Emperor Ashoka: Emperor Ashoka, also known as Ashoka the Great, is a prominent figure in Indian history and a crucial topic for UPSC exams. Here are some key notes on Emperor Ashoka. Emperor Ashoka’s life and reign are essential topics for UPSC aspirants as they illustrate the transformation of a ruthless conqueror into a benevolent and compassionate ruler who contributed significantly to the spread of Buddhism and the promotion of moral values in ancient India.
Early Life of Ashoka:
- Ashoka was born in 304 BCE in Pataliputra (modern-day Patna, Bihar, India) to Emperor Bindusara and Queen Dharma.
- He belonged to the Mauryan dynasty, which was founded by Chandragupta Maurya.
Ascension to the Throne:
- Ashoka became the emperor of the Mauryan Empire after a power struggle following the death of his father, Bindusara, around 272 BCE.
- His ascension to the throne was marked by a period of ruthless conquest and expansion of the empire.
Conversion to Buddhism:
- Ashoka’s reign took a transformative turn after the Kalinga War in 261 BCE.
- The brutalities of the Kalinga War deeply affected him, leading him to renounce violence and embrace Buddhism.
- He became a devout Buddhist, following the principles of non-violence (ahimsa), compassion, and moral conduct.
Edicts of Ashoka:
- Ashoka is famous for inscribing his edicts on pillars, rock surfaces, and cave walls across his empire.
- These inscriptions, written in Prakrit, Greek, and Aramaic, are valuable historical records of his rule.
- The edicts promote moral and ethical behavior, religious tolerance, and social welfare.
- Ashoka’s Dhamma was a code of conduct based on Buddhist principles.
- It emphasized compassion, tolerance, and non-violence.
- Ashoka worked to spread the Dhamma both within his empire and beyond, sending emissaries and missionaries to neighboring regions and even to the Hellenistic kingdoms.
- Ashoka’s rule was marked by efficient administration, with a focus on welfare.
- He established a network of officials called “Dhamma Mahamatras” to promote moral and ethical values.
- He sponsored medical facilities and encouraged the planting of medicinal herbs.
Social Welfare and Animal Rights:
- Ashoka’s reign saw significant social welfare initiatives, including the establishment of hospitals and support for the elderly and disabled.
- He issued edicts protecting wildlife and promoting animal rights.
- Ashoka’s reign is considered a pivotal moment in Indian history, marking the spread of Buddhism and the promotion of moral values.
- His contributions to Buddhism and the promotion of peace and tolerance left a lasting impact on Indian culture.
- The Mauryan Empire reached its zenith under his rule.
Decline and Succession:
- The later years of Ashoka’s rule remain somewhat unclear, but it is believed that he ruled for about 37 years.
- After his death, the Mauryan Empire gradually declined and eventually fragmented.
By Team Learning Mantras