and the suffering of the people, deeply affected him. Ashoka was struck by remorse and guilt, realizing the futility of war and conquest. He realized that the pursuit of power through violence had a heavy human toll.

The Moral and Emotional Awakening Experienced by Ashoka During and After the War: 

The Kalinga War triggered a moral and emotional awakening in Ashoka. He experienced a profound change of heart, transitioning from a ruthless conqueror to a ruler deeply committed to non-violence and compassion. Ashoka’s transformation is often described as a conversion to the principles of Buddhism, which emphasized ahimsa (non-violence) and compassion towards all living beings.

After the war, Ashoka was filled with remorse, and he adopted a policy of “Dhamma,” which promoted peace, tolerance, and the welfare of his subjects. He actively sought to make amends for the suffering caused by the Kalinga War. His inscriptions and edicts, which were prominently displayed throughout his empire, conveyed his commitment to moral and ethical principles. The Kalinga War served as a catalyst for Ashoka’s commitment to promoting peace and the betterment of his people, marking a profound transformation in his reign and the history of the Mauryan Empire.

Thank you for your time and blessings 🙏❤️….

 @Puja Singh

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