- Ashoka the Great
name =Asoka the Great
title =Mauryan Emperor
caption =Modern reconstruction of Asoka's portrait
reign =273 BC-232 BC
othertitles =Devanampriya Priyadarsi, Dhamma
full name =Asoka Maurya
queen = Maharani
spouse 1 = Rani
spouse 2 = Rani
spouse 3 = Rani
spouse 4 =
spouse 5 =
spouse 4 =
royal house =
mother =Rani Dharma
brothers = [
date of birth = 304 BC
place of birth =
Pataliputra(Modern Day, Patna)
date of death = 232 BC
place of death =
date of burial =
Cremated232 BC, less than 24 hours after death
place of burial = Ashes immersed in
GangesRiver, possibly at Varanasi|
Devanāgarī: अशोकः, IAST: "IAST|Aśokaḥ", IPA2|aɕoːkə(hə), PrakritImperial title: Devanampriya Priyadarsi ( Devanāgarī: देवानांप्रिय प्रियदर्शी), "He who is the beloved of the Gods and who regards everyone amiably") and Dhamma ( Devanāgarī: धम्मः), "Lawful, Religious, Righteous") (304 BCE – 232 BCE) was an Indian emperor, of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled from 273 BCE to 232 BCE. Often cited as one of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka reigned over most of present-day India after a number of military conquests. His empire stretched from present-day Pakistan, Afghanistanand parts of Iranin the west, to the present-day Bangladeshand Assamstates of India in the east, and as far south as the Mysorestate. His reign was headquartered in Magadha (present-day Biharstate of India). [Dr. Ranajit Pal, however, points out that the first reference to Magadha is in an Edict of Ashoka near the North-west and that early Magadha was Magan in Baluchistan (western). The total absence of any relics of the Mauryas and Nandas in the Patna area shows that this was probably not Ashoka's capital. See Ranajit Pal, "Non-Jonesian Indology and Alexander", New delhi - 2002.] He embraced Buddhismfrom the prevalent Vedic tradition after witnessing the mass deaths of the war of Kalinga, which he himself had waged out of a desire for conquest. He was later dedicated in the propagation of Buddhism across Asia and established monuments marking several significant sites in the life of Gautama Buddha.
His name "IAST|aśoka" means "without sorrow" in
Sanskrit. In his edicts, he is referred to as Devānāmpriya ( Devanāgarī: देवानांप्रिय)/IAST|Devānaṃpiya or "The Beloved Of The Gods", and Priyadarśin ( Devanāgarī: प्रियदर्शी)/IAST|Piyadassī or "He who regards everyone amiably". Science fictionnovelist H. G. Wellswrote of Ashoka:
Along with the
Edicts of Ashoka, his legend is related in the later 2nd century "IAST|Aśokāvadāna" ("Narrative of Asoka") and "IAST|Divyāvadāna" ("Divine narrative"), and in the Sinhalese text " Mahavamsa" ("Great Chronicle"). Although there are many inscriptions of Ashoka, no coins which can be confidently linked to him have been found. This may be linked to the fact that his contemporary and neighbour Diodotus Ihas numerous coins but no inscriptions. Moreover, the Kandahar bilingual inscription clearly indicates that Ashoka was the ruler of this area but the coins point to Diodotus-I as the ruler. Dr. Ranajit Pal attempts to resolve the problem by suggesting that Ashoka was the same as Diodotus_I. [ [http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2007/2007-12-39.html Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.12.39 ] ] He maintains that Patali(28°19'58" La., 57°52'16" Lo.) [ [http://www.maplandia.com/iran/kerman/patali/ Patali Map | Iran Google Satellite Maps ] ] near Kohnouj and Konarak in the Gulf Area was Pataliputra. [ [http://www.ranajitpal.com A New Non-Jonesian History Of The World ] ]
An emblem excavated from his empire is today the national emblem of India.
Embrace of Buddhism
Relations with the Hellenistic world
Some critics say that Ashoka was afraid of more wars, but among his neighbors, including the
Seleucid Empireand the Greco-Bactriankingdom established by Diodotus I, none seem to have ever come into conflict with him - though the latter eventually conquered at various times western territories in India, but only after the empire's actual collapse. He was a contemporary of both Antiochus I Soterand his successor Antiochus II Theosof the Seleucid Dynastyas well as Diodotus I and his son Diodotus IIof the Greco-Bactrian kingdom. If his inscriptions and edicts are well studied, one finds that he was familiar with the Hellenistic worldbut never in awe of it. The Edicts of Ashoka, which talk of friendly relations, give the names of both Antiochus of the Seleucid empire and Ptolemy IIIof Egypt. But the fame of the Mauryan empire was widespread from the time that Ashoka's grandfather Chandragupta Mauryamet Seleucus Nicator, the founder of the Seleucid Dynasty, and engineered their celebrated peace. Chandragupta even supplied 500 elephants to Seleucus, which were critical to his success in his conflict with the Western dynast Antigonus, in exchange for peace (a state that would endure for as long as the Mauryan Empire existed, and was even renewed during the Eastern campaigns of Antiochus IIIthe Great) and the latter's territories in India.
Greek populations in India
Greek populations apparently remained in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent under Ashoka's rule. In his
Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, some of them written in Greek, Ashoka describes that Greek populations within his realm converted to Buddhism:
Fragments of Edict 13 have been found in Greek, and a full Edict, written in both Greek and Aramaic, has been discovered in
Kandahar. It is said to be written in excellent Classical Greek, using sophisticated philosophical terms. In this Edict, Ashoka uses the word Eusebeia(" Piety") as the Greek translation for the ubiquitous " Dharma" of his other Edicts written in Prakrit:
Exchange of Ambassadors
Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the ruler of Ptolemaic Egyptand contemporary of Ashoka, is recorded by Pliny the Elderas having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court at Pataliputrain India:
At the time of king Ashoka (260-218 BC), according to his Edicts.
Also, in the
Edicts of Ashoka, Ashoka mentions the Hellenistic kings of the period as a convert to Buddhist, although no Hellenic historical record of this event remain:
Ashoka also claims that he encouraged the development of
herbal medicine, for human and nonhuman animals, in their territories:
The Greeks in India even seem to have played an active role in the propagation of Buddhism, as some of the emissaries of Ashoka, such as
Dharmaraksita, are described in Pali sources as leading Greek (" Yona") Buddhist monks, active in spreading Buddhism (the Mahavamsa, XIIFull text of the Mahavamsa [http://lakdiva.org/mahavamsa/chapters.html Click chapter XII] ] ).
A "marital alliance" had been concluded between Seleucus Nicator and Ashoka's grandfather
Chandragupta Mauryain 303 BC:
The term used in ancient sources (
Epigamia) could refer either to a dynastic alliance between the Seleucids and the Mauryas, or more generally to a recognition of marriage between Indian and Greeks. Since there are no records of an Indian princess in the abundant Classical literature on the Seleucid, it is generally thought that the alliance went the other way around, and that a Seleucid princess may have been bethrothed to the Mauryan Dynasty. This practice in itself was quite common in the Hellenistic world to formalize alliances. There is thus a possibility that Ashoka was partly of Hellenic descent, either from his grandmother if Chandragupta married the Seleucid princess, of from his mother if Chandragupta's son, Bindusura, was the object of the marriage. This remains a hypothesis as there are no known more detailed descriptions of the exact nature of the marital alliance, although this is quite symptomatic of the generally good relationship between the Hellenistic world and Ashoka. ["Demetrius, who was a Seleucid on his mother's side, may conceivably have regarded himself as possessing some sort of hereditary title to the throne of the Mauryas, inasmuch as the Seleucid and Maurya lines were connected by the marriage of Seleucus' daughter (or niece) either with Chandragupta or to his son Bindusara, in which case Ashoka himself would have been half a Seleucid." John Marshall, Taxila, p28]
Information about the life and reign of Ashoka primarily comes from a relatively small number of Buddhist sources. In particular, the
Sanskrit" Ashokavadana" ('Story of Ashoka'), written in the 2nd century, and the two Pālichronicles of Sri Lanka(the Dipavamsaand Mahavamsa) provide most of the currently known information about Asoka. Additional information is contributed by the Edicts of Asoka, whose authorship was finally attributed to the Ashoka of Buddhist legend after the discovery of dynastic lists that gave the name used in the edicts ("Priyadarsi" – meaning 'favored by the Gods') as a title or additional name of Ashoka Mauriya. Architectural remains of his period have been found, Kumhrar, Patna, which include an 80-pillar hypostylehall.
The use of Buddhist sources in reconstructing the life of Ashoka has had a strong influence on perceptions of Ashoka, and the interpretations of his edicts. Building on traditional accounts, early scholars regarded Ashoka as a primarily Buddhist monarch who underwent a conversion to Buddhism and was actively engaged in sponsoring and supporting the Buddhist monastic institution.
Later scholars have tended to question this assessment. The only source of information not attributable to Buddhist sources – the Ashokan edicts – make only a few references to Buddhism directly, despite many references to the concept of
dhamma(Sanskrit: dharma). Some interpreters have seen this as an indication that Ashoka was attempting to craft an inclusive, poly-religious civil religion for his empire that was centered on the concept of "dharma" as a positive moral force, but which did not embrace or advocate any particular philosophy attributable to the religious movements of Ashoka's age (such as the Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Ajivikas).
Most likely, the complex religious environment of the age would have required careful diplomatic management in order to avoid provoking religious unrest. Modern scholars and adherents of the traditional Buddhist perspective both tend to agree that Ashoka's rule was marked by tolerance towards a number of religious faiths.
Death and legacy
Ashoka's Major Rock Edictinscription at Girnar] Ashoka ruled for an estimated forty years, and after his death, the Maurya dynasty lasted just fifty more years. Ashoka had many wives and children, but their names are lost to time. Mahindra and Sanghamitrawere twins born by his fourth wife, Devi, in the city of Ujjain. He had entrusted to them the job of making his state religion, Buddhism, more popular across the known and the unknown world. Mahindra and Sanghamitrawent into Sri Lankaand converted the King, the Queen and their people to Buddhism. So they were naturally not the ones handling state affairs after him.
In his old age, he seems to have come under the spell of his youngest wife
Tishyaraksha. It is said that she had got his son Kunala, the regent in Takshashila, blinded by a wily . But the official executioners spared Kunala and he became a wandering singer accompanied by his favourite wife Kanchanmala. In Pataliputra, Ashoka hears Kunala's song, and realizes that Kunala's misfortune may have been a punishment for some past sin of the emperor himself and condemns Tishyaraksha to death, restoring Kunala to the court. Kunala was succeeded by his son, Samprati, but his rule did not last long after Ashoka's death.
The reign of Ashoka Maurya could easily have disappeared into history as the ages passed by, and would have, had he not left behind a record of his trials. The testimony of this wise king was discovered in the form of magnificently sculpted pillars and boulders with a variety of actions and teachings he wished to be published etched into the stone. What Ashoka left behind was the first written language in India since the ancient city of
Harappa. Rather than Sanskrit, the language used for inscription was the current spoken form called Prakrit.
In the year 185 BC, about fifty years after Ashoka's death, the last Maurya ruler,
Brhadrata, was brutally murdered by the commander-in-chief of the Mauryan armed forces, Pusyamitra Sunga, while he was taking the Guard of Honor of his forces. Pusyamitra Sunga founded the Sunga dynasty(185 BC-78 BC) and ruled just a fragmented part of the Mauryan Empire. Much of the northwestern territories of the Mauryan Empire (modern-day Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan) became the Indo-Greek Kingdom.
When India gained independence from the
British Empireit adopted Ashoka's emblem for its own, placing the Dharmachakra(The Wheel of Righteous Duty) that crowned his many columns on the flag of the newly independent state.
In 1992, Ashoka was ranked #53 on
Michael H. Hart's list of the most influential figures in history. In 2001, a semi-fictionalized portrayal of Ashoka's life was produced as a motion picture under the title "Asoka".
One of the more enduring legacies of Ashoka Maurya was the model that he provided for the relationship between Buddhism and the state. Throughout Theravada Southeastern Asia, the model of rulership embodied by Ashoka replaced the notion of divine kingship that had previously dominated (in the
Angkorkingdom, for instance). Under this model of 'Buddhist kingship', the king sought to legitimize his rule not through descent from a divine source, but by supporting and earning the approval of the Buddhist " sangha". Following Ashoka's example, kings established monasteries, funded the construction of stupas, and supported the ordination of monks in their kingdom. Many rulers also took an active role in resolving disputes over the status and regulation of the sangha, as Ashoka had in calling a conclave to settle a number of contentious issues during his reign. This development ultimately lead to a close association in many Southeast Asian countries between the monarchy and the religious hierarchy, an association that can still be seen today in the state-supported Buddhism of Thailand and the traditional role of the Thai king as both a religious and secular leader.
Ashoka also said that all his courtiers were true to their self and governed the people in a moral manner.
Ashoka's Major Rock Edict
Edicts of Ashoka
Lion Capital of Ashoka
History of India
History of Hinduism
History of Buddhism
History of Maldives
List of Indian monarchs
List of people known as The Great
* Swearer, Donald. "Buddhism and Society in Southeast Asia" (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: Anima Books, 1981) ISBN 0-89012-023-4
* Thapar, Romila. "Aśoka and the decline of the Mauryas" (Delhi : Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, 1998 printing, c1961) ISBN 0-19-564445-X
* Nilakanta Sastri, K. A. "Age of the Nandas and Mauryas" (Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass,  c1952) ISBN 0-89684-167-7
* Bongard-Levin, G. M. "Mauryan India" (Stosius Inc/Advent Books Division May 1986) ISBN 0-86590-826-5
* Govind Gokhale, Balkrishna. "Asoka Maurya" (Irvington Pub June 1966) ISBN 0-8290-1735-6
* Chand Chauhan, Gian. "Origin and Growth of Feudalism in Early India: From the Mauryas to AD 650" (Munshiram Manoharlal January 2004) ISBN 81-215-1028-7
* Keay, John. "India: A History" (Grove Press; 1 Grove Pr edition May 10, 2001) ISBN 0-8021-3797-0
* Falk, Harry. "Asokan Sites and Artefacts - A Source-book with Bibliography" (Mainz : Philipp von Zabern,  ) ISBN 978-3-8053-3712-0
* [http://historyoflegends.blogspot.com/2007/09/ashoka-great.html Asoka the Great]
* [http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/king_asoka.pdf King Asoka and Buddhism. Historical and Literary studies]
* [http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/ashoka.html Detailed biography, including key dates in Ashoka's Life]
* [http://www.csuchico.edu/~cheinz/syllabi/asst001/spring98/Ashoka.htm The life of Asoka Maurya] s-ttl|title=Mauryan Emperor
years=272 BC–232 BC
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