Ashoka (304 BC-232 BC) was the grandson of Changragupta Maurya and the son of Bindusar. His conversion to and support of Buddhism is often likened to the impact of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great's acceptance of Christianity in 313 A.D. His name "aśoka" means "without sorrow" in Sanskrit.
He ruled (273 BC to 232 BC) over an empire that covered major part of the Indian subcontinent. At its greatest extent, the Empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, and to the east stretching into what is now Assam. To the west, it reached beyond modern Pakistan and significant portions of what is now Afghanistan, including the modern Herat and Kandahar provinces and Sistan and Baluchestan Province in Iran.
The capital of the empire was in the city of Pataliputra (modern day Patna).
Emperor Ashoka was very courageous and a good administrator. When Bindusara became gravely ill, Ashoka succeeded him, although one hundred of his other brothers were mysteriously murdered. Many historians believe Ashoka had his own brothers eliminated so that he could succeed his father.In 273 B.C., Ashoka was crowned the king of Magadha.
8 Years after being crowned the king, Ashoka decided to annex Kalinga(Orissa) into his kingdom. This was last battle that Ashoka ever fought. Though Ashoka won the battle he was horrified by the loss of life and death of so many soldiers.
This experience changed him and he swore that he would never wage war again. He took-up Buddhism, and he vowed to practice only virtuous actions in the future. After instructions by members of the Buddhist community, Ashoka began to resemble the ideal leader, promoting prosperity and peace within society. He religiously followed the principles of Buddhism - that of truth, charity, kindness, purity and goodness.
Ashoka also asked his followers to take the path of virtuous action. He believed in non-violence and banned the sacrifice of animals. Besides this he opened clinics for birds and animals too. His good works earned him the name of Devanamapriya Priyadarshi.
He also propagated Buddhism by engraving it's principles on pillars throughout his kingdom. The Ashoka pillars, as they are now called, were over 40 feet high and extremely heavy. He also attempted to spread this religion to Syria, Egypt and Macedonia, and sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sangamitra to Sri Lanka for this purpose.
Ashoka died in 232 BC and is amongst the greatest rulers in the history of the Indian Subcontinent and he is respected for being the 'Ideal' ruler. In 1992, Ashoka was ranked #53 on Michael H. Hart's list of the most influential figures in history.
Map of Ashokan Empire
- The national emblem of India has been taken from the Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath. In the National emblem only three lions are visible and the fourth one is hidden from the view. All the lions are mounted on an abacus. At the centre of the Abacus, there is a Chakra (wheel) which symbolizes the Dharma Chakra (Eternal wheel of law). There is a bull, a galloping horse, an elephant and a lion, separated by intervening wheels over a bell shaped lotus. The word Satyameva Jayate (truth alone triumphs) have been inscribed in Devanagari script.
- The wheel, which represents kingship and earthly rule, is featured on the Indian flag.
"The Ashoka Wheel in the center of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principles of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change; it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change."
Many many thanks to “Ajnaabi” for providing Amar Chitra Katha. Without his help I could not be able to post details with Amar Chitra Katha cover.