Ashoka-The Great King

Ashoka-also written as Asoka and Akbar are considered as great and noble kings of the world. Ashoka belonged to the great Mauryan lineage of kings begun by his equally great grandfather Chandragupta Maurya. He succeeded to the throne in 269 B.C.

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Although according to Buddhist sources, Ashoka is said to have begun as a tyrant and usurped the crown by killing all his possible rivals, these may not be facts but speculations.

After the war of Kalinga in the eighth year of his rule there was a complete change of heart. In his own words he accepted that 100000 men were killed and 150000 were taken captive. This he found very pitiful and grievous and resolved to follow the path of peaceful persuasions. Even the forest tribes which troubled the people living on the fringes were asked to reform themselves.

Thus keynote of Ashoka’s reforms was humanity in internal administration and abandonment of aggressive war. He leaned towards Buddhism and supported the doctrine of Ahimsa. He banned animal sacrifices, regulated slaughter of animals for food and substituted pilgrimages in place of hunting expedition. Thus he was responsible for the growth of vegetarianism in India.

Among his prominent social services was improvement in the communication by planting fruit and shade bearing trees along the paths and making rest-houses for the weary travellers.

He preached his thoughts by engraving them on the pillars which studded the important places in his empire. He saw to it that the language used in the edicts was the local language so that people could read and understand them. He addressed his subjects by beginning with Priyadarshi- beloved of the Gods and his subjects as his sons.

He spread Buddhism to the lands outside India. In Ceylon his brother Mahendra spread the Buddhism. Indeed he was a great king who towers above the other kings of his times. But near his end, he began to loose the firm grip on the reins of power. He died in 232 B.C. and empire began to fall apart. The governors who were controllers of the provinces declared themselves independent. Also it is almost a logical conclusion that if you consider a king as the greatest, his successors and predecessors must pale in his comparison.

Thus Ashoka was by any means no worldly dreamer but every inch a king, a little naive, often rather self-righteous and pompous but at the same time indefatigable, strong-willed and imperious.

Thus it is with good reason that the Indian Republic has adopted for the device of its state seal the capital of an Ashokan column.

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