(Last Updated on : 20/01/2009)
Often ranked among the topmost Indian emperors Ashoka ruled from 273 B.C.to 232 B. C. and belonged to the Maurya Dynasty. he was the last emperor of the Mauryan empire. Ashoka was the son of the Mauryan Emperor Bindusara and Dharma. He is chiefly known from his series of rock and pillar inscriptions, which are found scattered in various parts of India and provide important information about his reign and policies. After eight years of rule, he waged a fierce war against the kingdom of Kalinga (Orissa of today) and was horrified at the carnage The whole of Kalinga was plundered and destroyed; Ashoka's later edicts say that about 100,000 people were killed on the Kalinga side and 10,000 from Ashoka's army; thousands of men and women were deported. The bloodshed, the violence and the brutality of the Kalinga War made Ashoka depressed and distressed He underwent a mental metamorphosis and decided to give up violence and turned to Buddhism. Infact Buddha in the story 'The Gift of Dust' foretold that Ashoka will be born who will spread the message of Buddhism in India and around the world . In his efforts to propagate Buddhism, Ashoka built shrines and monasteries and inscribed Buddhist teachings on rocks and pillars in many places. The Ashoka pillar at Sarnath is the most popular of the relics left by Ashoka. Made of sandstone, this pillar records the visit of the emperor to Sarnath in the 3RD centuryA.D. It has a four-lion capital (four lions standing back to back) which was adopted as the emblem of the modern Indian republic.He also built thousand of Stupas and Viharas for Buddhist monks .The Stupas of Sanchi are world famous. .He started following an official policy of non -violence or Ahimsa .Wildlife became protected by the King's law against sport hunting and branding and he promoted the concept of vegetarianism He sent missionaries to countries as remote as Greece and Egypt his own son, a monk, carried Buddhism to Sri Lanka, where it is still the major religion. Despite Ashoka's vigorous exertions of faith, he was tolerant of other religions and treated his subjects, as equals .The need for tolerance on an egalitarian basis reflected in the public policy of the Government Any form of slavery also did not exist.
Ashoka saw the dharma as a righteous path showing the utmost respect for life. The dharma would bring harmony to India in the form of compassion. Serving as a guiding light, a voice of conscious that is the dharma can lead one to be a respectful, responsible human being. Dharma became the link between the King and the commoner and everyone lived by the same law of moral, religious and civil obligation toward each other. The empire enjoyed remarkable prosperity during his reign. Dhamma Vijay and not Dig Vijay became the goal of his life.
Among his works of public utility were hospitals founded for men and animals and to supply medicines. Trees and grovers were planted on roadsides well were dug, water sheds and resthouses constructed.