Emperor Ashoka 1
Ashoka Maurya (304–232 BCE), commonly known as Ashoka and also as Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled
almost all of the Indian subcontinent from ca. 269 BCE to 232 BCE.
One of India's greatest emperors,
Ashoka reigned over most of present-day India after a number of military conquests. His empire stretched from the parts of the
ancient territories of Khorasan, Sistan and Balochistan (unpartitioned) in what is now Afghanistan and possibly eastern Iran, through the Hindu Kush mountains in
Afghanistan, to present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam in the east, and as far south as northern Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The empire had Taxila,
Ujjain and Pataliputra as its capital.
In about 260 BCE Ashoka waged a bitterly destructive war against the state of Kalinga (modern Odisha). He conquered Kalinga, which none of his ancestors
(starting from Chandragupta Maurya) had done. His reign was headquartered in Magadha (present-day Bihar). He embraced Buddhism after witnessing the mass deaths of
the Kalinga War, which he himself had waged out of a desire for conquest. "Ashoka reflected on the war in Kalinga, which reportedly had resulted in more than
100,000 deaths and 150,000 deportations." Ashoka converted gradually to Buddhism beginning about 263 BCE at the latest. He was later dedicated to the
propagation of Buddhism across Asia, and established monuments marking several significant sites in the life of Gautama Buddha. "Ashoka regarded Buddhism as a
doctrine that could serve as a cultural foundation for political unity." Ashoka is now remembered as a philanthropic administrator. In the Kalinga edicts,
he addresses his people as his "children", and mentions that as a father he desires their good.
Ashoka is referred to as Samraat Chakravartin Ashoka – the "Emperor of Emperors Ashoka." His name "asoka" means
"painless, without sorrow" in Sanskrit (the a privativum and soka "pain, distress"). In his edicts, he is referred to as Devanampriya (Pali Devanampiya or "The Beloved
of the Gods"), and Priyadarsin (Pali Piyadasi or "He who regards everyone with affection"). His fondness for his name's connection to the Saraca asoca tree, or
the "Asoka tree" is also referenced in the Ashokavadana.
H.G. Wells wrote of Ashoka in his book The Outline of History: "Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their
majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Asoka shines, and shines, almost alone, a star." Along with the Edicts
of Ashoka, his legend is related in the 2nd-century Ashokavadana ("Narrative of Asoka," a part of Divyavadana), and in the Sri Lankan text Mahavamsa ("Great Chronicle").
The emblem of the modern Republic of India is an adaptation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka.