One of the greatest emperors known to Indian history, Ashoka, was the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya and the son of Bindusar. The land he ruled stretched from the Himalayas, Nepal and Kashmir to Mysore in the South. From Afghanistan in the N.E. to the banks of the River Brahmaputra in the East. In the West his territory covered
Saurashtra and Junagarh.
Born in 294 BC as second son to Bindusar,
the King of Patliputra, Ashoka was not heir apparent. After his father
died, his elder brother Suman was to take over the reins of the Kingdom.
But as most of the ministers found Ashoka more efficient, they helped him
Ashoka was a good administrator and
at first set about restoring peace in his kingdom. This took about 3 years,
after which he formally accepted the throne and was crowned King in 273
BC. During his reign, the country made progress in terms of science and technology as well as advanced in medicine and surgery. Religion was
emphasized and so the people were honest and straightforward and truthful.
Stealing was unheard of.
Ashoka, himself was a great philanthropist
and worked day and night for the welfare of his people. He knew exactly
what was going on in each part of his vast territory. He would not partake
any of his meals until and unless he had fed a thousand Brahmins.
The Kalinga War
This was the first and last battle
that Ashoka ever fought and serves as a watermark in his life as it changed
his course forever. It was during this war that he earned the title Ashoka
Kalinga was a prosperous little kingdom
lying between the river Godavari and Mahanadi, close to the Bay of Bengal.
It had an infantry of 60,000 men, 10,000 horsemen and 600 elephants. Ashoka
wanted to capture this fertile land, and so had it surrounded. But the
brave and loyal people of Kalinga did not want to lose their independence.
A fierce battle followed, in which
there were too many casualties. There were more than a lakh prisoners of
war. In the midst of the battlefield, Ashoka stood with the wounded, crippled
and the dead all around him. This was the consequence of his greed. A new
light dawned on him, and he swore that he would never wage war again.
Ashoka was initiated into Buddhism,
after which his life was completely transformed. He religiously followed
the principles of Buddhism - that of truth, charity, kindness, purity and
He did his bit towards the propagation
of this religion 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 opened charitable hospitals
and dispensaries for the welfare of the poor. He planted trees to provide
shade and opened inns for the shelter of travelers and laid out green parks
and gardens to beautify his kingdom. Wells and tanks were also constructed
for the benefit of his people. He believed in non-violence and so
he banned the sacrifice of animals. Besides this he opened clinics for
birds and animals too. His good works earned him the name of Devanamapriya
He died in 232 BC. After doing a
great deal of good for his kingdom and the world at large. His fame has
spread far and wide. To commemorate his rule and its implications the Government of India has adopted the Ashoka Chakra as its national symbol, which can
be seen till today on the national flag.
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