Ashoka The Great

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Ashoka The Great         Ashoka The Great

India : Great King and Patron of Buddhism

Ashoka Maurya commonly known as Ashoka and also as Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from circa 269 BCE to 232 BCE. One of India’s greatest emperors, Ashoka reigned over a realm that stretched from the Hindu Kush mountains in the west to Bengal in the East and covered the entire Indian subcontinent except parts of present day Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The empire’s capital was Pataliputra  with provincial capitals at Taxila and Ujjain.

In about 260 BCE Ashoka waged a bitterly destructive war against the state of Kalinga .He conquered Kalinga, which none of his ancestors had done. He embraced Buddhism after witnessing the mass deaths of the Kalinga War, which he himself had waged out of a desire for conquest. “Ashoka reflected on the war in Kalinga, which reportedly had resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and 150,000 deportations.” Ashoka converted gradually to Buddhism beginning about 263 BCE. 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 regarded Buddhism as a doctrine that could serve as a cultural foundation for political unity. Ashoka is now remembered as a philanthropic administrator. In the Kalinga edicts, he addresses his people as his “children”, and mentions that as a father he desires their good.

Ashoka is referred to as Samraat Chakravartin Ashoka – the “Emperor of Emperors Ashoka.” His name “Aśoka” means “painless, without sorrow” in Sanskrit  In his edicts, he is referred to as Devānāmpriya (Pali Devānaṃpiya or “The Beloved of the Gods”), and Priyadarśin (Pali Piyadasī or “He who regards everyone with affection”). His fondness for his name’s connection to the Saraca asoca tree, or the “Ashoka tree” is also referenced in the Ashokavadana.

H.G. Wells wrote of Ashoka in his book The Outline of History: “Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Ashoka shines, and shines, almost alone, a star.” Along with the Edicts of Ashoka, his legend is related in the 2nd-century Ashokavadana (“Narrative of Ashoka,” a part of Divyavadana), and in the Sri Lankan text Mahavamsa (“Great Chronicle”). The emblem of the modern Republic of India is an adaptation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka.

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