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This is an Assignment on King Asoka written by Mary Walsh who is my friend.  I found this information about King Asoka is interesting So I decided to put it in to my web site.

 

 

 

 

 

A S O K A

 

 

          Clearly, this assignment on King Asoka has been extremely interesting and challenging based on the complexity of the readings.  This paper will provide a brief historical account of the Mauryen Empire taken from various sources.  Main sources of information come from the Arthasastra, the inscriptions of Asoka along with other literary studies of eastern and western perspective.  Topics for discussion fall under the following headings: conflicts and contradictions; religious theories; Asoka’s personal religion and political authority.   There are several questions to consider when researching Asoka’s Inscriptions; for instance, did they represent something new, or did they reinforce an existing order?   While researching this topic on Asoka, arguments were constantly being raised regarding Buddhism.    Considering the numerous legends and myths associated with Asoka’s involvement with Buddhism, this paper will explore whether or not Asoka’s political decisions were influenced by Buddhist doctrines.  It will also discuss Asoka’s political authority regarding the central administration of the Mauryan Empire; keeping in mind that he inherited an empire with pre-established laws and institutions as recorded in the Kautaliya Arthasastra.

 

SOURCES OF INFORMATION

 

“HISTORIANS of Ancient India generally classify the original authorities for the early history of India into four definite divisions: (1) tradition mainly based on literary records, (2) contemporary literature, (3) notes and accounts of foreigners who visited India, and (4 archaeological evidence [1] The main sources of information are the Kautaliya Arthasastra, the inscriptions of Asoka and the fragments of Megasthenes.  Literary studies such as the Bhagavata Purana deals with post-Gupta dynasties and are invaluable sources concerning the history of pre-Mauryan India. For example“, the Purina’s mentioned above report that a Brahman, named Kautalya assisted Candragupta, the first Mauryan King (Asoka’s grandfather) in defeating the reigning king of the Nanda dynasty; and is considered a very reliable source.   Thanks to the energy and enthusiasm

as well as the transparent earnestness of scholars in the field of Asokan script, we have to-day the history of Asokan studies. [2]    

 

 

CONFLICTS AND CONTRADICTIONS

 

Conflicts and contradictions were constantly being raised regarding Asoka’s inscriptions.    According to Dikshitar, travelers visiting India endeavoring to get true interpretations of the Asokan inscriptions often were unsuccessful.  Take for example, when two Chinese travelers, Fa-Hien and Yuan Chwang, visited India (in the 4th and 7th centuries) with the greatest of intentions to leave behind invaluable legacy of their writings (which has been considered by some people to have enriched our knowledge of Indian History) were later deemed to be unreliable sources of information.   The following account best explains the contributing factors to these unsuccesses.  First, as so noted, travelers could not find experts to correctly interpret the script contained on the rocks and pillars.  And second, the knowledge of the script had decayed so badly that the inscriptions became sealed to ordinary Indians of the 4th century A.D.  According to recent writers, “these travelers, have recorded wrong readings of those inscriptions, the results of mere guess work or hearsay information of local people not confessing to their own ignorance of the scripts.” [3]   Consequently,  “ A comparative study of the different terms and even of contents of both Asoka’s inscriptions and the Arthasastra has been attempted by many a scholar, sometimes leading to a thorough revision and a radical change in the original interpretation.” [4]   To conclude, the overall picture as a whole indicates that the Edicts enable us to construct a true history of the great Mauryan Emperor Asoka.

 

 

 

 

HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION

 

          “The Mauryan Empire grew in extend under Candragupta and got further expanded under Bindusara and Asoka.  Candragupta succeeded to the throne immediately after Alexander’s invasion and the latter incident involved him in international relations.  After having consolidated his Empire Candragupta turned his attention to the countries, which were under the Macedonian rule.  As reported, Selecus Nikator who was in charge of the Gren kingdoms in the Indian frontier relinquished his rights to that portion of the country belonging to the Indian Empire, the satrapies of the Paropanisadai, Aria, Arachosia and Gedrosia, and he was presented in return with 500 elephants.  Selecus felt the strength of the arms of Candragupta and arranged for peace through negotion.  This peace was affected with success by Megasthenes, the Gren ambassador of Selecus in 303 B.C.” [5]  More specifically, the Empire of Candragupta extended from Afghanistan to Mysore, however, in Asoka’s reign the territories included all the Dekhan and South India up to the frontiers of the Tamil kingdoms.  “The vastness of the Empire under Asoka can be easily gauged from the distribution of the Pillars, Edicts and the Topes which are usually associated with his name.  A significant fact is that Asoka has invariably caused the Minor Rock Edicts to be located on the borders of the Empire.”[6]  

 

 According to the Puranas, the Nandas reigned the earth for approximately 100 years and were then succeeded by the Mauryas.  As reported in the Mauryan Polity a categorized list has provided the names of the kings and their reigning periods respectively ruling for 232 years.  See below.

 

 

 

CATEGORIAL LIST OF KINGS

 

 

The Mauryan Dynasty: as recorded in the Mauryan Polity.[7]

 

          Candragupta                                                          ..        24 years       Bindusara (Bhadrasara).                                      ..        24 years               

          Asoka                                                                   ..        36 years

          Kunala (Asoka’s son)                                   ..          8 years

          Bandhupalita                                                ..          8 years

          Indrapalita                                                    ..        l0 years

          Dasona                                                        ..          7 years

          Dasaratha                                                     ..          8 years

          Samprati                                                      ..          9 years

          Salisuka                                                       ..        13 years

          Devadharman (Devavarman)                         ..          7 years

          Satadhara  (Sata-dhanus)                              ..          8 years

          Brhadratha (Brhadasva)                                ..        70 years

 

Omission of 4 kings (See Note: 1). 

 

 

RELIGIOUS THEORIES

 

Throughout my research on Asoka, much controversy was examined and argued as to whether or not Asoka was a Buddhist.  For example, one such argument by Pargiter would suggest that the Mauryas won great fame in Buddhism but at the same time were disgraced by some Brahmanical eyes.  Another investigation into this subject would conclude that Asoka by conviction became a Buddhist; whereas Dikshitar would argue against Pargiter by the following account.  “Granting for our present purpose that Asoka was a Buddhist by conviction can we conclude on this account that all the Mauryan monarchs favored Buddhism?  Surely Asoka cannot be taken to represent all the Mauryan dynasty.  There are other monarchs equally great and equally tolerant and generally accepted to be non-Buddhists.  Thus the argument of Pargiter is a mere assumption and lacks the support of tangible evidence.  It is again unconvincing.  A remarkable circumstance in this connection is that the successors of the Mauryan dynasty, namely, the Sungas and Kanvas or Kanvayanas are generally believed to be Brahmanical in their outlook and policy.”[8]

                                             

Dikshitar reports that before the discovery of all the inscriptions, researchers had simply to depend on the legendary accounts of the Pali texts and Buddhist literature, that claim the Emperor to be a Buddhist.  In Dikshitar’s opinion,  “the inscriptions have thrown welcome light especially with regard to his relations with his kith and kin though the legends make him out to be a blood-thirsty tyrant who killed his near and dear for the sake of the Magadhan throne.  This is only one instance among the many  which go to show that fundamental differences exist between the accredited authority of the inscriptions and the Buddhist legends.[9]   

   

Dikshitar argues, the inscriptions prove that Asoka’s Dharma was not merely Buddhist as he is often made out to be, but was also non-sectarian in character.  According to Dikshitar, Asoka tried to bring satisfaction to all sects-orthodox as well as heterodox of the Empire.  Accordingly, “Asoka felt it the duty of the State to afford protection and peace to every faith or creed so long as that creed or faith did not interfere with the neighboring faith, and so long as there was no misunderstanding among them.  Asoka promulgated a policy which helped the different religious sects to move on friendly terms, with no spirit of rivalry or rancour.” [10]

 

 

INSCRIPTIONS

 

The inscriptions of Asoka are important from political, economic and religious points of view.  These three categories go hand in hand according to some historians.   For example, “It is the narrow view of the writer in the Encyclopaedia Britanica (11th edition) who remarks (See Note: 2). The inscriptions, which contain altogether about 5000 words, are entirely of religious import, and their references to worldly affairs are incidental (See Note: 3).[11]      Perhaps the same view is held by another authority, E. Hultzsch, who says: “His Edicts are not concerned with public affairs, but are of an almost purely religious character.” (See Note:4)[12]    According to Dikshitar, “This is due to the lack of correct understanding of the ancient Hindu ideal of politics and religion.  To the ancient Hindus politics and religion were intertwined, and neither could exist by itself.  In fact secular affairs, as we understand them to day, were largely governed by religious and ethical ideas and ideals. (See Note: 5) [13]   

 

As previously mentioned questions regarding Asoka’s political and religious interests were raised.  To pursue this further we will look at two points of view regarding Asoka’s stand on the slaughter of animals. The first account is directed towards the fact that the Emperor was more concerned with the material welfare of the state; “Asoka’s interest in live-stock, in its improvements and efficiency, in agriculture and in the census for taxation and other purposes bears testimony to the fact that the Emperor was much concern with the material welfare of the State.” [14]

 

The second account is directed towards the sacredness of life so quoted in the Fourteen Rock Edicts, Edict 1. “THE SACREDNESS OF LIFE – This pious edict has been written command of His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King. Here [in the capital] no animal may be slaughtered for sacrifice, nor may the holiday-feast be held, because His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King sees much offence in the holiday-feast, although in certain places holiday – feasts are excellent in the sight of His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King.” (Rock Edict l. See Note: 6).

 

To conclude, it was reported that Asoka was not preaching Buddhism but pursuing the dharma established in the state here references were made to the chapter entitled sunadhyaksa with the relevant text in the First Rock Edict, and the second Pillar Edict, where Asoka enforced the laws of the Arthasastra even with regard to the animal kingdom.  Clearly, Anoka was not against healthy sports where there was no slaughter of the animal. As reported by Dikshitar regarding Asoka’s actions against the slaughter of animals, “What he did was to abolish cruel and unhealthy sports; but he provided edifying shows.  On this topic it may be proved that Asoka did not go far from the prescription of the Arthasastra so far as the killing of animals was concerned.  Kautalya prohibited their killing for 15 days during caturmasya and four days of the full moon.  (These are accepted Hindu fast-days) In the same way Asoka [See Fifth Pillar Edict] did not discontinue their killing for his kitchen, forbade their killing on fast days (anuposatham). A remarkable circumstance in this connection is the common use of the term caturmasya both in the Arthasastra and the inscriptions.  This coincidence demonstrates beyond doubt that Asoka was not preaching Buddhism but was pursuing the dharma established in the state.” [15]  

 

ASOKA’S PERSONAL RELIGION

 

One of the problems that come up when discussing Asoka’s faith in Buddhist doctrines, is that according to some historians there were no religious systems such as Jainism and Buddhism at that time. As noted by Dikshitar, “one cannot deny that there were monastic sects embracing the ideas and ideals inculcated by the founders, Mahavira and Gautama.  These monastic sects had not yet spread to such an extent as to assume the dimensions of what one may ordinarily understand by the term religion.”[16]

 

“The history of Buddhism in the Mauryan epoch was still the story of the monastic sect looking for royal patronage and affording no locus stand to a lay man.  If at this time Buddhism did not attain the status of a religion in the technical sense of the term, (See Note: 7) it then naturally follows that Asoka’s conversion to that faith becomes a fiction.  For the examination of Asoka’s religion, much depends on the evidential conclusion of the larger question whether there is justification for the assumption that Buddhism had been recognized as a religion, different from the established religion of the land.  And yet we have strange, but as we shall point out, incredible stories about Candragupta becoming a Jaina, and Asoka turning not to Jainism, and now to Buddhism.”[17]   

 

Rev. Fr. Heras, S.J., theory on Asoka being a Buddhist follows.  “That Asoka was a Buddhist is primarily supported by the Buddhist books which were reduced to writing centuries after the Buddha’s nirvana.  Writers who have thrown their weight in this behalf claim that the theory is partially supported by the inscriptions of Asoka.  There is a school of savants who deem that Asoka was originally a Jaina by faith and afterwards attracted by the Buddhist ideals and doctrines.  There is also another view that Asoka was neither a Buddhist nor a Jaina, but one who professed the Brahmanical faith.” [18]    

 

As previously mentioned there are numerous assumptions and theories in reference to the great Asoka and his professed Buddhist faith.  According to Ananda Coomaraswamy, Candragupta Maurya’s grandson Asoka (272-232) B.C., whose early faith may have been Brahmanical, Jaina, or possibly Magian, early in life became an ardent Buddhist.   Asoka first made Buddhism a kind of state religion, and sent Buddhist missionaries to other parts of India and to Ceylon, and westward as far as Syria and Egypt.  His monolithic pillar and rock edicts inculcating the practice of the Dhamma, or (Buddhist) Law of Piety are well known; he is credited with the erection of 80,000 stsupa, and countless monasteries; excavations have shown that his famous palace at Pataliputra formed a large and magnificient group of building.” [19]   One other comment, according to Prof. David Waterhouse of the University of Toronto, “It is hard to separate the real Asoka from the legends about him that grew up in Buddhist circles. This is often the case with persons who are idealized after their death…but it is fair to give the man some credit. Also the story about his sending missions to Ceylon probably has some basis in fact, even if they would have been as much diplomatic as religious.” (See Note:8).

 

 

ASOKA’S POLITICAL AUTHORITY

 

Asoka in his political role answering to the central administration of his kingdoms is concerned with the material and moral welfare depended on the political machinery of the land.  “Thus, the inscriptions of Asoka have a many-sided interest.  They are in every way concerned with public affairs, the latter consisting mainly of the propagation and preservation of dharma in the wide sense of the term.” according to Dikshitar.[20]   The following information provides an account of the power of the kings.  “The Mauryan king was again a constitutional monarch, law-abiding in the sense that he obeyed the law of the land.[21]  “There is the great conception of the ancient Hindus that the king could not be, and was not, a law-maker.  The law is eternal (sanatana) and is contained in the law-codes or the Dharmasastras of the different smrti-kartas, which were based on the sruti.  The king of the land was to act according to the laws prescribed by these law-givers and he could not override them.  To override the laws already established was considered sacrilege.  If he did act contrary to the principles of the established law, people disowned him, rose in rebellion against him, removed him from the throne and set up another in his stead.  Therefore, the law of the law-books was the real sovereign of the land.  The king’s orders amounted to proclamations explaining existing laws or reviving those which had fallen into disuse.  He could not, and did not, make any legislation for the state.” [22](see Note: 5)

 

When deciding whether the inscriptions represented something new, or mainly reinforced an existing order of law you would have to consider how Asoka applied the law.  In other words, how close did Asoka stay within the boundaries of established laws?   For example, abolishing capital punishment.  “There is an exaggerated statement in the Asokavadana where Asoka is said to have totally abolished capital punishment on account of his repentance for having caused death to a monk who was his own unfortunate brother. (See Divyavadana, asokavadans section; Dikshitar, pg. 168).  Dikshitar uses the inscriptions themselves to prove this statement has no basis.  He further points out that the death sentence is recognized for severe and extreme forms of criminal offences.  Asoka, did not have the power to abolish the death penalty, rather he found ways in which an alternative punishment (other than death could be administered).  For example, “Asoka was prepared to mitigate the severity of punishment provided somebody interested in the culprit would get the sentence revoked by satisfying the judicial officers concerned as to their innocence.  This reminds us of the Kautalya’s advocacy of the release of prisoners on payment of proper compensation price.”[23]  Thus, Asoka’s influence as King along with his religious beliefs against the killing of human life was able to manipulate the system and make the laws work in his way.  Based on these facts it would be appropriate to conclude with this last observation. As noted in the Mauryan Polity under the Administration of Justice, specifically Heads of Law that “…the ancient Indian King was no law-maker.  His function was to administer the law already established.  This was one of the powerful weapons by which the people were able to check and curb the arbitrary powers of the king.”[24]

 

            In conclusion, this topic on the Inscriptions of Asoka was extremely interesting and challenging.  Considering the myths that developed in Buddhist circles about King Asoka it really was difficult separating the real Asoka from these legends. Questions were raised concerning Asoka’s personal religion as to whether or not his political decisions were influenced by Buddhist doctrines.  Recalling   points previously mentioned, one of the problems that come up when discussing Asoka’s faith, which is said to embrace Buddhist doctrines (according to several historians) is the notion that no religious systems such as Jainism and Buddhism existed at that time.  Dikshitar, backed up this theory by conveying the following message; “one cannot deny that there were monastic sects embracing the ideas and ideals inculcated by the founders, Mahavira and Gautama.  These monastic sects had not yet spread to such an extend as to assume the dimensions of what one may ordinarily understand by the term religion.”[25]    Conversely, Coomaraswamy, whose opposing theory claimed that Asoka became an ardent Buddhist and was responsible for making Buddhism a kind of state religion and sent Buddhist missionaries to other parts of Indian and to Ceylon etc. etc?    In my opinion, both sides presented strong oppositional arguments and it is due to these opposing points of view that make the task of determining Asoka’s true faith an absolute impossibility.

 

            Concerning Asoka’s political authority, as stated previously it was the general perception that “The Mauryan King was again a constitutional monarch, law-abiding in the sense that he obeyed the law of the land.” [26]  The great conception of the ancient Hindus was the King could not be and was not a law-maker.  As reported previously, the king of the land was to act according to the laws prescribed by these law-givers and he could not override them.  To override the laws already established was considered sacrilege.  The kings authority amounted to proclamations explaining existing laws or reviving those which had fallen into disuse.    All things being considered it is important to remember Asoka’s inscriptions were deemed important from a political, economic and religious point of view.  It was suggested they were entirely of religious import and their references to worldly affairs incidental, according to Dikshitar.  Yet another interpretation would say that religion and politics were intertwined, and neither could exist by itself.   Finally, there is no denying theses inscriptions can be and were interpreted in many ways and when deciding whether they represented something new, or mainly reinforced an existing order of law one would have to consider how Asoka applied the law.  It is my opinion that they did not represent something new; rather they enforced an existing order.

 

 

 

THIS SECTION ONWARD – TO BE OMMITTED

Edicts

 

 

Dikshitar’s research  presents several points of view regarding Asoka’s Edicts.  For example, “It is sometimes claimed with no justification whatever that Asoka’s Edicts were laws promulgated by the Emperor in utter disregard of this sacret tradition.”(see Note:6) {See Smith, Asoka, p. 92}  By this he means it is an erroneous position taken by the historian.  “Asoka has nowhere claimed that he made any departure in the legislation of the land.  He simply enforced the regulations which had fallen into disuse by long and continued neglect.  If Asoka did anything he revived old practices and put them in working order.  The idea that the Hindu king was a law-maker is not countenanced in Indian jurisprudence at all. To regard therefore the sasana contained in the Edicts of Asoka as amounting to legislation by the king is, to say the least, uncritical.  [He goes on to explain further] What Asoka did was the re-affirmation of old laws which had gone out of practice.  [Throughout his account of Asoka being no legislator, Dikshitar relies on references by V.A. Smith which follow].  He concludes, “Therefore the term sasana (rendered ‘ordinance’ by V.A. Smith} occurring in the Sarnath Pillar Edict (see Corpus, pp.161-3) and continued in the Pillar Edicts of Sanchi and Kausambi (Allahabad),  does not mean promulgation of a new law, but does mean a declaration of the old law without prejudice to the customary law or the samaya of the Arthasastra and Dharmasastras.(fn Dikshitar, pg 92).  Dikshitar summarizes “In light of the peculiar judicial concept of law as eternal, and samaya an important factor of the law, it is misreading the history o fancient India if we style any monarch as a law-maker.  In the nature of things and in the circumstances in which he accepts the crown the king is bound to be a non-autocratic and non-absolute.  In face ther is no place for an autocrat in the polity of ancient Hindus. (fn Dikshitar, pg. 94) It is necessary to mention that differences of opinion appear on page 98 of Dikshitar, questioning the serious belief that the Mauryan monarchs were absolute or autocratic.  Testimony to this assumption also appears on page 97 under the evidence of Arrian.  It speaks in addition to the Buddhist tradition contained in the Divyavadana , testimony of the Greek writer Arrian.  The point of view is in relation to the executive powers exercised by the Mauryan Council.

 

  

The experts reveal through a system of checks and balances.  There were various levels of government keeping things honest so to speak.  The central administration for example the Chambers of the Council and of the Assembly  where the representatives of  groups and communities would meet and discuss the affairs of state.  One such system is shown here,  “One was the the mantriparisad of which the important official was the Purohita who was the king’s conscience-keeper, or in plain language, confidential adviser to the crown in matters spiritual and secular.  In addition to other duties, these ministers with the Purohita were to guide the king in the right path lest he should fall into pitfalls due to carelessness. (Ar.Sas.,Bk.l,Ch.Vii.) (fn Dikshitar,pg94)

It is believed the Mauryan kingdom endured for a long time because the people willingly complied in the administration of the land.  The kinds ruled justly and in constitutional manners.  It should be remembered the Empire depended on the dominant personality of the Emperor. According to Dikshitar, “…the Empire arose under strong rulers and broke under weak ones”   (Seeikshitar, above, pg. 74) “There was, then, an institution, a Council or Assembly, the parisad of Asoka inscriptions which proved an effective check on the monarch by restraining him from going astray from the ordained path.” (See Note 6 or 7: check previous notes in terms of the numbers – refer to pag 95 fn 3. Two Indian scholars etc…..) pg 95. dik

 

 

PAGE 98; DIDSHITAR, REPORTS ON A CONTRASTING P-O-V

 

Most discussion on Asoka reflect a kind, intelligent and compassionate human being.  The Arthasastra pleads for a healthy gorm of government which also reflected Asoka’s concept of how his kingdom should be run.

As reported by Dikshitar, “Asoka’s aim was to win the affection of his people.  Just as a father would do his best to his children, so that they may enjoy life thoroughly and well by pursuing a righteous path leading them ultimately to the heaven of bliss, so Asoka wished to do to his people.  He wanted to see that every one of his subjects was happy and contented.  In a word, Asoka liked to follow the Rajadharma in such a manner that it would tend to the yokaksema of the state comprised of different communities of people.  Welfare and happiness (hitasukham) correspond to the happy phrase of the Kautaliya yokaksema.  It was then the ambition of Asoka to discharge his duty, namely protection of his subjects, in a way calculated to promote their best interests.” (fn Dikshitar, pg. 99).  

 

Dikshitar, referes to the standing of Dr. D.R. Bhandarkar, who he feels erred in examining the  real force that underlies the paternal conception of administration.  A stand which contradicts Asoka’s  methodology.

“A signigicant circumstance in this conncection is the paternal conception of the government so eloquently proclaimed by the inscriptions left to us as an invaluable legacy by Asoka.  Even to this concept Asoka was indebted to the Arthasastra.  This is evident from the fact that the Arthasastra pleads for such a healthy gorm of government.  It is unfortunate that an indologist of the standing of Dr. D.R. Bhandarkar has fallen into an error in examining the real force that underlies the paternal conception of administration.  He remarks: (Asoka, p.63)   “Just as children are solely dependent upon their parents who can do to them just what they like, the subjects were at the mercy of the king who was thus no better than a despot.” (fn Dik,pg98)

 

Dikshitar’s interpretation of  Dr. Bhandarkar’s remarks amount to the fact that every father is a despot.  He elaborates further to convey if the feelings of a father towards his children were to be despotic it would be impossible to cultivate homely virtues of peace and goodwill  which reflect the fruits of India’s culture  and thos of other cultures.  According to Dikshitar, “Nay, the notion o f a father being despotic lays an axe at the root of all human relationships, and is contrary to all religious creeds.  (mary, here try to link this passage to a Buddhist doctrine or do it at the end of the quote)  When we speak of parental feelings we mean undoubtedly genuine affection, transparent sincerity, and religious devotion to duty which consists in the bringing up of the children until they come of age and stand on their own legs.  This and this alone is meant by Kautalya in his Arthasastra and Asoka in his inscriptions. (See Note 7or8) refer to page 99 foot note l. according to Kaut then on to This was the paternal conception of the ancient Indian monarchy………..pg 99.

 

RELIGION

The true concept of Dharma has been raised by a number of distinguished scholars over time, but according to some historians it still is a problem requiring definite answers.  As recorded by Dikshitar, “…a tentative definition dharma may be taken to mean the totality of duties expected of every individual to his family, community, country and God.” (fn Dik,pg. 241)   

 

When discussing the dharma of Buddhism according to the late Professor Rhys Davids, “Dharma is not simply law but that which underlies and includes the law, a word often most difficult to translate and best rendered by truth or righteousness.”  And “The concept of dharma can generally be viewed from two standpoints, namely, the standpoint of ethics and that of the doctrine.” (fn, Dikshitar, pg. 45, and 243).    

 

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL SOURCE

ONE SUCH INTREPRETATION ON ASOKA

 

Ashoka (also sometimes transliterated as "Asoka"), the grandson of Chandragupta – the founder of the Mauryan dynasty – and the son of Bindusara, came to the throne circa 268 B.C. and died approximately 233 B.C. He is chiefly known from his series of rock and pillar inscriptions, which are found scattered in various parts of India and provide important information about his reign and policies. After eight years of rule, he waged a fierce war against the kingdom of Kalinga (Orissa of today) and was so horrified at the carnage he had caused that he gave up violence and turned to Buddhism.

In his efforts to propagate Buddhism, Ashoka built shrines and monasteries and inscribed Buddhist teachings on rocks and pillars in many places. He sent missionaries to countries as remote as Greece and Egypt; his own son, a monk, carried Buddhism to Sri Lanka, where it is still the major religion. Despite Ashoka's vigorous exertions of faith, he was tolerant of other religions. The empire enjoyed remarkable prosperity during his reign.

Some Indian historians think that his policy of peace led to the downfall of the Mauryan empire, which fell apart after his death. He was soon largely forgotten by Indian tradition and only remembered in Buddhist circles as a great patron of the faith. With the deciphering of his inscriptions during the 19th century, he took his rightful place in world history as one of the most benevolent rulers of antiquity.

 

 

 


 

[1] See V.A. Smith, Early History of India,4th ed. Pg. 9ff

 

[2] The Mauryan Polity, Dikshitar, (1953) pg. 39

[3] Dikshitar, pg. 40

[4] Dikshitar, pg. 44

 

[5] Smith, Early History of India, pp. 125-126

[6] Dikshitar, Pg. 197

[7] Dikshitar, pg. 4

 

[8] Dikshitar, pg. 5:Purana Text of the Dynasties of Kali Age, pg. 26

 

[9] Dikshitar, pg. 45

[10] Dikshitar, pg. 45

[11] Dikshitar, pg. 45

 

[12] Dikshitar, pg. 45

[13] Dikshitar, pg. 45

[14] Dikshitar, pg. 46

[15] Dikshitar, pg. 114

[16] Dikshitar, pg. 245

 

[17] Dinshitar, pg. 245 “In relation to Dharma”

[18] Dikshitar, pg. 276

[19] Coomaraswamy, pg. 15

 

[20] Dikshitar, pg. 90

[21] Dikshitar, pg. 90

[22] Dikshitar, pg. 91 :See note 5, re footnote #2 of Dikshitar

 

[23] Dikshitar, pg. 168

[24] Dikshitar, pg. 160

[25] The Mauryan Policy, pg. 245

[26] Dikshitar, pg. 90

 

 

 

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copyright by P.Jeya

September 2002