But around 200 years after Darius died, a kind of king the world had never seen before appeared in India. King Asoka (also well-known as "Ashoka") abandoned violence and fear and adopted reason and also persuasion to ascendancy his empire. We know this due to the fact that of the huge number of stone inscriptions the he left behind. Unequal the boastful Darius, Asoka make the efforts to convince his subjects and also people everywhere to treat one one more with respect and also compassion. When he to be an absolute ruler prefer Darius, Asoka promoted ideas that would eventually end up being the structure for modern societies like our own.

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The Mauryan Empire

Alexander the Great, a Greek general from Macedonia, was one of the best conquerors of every time. By 297 B.C., Alexander and his vast army of foot soldiers, cavalry, and war elephants had dominated much the what is now India, Pakistan, and also Afghanistan. King Asoka’s warlike grandfather, Chandragupta Maurya, may have met Alexander the great when the Greek conqueror required his way into northern India. Alexander’s conquests may have actually inspired Asoka’s grandfather. Twenty-four year after acquisition the throne, Chandragupta had actually unified the numerous different cultures, ethnic groups, languages, and religions of north and main India. Chandragupta’s kingdom ended up being known as the Mauryan Empire.

After judgment for 24 years, Chandragupta came to be a Jainist. Jainism is a highly puritanical offshoot the Hinduism. Chandragupta abdicated the throne. He offered up all his possessions and also wandered his realm until he died of slow-moving starvation, a traditional means for Jainists to die.

King Chandragupta’s son, Bindusara ("Destroyer of Foes"), inherited his father’s throne. Bindusara ongoing his father’s armed forces campaigns and further expanded the Mauryan Empire. Bindusara had actually a variety of sons, including Asoka. Bindusara appointed Prince Asoka together the governor of an important province. Asoka must have displayed promise as a ruler. Bindusara apparently asked the young prince to placed down disorders in another province governed by Asoka’s larger bother.

When Bindusara died, a duration of turmoil followed. Evidently, Asoka and his brother fought among themselves for title to the throne. With the assistance of his father’s chief federal government ministers, Asoka took manage of the empire. 4 years later, in 269 B.C., Asoka was officially crowned king. The was around 35 year old.

Asoka’s realm was divided into 4 provinces that were, in turn, subdivided right into smaller regions. Federal government officials were appointed to preserve strict control and also to collect tribute and also taxes from every of this regions.

A special course of senior officials, dubbed mahamattas, to be responsible to the king for maintaining the villages, regions, and also provinces running efficiently. The king gave independent government to judicial mahamattas. This judges presided over civil and criminal cases and also had the strength to inflict fines, lashings, and capital penalty for serious offenses. Every officials were preferred for their loyalty and also were normally appointed through the king.

Although Asoka pertained to the Mauryan throne at a time of peace and economic prosperity, the great diversity of peoples within the empire threatened disunity. Asoka necessary a typical code of habits to bind everyone together.

At the time of Asoka’s coronation, Hinduism had been India’s dominant religion for centuries. Hindus believe that every living creatures are reborn plenty of times. They also believe that culture is split into strictly identified social classes, referred to as castes. An individual’s caste is established by his or she birthplace, family, and occupation, and also although numerous Hindus value the caste device for the social identify it offers them, the quality of life varies substantially from caste to caste. Hundreds of castes divide Hindu society. The uppermost castes guarantee wealth, power, and also privilege come nobles, warriors, and the rich, when members the the lowest caste, referred to as untouchables, space condemned to organize the dirtiest jobs and also have basically no civil rights or avenues for advancement. Today, education, legislation, intermarriage, and modern life are eroding the supremacy of the caste device in India, yet for hundreds of years, the Hindu religion strictly forbade social interaction between castes.

The Enlightened One

Although the Hindu religious beliefs was dominant in India throughout Asoka’s reign, a relatively new religion had started to challenge the ancient Hindu beliefs. Siddhartha Gautama, referred to as the Buddha ("Enlightened One"), lived in India 2 centuries earlier. Buddha taught that nonviolence, moderation in life, and also dedication come the treatment of others led to enlightenment. He also questioned the require for the elaborate rituals in Hinduism and also broke the caste rules by dealing with all world as equals. Siddhartha Gautama’s followers were referred to as Buddhists. After becoming a king, Asoka came to be a Buddhist.

Asoka’s conversion to Buddhism may have actually influenced the method he decided to preeminence his kingdom. In the Mauryan Empire, the king’s word was law. Asoka inherited absolute power. But Asoka decided to adopt a an ext paternalistic, or fatherly duty as ruler. "All men are my children," the wrote. Unlike many old rulers who embraced a new religion, Asoka go not create Buddhism as a state religion or urge that his subjects convert to it.


During the nine year the his reign, Asoka made decision to follow in the route of his father and also grandfather and go to war. The marched on Kalinga. The kingdom the Kalinga, located on the east coastline of India, controlled significant land and also sea trade courses to the south. It was likewise one of the few regions in India that had actually never been overcame by the Mauryans.

Asoka reportedly waged a battle of annihilation ~ above Kalinga. His warrior killed about 100,000 Kalingan soldiers in battles, and also thousands that civilians suffered and died when the conquerors drove an additional 150,000 Kalingans from their homes.

Within several months of his victory, however, King Asoka made an remarkable public declaration. That expressed sorrow and remorse for the slaughter and suffering the he had actually caused during his attack on Kalinga. That renounced battles of conquest. Although he retained his army, Asoka never ever went to battle again.

What caused this dramatic rotate in Asoka’s life? throughout this period he was becoming a Buddhist, and the teachings of "The Enlightened One" must have had actually a profound impact on him. However there were various other influences. Hindu, Jainist, and other religious thinkers, foreign visitors to the Mauryan capital, and an individual remorse all seemed to add to Asoka’s adjust of heart. King Asoka started to build a collection of ethics based upon his brand-new beliefs; he dubbed this collection of principles dhamma.

To Asoka, dhamma was a way for people to treat each other and animals through respect. Dhamma was related to dharma, which is the an essential law the Hindus, Buddhists, and also Jainists believe uses to every beings. Dhamma contained such concepts as respect and compassion for others, fair treatment of all, benevolence, non-violence, spiritual toleration, help the unfortunate, and the humane therapy of animals. "It is having few faults and many good deeds," Asoka wrote.

The Edicts that Asoka

Asoka went past simply preaching summary ideas. The attempted to offer practical guidance come his subjects in edicts that he bespeak inscribed on rocks and rock pillars for all to see. Called the Rock and also Pillar Edicts, these stone documents were composed in the language that the usual people. By do the edicts accessible to everyone, Asoka tried to bind together the varied peoples the his realm while he offered them a unique practical and also compassionate code of values to live by.

Referring to himself only by the imperial title "Beloved of the Gods,"Asoka addressed many of his edicts come the human being of the empire. Among the edicts to express Asoka’s remorse for the enduring he had caused the human being of Kalinga:

On dominating Kalinga the lover of the god felt remorse, for as soon as an independent nation is conquered, the slaughter, death, and deportation of the world is incredibly grievous to the beloved of the Gods and also weighs heavily on his mind. What is even much more deplorable to the beloved of the god is the those that dwell over there . . . All endure violence, murder, and also separation from their loved ones. Even those who space fortunate to have escaped . . . Experience from the misfortunes of your friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and also relatives. This authorized of all guys in enduring weighs heavily on the mind of the lovely of the Gods.

In 2 special edicts, he called upon his mahamattas in Kalinga to provide justice impartially and to acquire the affection the the people, who he referred to as "my children." many of the other edicts dealt with the welfare and happiness of all people based upon Asoka’s conception that dhamma.

The adhering to section summarizes a number of Asoka’s edicts. The passages in quotations room translations of Asoka’s own words.

"Thus speak the lover of the Gods. . ."


—No sacrifice of animals for religious rituals will certainly be permitted in the capital.

—The slaughter and mutilation of particular animals and also birds by anyone is forbidden.

—The king will no longer go on royal hunts.

—The king renounces win by battles of conquest. The lover of the god considers win by dhamma to be the foremost victory.

Public Works

—Hospitals because that people and also animals will be built.

—Gardens for cultivation medicinal plants will be established.

—Wells, trees, and rest dwellings will be put along roadways for the comfort of travelers and also animals.

Human Relations

—People should obey your parents and religious elders.

—People have to not mistreat your servants and slaves.

—People need to be generosity to spiritual persons, relatives, and friends.


—Religious sects "may dwell in every places."

—People must not strike the religious beliefs of rather "so the men might hear one another’s principles."

Welfare the the People

—My public representative will resolve the welfare of the aged, the poor, and prisoners.

—My public representative who are reporting the public’s business will have immediate accessibility to me at every times and places.

—My officials will certainly make certain that the federal government of the realm is run effectively for the welfare and also happiness that the people.


—Judges will be independent and also will practice uniformity in procedure and punishment.

—Wrongdoers should be forgiven as lot as possible.

—Capital punishment have to be provided with restraint and also the condemned should have actually three days to appeal their sentence.

— "It is good not to death living beings."

In his critical edict, most likely inscribed in 242 B.C., Asoka wrote: "The breakthrough of dhamma amongst men has been completed through 2 means, laws and persuasion. Yet of these two, laws have been less effective and persuasion more so." particularly trained officials, dubbed dhamma-mahamattas toured the empire regularly to evaluate the see of the people and also to instruct castle in the meaning of dhamma. King Asoka regularly toured v his dhamma-mahamattas. He also dispatched missionaries to international countries, "for I consider that I have to promote the welfare of the entirety world."

We know little about exactly how thoroughly Asoka’s edicts were accepted by his people. In his last inscriptions, title "The lover of the Gods,"Asoka appeared content the he had actually been successful. Asoka died in 232 B.C. ~ a regime of almost 40 years. Apparently, Asoka’s vision for a much more humane civilization died with him. His followers ruled poorly, and the Mauryan realm disintegrated and finally vanished in a little much more than 50 years.

Asoka was mainly forgotten till his rock and also pillar inscriptions, which quiet exist today, were translated over 2,000 years later. When Asoka failure to readjust his world, many of his principles proved to it is in timeless.

For Discussion and Writing

1. Exactly how were Asoka and Darius the good different type of rulers? just how were lock similar?

2. Just how would you describe a person who live his or she life according to dhamma?

3. What do you think to be the solitary most important idea in Asoka’s edicts? Why? do you think Asoka overlooked any important category in his edicts?

For further Reading

Nikam, N. A. And also Richard McKeon, eds. The Edicts of Asoka. Chicago: university of Chicago Press, 1965.

Thapar, Romila. Asoka and also the decline of the Mauryas. Oxford: Oxford university Press, 1963.

ACTIVITY: What Is Dhamma Today?

1. Type small groups. Every group will write 6 of their very own edicts, one for each that the six categories that Asoka’s Edicts detailed in the article. The edicts should problem issues of today relating to the categories, yet must also conform come the values of dhamma as described by Asoka over 2,000 years ago.

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2. The groups should inscribe your edicts on butcher file and write-up them roughly the classroom.

3. The members of each team should then define why their six edicts space an expression of dhamma today.