Updated | April 15, 2017 05:52 IST
Emperor Ashoka The Great was born on 304 B.C. to Mauryan King Bindusara and Devi Dharma in Patalaiputra. Now it’s Patna. He was the grandson to great Emperor, Chandragupta Maurya, who was the founder of Maurya dynasty. He ruled from 268 BCE-232 BCE. Ashoka ruled from the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan to the Bangladesh in the east. It covered the entire Indian subcontinent except for parts of present-day Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.He was given the title ‘Devanampriya Priyadarshi’.
Ashoka’ mother, Dharma(Subhadrangi) was the daughter of Brahmin Priest from Champa kingdom and she was allotted a low position in the royal household because of politics therein. Ashoka got the same sort of treatment among other Princess because of his mother’ place in the royal household. He had the only younger brother, Vithashoka and the remaining were his elder half-brothers.
Ashoka had great skills in weaponry especially with the sword as well as in academics. Bindusara who was impressed with the skills of his son was appointed as Governor to Avanti, there he married the daughter of tradesman from Vidisha, ‘Devi’ and blessed with two children, a son Mahendra and a daughter, Sanghamitra.
His elder brothers became jealous of him because of his growth as a great warrior and an astute statesman. His elder brother, Sushima who thought of that Ashoka was competent to the throne had convinced his father, Bindusara to send Ashoka to Takshasila to subdue the revolt. However, the moment Ashoka reached Takshasila, the revolt was ended as the rebels and people received him with open arms.
Later his brothers insecure drove him Kalinga and there he married a fisherwoman, Kaurwaki, who was his second wife. Ashoka had four wives Padmavati and Tishyaraksha including Devi and Kaurwaki. Post witnessing the uprising in Ujjain, Bindusara called him back from Kalinga. Ashoka first came to know about the Buddhism when treated by the Buddhist monks after he was injured in the ensuing battle.
Ashoka’ elder Sushima was appointed as the successor to Bindusara, who was seriously ill. Sushima’ despotic nature made the ministers turned against him. After Bindusara’ death in 272 B.C., Ashoka conquered Pataliputra and killed all his elder brothers except for the younger brother, Vithashoka.
Like his grandfather, Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka ruled the empire in an efficient and brutal way. Despite the Mauryan empire was vast, he wanted to expand further and became bloodthirsty. To Punish the criminals, he established a huge prison ‘ Ashoka’ s Hell’, in the north of the capital. He ordered his men to torture the prisoners cruelly in an imagined and unimagined ways and no one wanted to leave the prison alive.
About this prison, A Chinese traveler, Xuanzang(Hsuan-Tsang) who visited India for several years during 7 Century CE described that not even during his time, after 900 years of the Ashoka, the prison ‘Ashoka’s Hell’ was still remembered by Hindu Tradition.
During the part of expansion, Ashoka personally led a war against Kalinga(currently Orissa) to complete what his grandfather had already attempted to do earlier. With the goal of annexing Kalinga, Ashoka led one of the most brutal and bloodiest wars ever happened in the world history during 261 BCE. Despite the people of Kalinga lost the war, they had fought with honor and valour till their lost drop of blood. Ashoka’ military strength was far beyond Kalinga’ and the destruction was supreme with around 300,000 casualties. This war brought him change and regret the suffering inflicted in Kalinga. He renounced War and embraced the propagation of Dharma.
Post-war of Kalinga, Ashoka completely devoted to Buddhism. He controlled all the Indian subcontinent except for extreme southern part despite he could control it easily. But he decided not to. India became prosperous and peaceful after Ashoka stopped his expansion policy.
Ashoka instructed his famous edicts to carve on the stones and pillars in local dialects and in a very simple fashion. Through the edicts, he told about religious freedom and tolerance, to help the poor and elderly, medical facilities for all humans and animals, no living being were to be slaughtered, obedience to parents, respect for elders, kindness to all priests and ascetic whatever their creed, ordered to plant fruits and shade trees and also wells to dug alongside the road which would benefit travellers.
Some section of people were truly upset as their ancient ceremonies of animal sacrifices etc were limited to a certain extent as the animal sacrifices were banned by Ashoka in Mauryan empire. Even fishermen also got angry as per the edict of Ashoka no living being could be harmed.
Throughout his life, Ashoka followed non-violence and encouraged vegetarianism. Ashoka sent missionaries to far of places to propagate the ideals of Buddhism. He not only engaged members from Royal family but also sent them to propagate Buddhist ideals all over.
Emperor Ashoka left for the eternal world in 232 BC after ruling the Indian subcontinent for a period of approximately 40 years. His empire lasted only fifty years after his death.
Emperor Ashoka built thousands of stupas and Viharas for the Buddhist followers. The Great Sanchi Stupa, which has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This great stupa was also constructed by Ashoka The Great. The National Emblem Of India, Lion Capital Of Ashoka, four Asiatic lions stand back to back was adopted from the Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath. Besides this, Ashoka Chakra in National Flag also.
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