Ashoka the Great
Ashoka From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia “Asoka” redirects here.For other uses, see Ashoka (disambiguation).|Ashoka the Great | |Mauryan Samrat | |[pic] | |A Chakravatin (possibly Ashoka) first century BC/CE.
Andhra Pradesh, | |Amaravati.
Preserved at Musee Guimet | |Reign |273-232 BC | |Coronation |270 BC | |Full name |Ashoka Bindusara Maurya | |Titles |Samrat.
Other titles include Devanampriya Priyadarsi, | | |Dhammarakhit, Dharmarajika, Dhammarajika, Dhammaradnya, | | |Chakravartin, Samrat, Radnyashreshtha, Magadhrajshretha, | | |Magadharajan, Bhupatin, Mauryaraja, Aryashok, Dharmashok, | | |Dhammashok, Asokvadhhan , Ashokavardhan, | | |Prajapita,Dhammanayak, Dharmanayak | |Born |304 BC | |Birthplace |Pataliputra, Patna | |Died |232 BC (aged 72) | |Place of death |Pataliputra, Patna | |Buried |Ashes immersed in theGanges River, possibly | | |atVaranasi, Cremated 232 BC, less than 24 hours after death | |Predecessor |Bindusara | |Successor |Dasaratha Maurya | |Consort |Maharani Devi | |Wives |Rani Tishyaraksha | | |Rani Padmavati | | |Rani Kaurwaki | |Offspring |Mahendra,Sanghamitra,Teevala, Kunala | |Royal House |Mauryan dynasty | |Father |Bindusara | |Mother |Rani Dharma or Shubhadrangi | |Religious |Buddhism,
Humanism | |beliefs | | Ashoka (Devanagari: ???? , IAST: Asoka, IPA: [a?? o? k? , 304–232 BC), popularly known as Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from 269 BC to 232 BC. 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-dayPakistan, Afghanistan in the west, to the present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam in the east, and as far south as northern Kerala andAndhra. He conquered the kingdom named Kalinga, which no one in his dynasty had conquered starting from Chandragupta Maurya. His reign was headquartered in Magadha (present-day Bihar, India). 1]
He embraced Buddhism from the prevalentVedic 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 to the propagation of Buddhism across Asia and established monuments marking several significant sites in the life of Gautama Buddha. Ashoka was a devotee of ahimsa (nonviolence), love, truth,tolerance and vegetarianism. Ashoka is remembered in history as a philanthropicadministrator. In the history of India Ashoka is referred to as Samraat Chakravartin Ashoka- the Emperor of Emperors Ashoka. His name “asoka” means “without sorrow” inSanskrit (a= no/without, soka= sorrow or worry).
In his edicts, he is referred to as Devanampriya (Devanagari: ???????????? )/Devana? iya or “The Beloved Of The Gods”, and Priyadarsin (Devanagari: ?????????? )/Piyadassi or “He who regards everyone with affection”. Another title of his is Dhamma (prakrit: ????? ), “Lawful, Religious, Righteous”. Renowned British author and social critic H. G. Wells in his bestselling two-volume work, The Outline of History (1920), wrote of emperor Ashoka: In the history of the world there have been thousands of kings and emperors who called themselves ‘their highnesses,’ ‘their majesties,’ and ‘their exalted majesties’ and so on. They shone for a brief moment, and as quickly disappeared. But Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day.
Along with the Edicts of Ashoka, his legend is related in the later second century Asokavadana(“Narrative of Asoka”) and Divyavadana (“Divine narrative”), and in the Sri Lankan text Mahavamsa(“Great Chronicle”). After two thousand years, the influence of Ashoka is seen in Asia and especially the Indian subcontinent. An emblem excavated from his empire is today the national Emblem of India. In the History of Buddhism Ashoka is considered just afterGautama Buddha. |Contents | | [show] | Biography Early life |[pic] |This article needs additional citations for verification. | | |Please help improve this article by adding reliable references.
Unsourced | | |material may be challenged and removed. (January 2009) | Ashoka was born to the Mauryan emperor Bindusara and his Queen ‘Dharma’ (although she was a Brahmin or Shubhadrangi, she was undervalued as she wasn’t of royal blood). Ashoka had several elder siblings (all half-brothers from other wives of Bindusara). He had just one younger sibling, Vitthashoka (a much loved brother from the same mother). Because of his exemplary intellect and warrior skills, he was said to have been the favorite of his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya. As the legend goes, when Chandragupta Maurya left his empire for a Jain living, he threw his sword away. Ashoka ound the sword and kept it, in spite of his grandfather’s warning. Ashoka, in his adolescence, was rude and naughty.
He was a fearsome hunter. He was akshatriya and was given all royal military trainings and other Vedic knowledge. According to a legend, he killed a Lion with just a wooden rod. Ashoka was very well known for his sword fighting. He was very adventurous and this made him a terrific fighter. Ashoka was a frightening warrior and a heartless general. Because of this quality he was sent to destroy the riot of Avanti. Rise to power [pic] [pic] Maurya Empire at the age of Ashoka. The empire stretched from Iran to Bangladesh/Assam and from Central Asia (Afganistan) to Tamil Nadu/South India.
Developing into an impeccable warrior general and a shrewd statesman, Ashoka went on to command several regiments of the Mauryan army. His growing popularity across the empire made his elder brothers wary of his chances of being favored by Bindusarato become the next emperor. The eldest of them, Susima, the traditional heir to the throne, persuaded Bindusara to send Ashoka to quell an uprising inTaxshila, a city in the north-west District of Pakistani Punjab region, for which Prince Susima was the Governor. Taxshila was a highly volatile place because of the war-like Indo-Greek population and mismanagement by Susima himself. This had led to the formation of different militias causing unrest. Ashoka complied and left for the troubled area.
As news of Ashoka’s visit with his army trickled in, he was welcomed by the revolting militias and the uprising ended without a conflict. (The province revolted once more during the rule of Ashoka, but this time the uprising was crushed with an iron fist) Ashoka’s success made his stepbrothers more wary of his intentions of becoming the emperor and more incitements from Susima led Bindusara to send Ashoka into exile. He went intoKalinga and stayed there incognito. There he met a fisher woman named Kaurwaki, with whom he fell in love. Recently found inscriptions indicate that she would later become either his second or third queen. Meanwhile, there was again a violent uprising in Ujjain.
Emperor Bindusara summoned Ashoka out of exile after two years. Ashoka went into Ujjain and in the ensuing battle was injured, but his generals quelled the uprising. Ashoka was treated in hiding so that loyalists of the Susima group could not harm him. He was treated by Buddhist monks and nuns. This is where he first learned the teachings of the Buddha, and it is also where he met Devi, who was his personal nurse and the daughter of a merchant from adjacent Vidisha. After recovering, he married her. It was quite unacceptable to Bindusara that one of his sons should marry a Buddhist, so he did not allow Ashoka to stay in Pataliputra but instead sent him back to Ujjain and made him the governor of Ujjain.
The following year passed quite peacefully for him, and Devi was about to deliver his first child. In the meanwhile, Emperor Bindusara died. As the news of the unborn heir to the throne spread, Prince Susima planned the execution of the unborn child; however, the assassin who came to kill Devi and her child killed his mother instead. Ashoka beheads his elder brother to ascend the throne. In this phase of his life, Ashoka was known for his unquenched thirst for wars and campaigns launched to conquer the lands of other rulers and became known as Chandashok (terrible Ashoka), the Sanskrit word chanda meaning cruel, fierce, or rude, Chandi-devi being associated with Kali.
Ascending the throne, Ashoka expanded his empire over the next eight years, from the present-day boundaries and regions of Burma–Bangladesh and the state of Assam in India in the east to the territory of present-day Iran / Persia and Afghanistan in the west; from the Pamir Knots in the north almost to the peninsular of southern India (i. e. Tamilnadu / Andhra pradesh). Conquest of Kalinga Main article: Kalinga War While the early part of Ashoka’s reign was apparently quite bloodthirsty, he became a follower of the Buddha’s teaching after his conquest of Kalinga on the east coast of India in the present-day state of Orissa. Kalinga was a state that prided itself on its sovereignty and democracy. With its monarchical parliamentary democracy it was quite an exception in ancient Bharata where there existed the concept of Rajdharma. Rajdharma means the duty of the rulers, which was intrinsically entwined with the concept of bravery and Kshatriya dharma.
The pretext for the start of the Kalinga War (265 BC or 263 BC) is uncertain. One of Susima’s brothers might have fled to Kalinga and found official refuge there. This enraged Ashoka immensely. He was advised by his ministers to attack Kalinga for this act of treachery. Ashoka then asked Kalinga’s royalty to submit before his supremacy. When they defied this diktat, Ashoka sent one of his generals to Kalinga to make them submit. The general and his forces were, however, completely routed through the skilled tact of Kalinga’s commander-in-chief. Ashoka, baffled at this defeat, attacked with the greatest invasion ever recorded in Indian history until then.
Kalinga put up a stiff resistance, but they were no match for Ashoka’s brutal strength. The whole of Kalinga was plundered and destroyed. Ashoka’s later edicts state that about 100,000 people were killed on the Kalinga side and 10,000 from Ashoka’s army. Thousands of men and women were deported. Buddhist conversion |[pic] |This article needs additional citations for verification. | | |Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced | | |material may be challenged and removed. (March 2009) | [pic] [pic] A similar four “Indian lion” Lion Capital of Ashoka atop an ntact Ashoka Pillar at Wat U Mong near Chiang Mai, Thailandshowing another larger Dharma Chakra /Ashoka Chakra atop the four lions thought to be missing in the Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath Museum which has been adopted as the National Emblem of India. As the legend goes, one day after the war was over, Ashoka ventured out to roam the city and all he could see were burnt houses and scattered corpses. This sight made him sick and he cried the famous monologue: What have I done? If this is a victory, what’s a defeat then? Is this a victory or a defeat? Is this justice or injustice? Is it gallantry or a rout? Is it valor to kill innocent children and women? Do I do it to widen the empire and for prosperity or to destroy the other’s kingdom and splendor?
One has lost her husband, someone else a father, someone a child, someone an unborn infant…. What’s this debris of the corpses? Are these marks of victory or defeat? Are these vultures, crows, eagles the messengers of death or evil? The brutality of the conquest led him to adopt Buddhism and he used his position to propagate the relatively new religion to new heights, as far as ancient Rome and Egypt. He made Buddhism his state religion around 260 BC, and propagated it and preached it within his domain and worldwide from about 250 BC. Emperor Ashoka undoubtedly has to be credited with the first serious attempt to develop a Buddhist policy. [pic] [pic] Ashokan Pillar at Vaishali
Prominent in this cause were his son VenerableMahindra and daughter Sanghamitra (whose name means “friend of the Sangha”), who established Buddhism in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He built thousands of Stupas and Viharas for Buddhist followers. The Stupas of Sanchi are world famous and the stupa named Sanchi Stupa was built by Emperor Ashoka. During the remaining portion of Ashoka’s reign, he pursued an official policy of nonviolence (ahimsa). Even the unnecessary slaughter or mutilation of people was immediately abolished. Everyone became protected by the king’s law against sport hunting and branding. Limited hunting was permitted for consumption reasons but Ashoka also promoted the concept of vegetarianism.
Ashoka also showed mercy to those imprisoned, allowing them leave for the outside a day of the year. He attempted to raise the professional ambition of the common man by building universities for study, and water transit and irrigation systems for trade and agriculture. He treated his subjects as equals regardless of their religion, politics and caste. The kingdoms surrounding his, so easily overthrown, were instead made to be well-respected allies. He is acclaimed for constructing hospitals for animals and renovating major roads throughout India. After this transformation, Ashoka came to be known as Dhammashoka (Sanskrit), meaning Ashoka, the follower of Dharma.
Ashoka defined the main principles of dharma (dhamma) as nonviolence, tolerance of all sects and opinions, obedience to parents, respect for the Brahmans and other religious teachers and priests, liberality towards friends, humane treatment of servants, and generosity towards all. These principles suggest a general ethic of behaviour to which no religious or social group could object. Some critics say that Ashoka was afraid of more wars, but among his neighbors, including theSeleucid Empire and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom established by Diodotus I, none could match his strength. He was a contemporary of both Antiochus I Soter and his successor Antiochus II Theos of the Seleucid dynasty as well as Diodotus I and his son Diodotus II of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom.
If his inscriptions and edicts are well studied one finds that he was familiar with the Hellenic world but never in awe of it. His edicts, which talk of friendly relations, give the names of both Antiochus of the Seleucid empire and Ptolemy III of Egypt. The fame of theMauryan empire was widespread from the time that Ashoka’s grandfather Chandragupta Mauryadefeated Seleucus Nicator, the founder of the Seleucid Dynasty. [pic] [pic] Stupa of Sanchi. The source of much of our knowledge of Ashoka is the many inscriptions he had carved on pillars and rocks throughout the empire. Emperor Ashoka is known as Piyadasi (in Pali) or Priyadarshi (in Sanskrit) meaning “good looking” or “favored by the gods with good blessing”.
All his inscriptions have the imperial touch and show compassionate loving. He addressed his people as his “children”. These inscriptions promoted Buddhist morality and encouraged nonviolence and adherence to Dharma (duty or proper behavior), and they talk of his fame and conquered lands as well as the neighboring kingdoms holding up his might. One also gets some primary information about the Kalinga War and Ashoka’s allies plus some useful knowledge on the civil administration. The Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath is the most popular of the relics left by Ashoka. Made of sandstone, this pillar records the visit of the emperor to Sarnath, in the third century BC.
It has a four-lion capital (four lions standing back to back) which was adopted as the emblem of the modern Indian republic. The lion symbolizes both Ashoka’s imperial rule and the kingship of the Buddha. In translating these monuments, historians learn the bulk of what is assumed to have been true fact of the Mauryan Empire. It is difficult to determine whether or not some actual events ever happened, but the stone etchings clearly depict how Ashoka wanted to be thought of and remembered. Ashoka’s own words as known from his Edicts are: “All men are my children. I am like a father to them. As every father desires the good and the happiness of his children, I wish that all men should be happy always. Edward D’Cruz interprets the Ashokan dharma as a “religion to be used as a symbol of a new imperial unity and a cementing force to weld the diverse and heterogeneous elements of the empire”. Also, in the Edicts, Ashoka mentions Hellenistic kings of the period as converts to Buddhism, although no Hellenic historical record of this event remain: The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (5,400–9,600 km) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas andAlexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni (Sri Lanka). —Edicts of Ashoka, Rock Edict 13 (S. Dhammika)
Ashoka also claims that he encouraged the development of herbal medicine, for human and nonhuman animals, in their territories: Everywhere within Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi’s [Ashoka’s] domain, and among the people beyond the borders, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Satiyaputras, the Keralaputras, as far as Tamraparni and where the Greek king Antiochos rules, and among the kings who are neighbors of Antiochos, everywhere has Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, made provision for two types of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals. Wherever medical herbs suitable for humans or animals are not available, I have had them imported and grown.
Wherever medical roots or fruits are not available I have had them imported and grown. Along roads I have had wells dug and trees planted for the benefit of humans and animals. —Edicts of Ashoka, Rock Edict 2 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, XII). Death and legacy Ashoka ruled for an estimated forty years. After his death, the Mauryan dynasty lasted just fifty more years. Ashoka had many wives and children, but many of their names are lost to time.
Mahindra and Sanghamitra were twins born by his first 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 Sanghamitra went into Sri Lanka and converted the King, the Queen and their people to Buddhism. They were naturally not 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 stratagem. 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. The language used for inscription was the then current spoken form called Prakrit. In the year 185 BC, about fifty years after Ashoka’s death, the last Maurya ruler, Brhadrata, was assassinated 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. Many 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 Empire it 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. King Ashoka, the third monarch of the Indian Mauryan dynasty, has come to be regarded as one of the most exemplary rulers in world history. The British historian H. G. Wells has written: “Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history … the name of Asoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star. “