Ashoka, one of the powerful kings of ancient Indian history, is well known for his achievements in administration, religious policies, social order, and disseminating his ideas through pillar edicts. He mentioned in one of his pillar edicts that he planted trees alongside roads and wells for the well-being of animals and humans. He ruled the kingdom founded by his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya and succeeded his father Bindusara of the Maurya dynasty.
Almost all of present-day India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are under him before ascending the throne. According to Buddhist texts, Ashoka killed his 99 brothers to ascend the throne. Historians called Ashoka The Great because he was the only king in world history to give up wars after a victory and for his Dhamma (Dharma).
The Kalinga war (261 BC) was the 1st war fought by Ashoka after his ascension and eventually became the last after seeing the casualties. He fought this war to bring peace and power to his kingdom. He inscribed in one of his inscriptions that over 1,00,000 people were killed, 1,50,000 were taken prisoners and many flew away. The bloodshed changed the heart of the victor from vicious cruelty to exemplary piety. He then embraced Buddhism and sent missionaries to many foreign countries like Sri Lanka, Burma, and Central Asia.
Instead of physical conquest, he practiced cultural conquest (Dhammaghosha (beat of dhamma) instead of Bherighosha (war drums)). Some sources say that Ashoka was helped by Upagupta as a spiritual teacher. Ashoka asked all his subjects to follow his dharma and taught the people to live and let live. He even appointed Dhamma Mahamatras for propagating dharma among various social groups, including women.
Ashoka followed peace to an extent that he even prohibited animal sacrifices as they lead to violence, indiscipline, and superstition. This doesn’t mean that he is anti to Hindus, he followed notable religious tolerance by giving his subjects freedom of choosing their religion and he even granted allowances to anti-Buddhists. The main aim of Ashoka is to bring social order to his kingdom and for that he prohibited gay social functions in which people indulged in revelries.
However, unlike any of his predecessors or successors, he is the only king in India who followed a policy of peace, non-violence, and cultural conquest. In the 14th century BC, a pacific policy was pursued by an Egyptian ruler but Ashoka was not aware of him. We know all this information from the edicts laid by him in many parts of India.
The Sarnath pillar inscription from which the National Emblem of India was adopted was erected by Ashoka in about 250 BCE. Even though he possessed sufficient resources and maintained a large army, he did not wage any war after the conquest of Kalinga. From this point of view, Ashoka is far ahead of his age and generation.
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