Samrat Ashoka Emperor Ashoka Maurya Ancient History of India

Samrat Ashoka Emperor Ashoka Maurya

Samrat Ashoka, also known as Ashoka the Great, is regarded as one of the greatest emperors in Indian History. He was the son of Bindusara Maurya and the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya. He was born in 304 B.C.

A brief history of the person
Ashoka had several elder siblings, all of whom were his half-brothers from other wives of Bindusara. His fighting qualities were apparent from an early age and he was given royal military training. He was known as a fearsome hunter, and according to a legend, killed a lion with just a wooden rod. Bindusara's death in 272 BCE led to a war over succession. According to Divyavandana, Bindusara wanted his son Susima to succeed him but Ashoka was supported by his father's ministers, who found Sushim to be arrogant and disrespectful towards them. A minister named Radhagupta seems to have played an important role in Ashoka's rise to the throne.

The Ashokavadana recounts Radhagupta's offering of an old royal elephant to Ashoka for him to ride to the Garden of the Gold Pavilion where King Bindusara would determine his successor. Ashoka later got rid of the legitimate heir to the throne by tricking him into entering a pit filled with live coals. Radhagupta, according to the Ashokavadana, would later be appointed prime minister by Ashoka once he had gained the throne. The Dipavansa and Mahavansa refer to Ashoka's killing 99 of his brothers, sparing only one, named Vitashoka or Tissa, although there is no clear proof of this incident. Buddhist legends state that Ashoka was bad-tempered and of a wicked nature.

He built Ashoka's Hell, an elaborate torture chamber described as a "Paradisal Hell" due to the contrast between its beautiful exterior and the acts carried out by his appointed executioner, Girikaa. This earned him the name of Chanda Ashoka (Caṇḍa Aśoka) meaning "Ashoka the Fierce" in Sanskrit. The reign of Emperor Asoka covered most of India, South Asia, and beyond, stretching from present-day Afghanistan and parts of Persia in the west, to Bengal and Assam in the east, and Mysore in the south. However, the Battle of Kalinga changed King Asoka completely. From a power-hungry emperor, he turned into a Buddhist follower and started preaching the principles of Buddhism throughout the world.

As a Buddhist emperor, Ashoka believed that Buddhism is beneficial for all human beings as well as animals and plants, so he built a number of stupas, Sangharama, viharas, chaitya, and residences for Buddhist monks all over South Asia and Central Asia. He gave donations to viharas and mathas. He sent his only daughter Sanghamitra and son Mahindra to spread Buddhism in Sri Lanka (then known as Tamraparni).

Ashoka also sent many prominent Buddhist monks (bhikshus) Sthaviras like Madhyamik Sthavira to modern Kashmir and Afghanistan; Maharaskshit Sthavira to Syria, Persia / Iran, Egypt, Greece, Italy, and Turkey; Massim Sthavira to Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Mongolia; Sohn Uttar Sthavira to modern Cambodia, Laos, Burma (old name Suvarnabhumi for Burma and Thailand), Thailand and Vietnam; Mahadhhamarakhhita stahvira to Maharashtra (old name Maharatthha); Maharakhhit Sthavira and Yavandhammarakhhita Sthavira to South India.

Ashoka also invited Buddhists and non-Buddhists to religious conferences. He inspired the Buddhist monks to compose sacred religious texts, and also gave all types of help to that end. Ashoka also helped to develop viharas (intellectual hubs) such as Nalanda and Taxila Ashoka's patronage led to the expansion of Buddhism in the Mauryan empire and other kingdoms during his rule, and worldwide from about 250 BCE. Prominent in this cause was his son Mahinda (Mahendra) and daughter Sanghamitra (whose name means "friend of the Sangha"), who established Buddhism in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) After ruling over the Indian subcontinent for a period of approximately 40 years, the Great Emperor Asoka left for the holy abode in 232 BC. After his death, his empire lasted for just fifty more years

The ascension of Samrat Ashoka Maurya to the throne of the Magadha Empire marks the beginning of a new epoch in India's history. He ruled over an empire extending from the Hindukush to South India. He established peace and order within his kingdom with the help of highly organized administrative machinery.

Samrat Ashoka followed a conception of enlightened kingly duties according to which the king had to effortlessly work for the welfare of his subjects just as a father works for that of the children.

Ashoka the Great introduced a spirit of pacifism and cosmopolitanism in international relations which is strikingly modern in character. Personally, he was a man of great imagination, abounding energy, and a strong personality. He left an imperishable mark on India's history.

The edicts of Emperor Ashoka are an important, direct, and reliable source of history of Emperor Asoka and his Empire. The edicts of Ashoka are a class by themselves. The inscriptions are compared with those of the Persian emperor Darius.

Early life and career of Samrat Ashoka: The Mahavamsa and Divyavadana tell the story that after the death of Bindusara Maurya, there was a severe fight for the throne among the sons of Bindusara for a period of four years. Ashoka was involved in it. Ashoka waded through the blood of his brothers to the throne. But this story regarding the early struggle of Samrat Ashoka is not credible and no clear evidence is available. Further, Samrat Ashoka has shown care for his family and brothers in the rock edicts. However, it is likely that had been a contest among the sons of Bindusara in which Ashoka managed to ascend to the throne.

Asoka's career before coronation: When Samrat Ashoka Maurya was a prince, he served in the position of viceroy of Ujjaini and governor of Taxila. He successfully suppressed a rebellion of the Taxila people.  He ascended the throne after the death of his father.

The family of Asoka: The mother of Ashoka Maurya is believed to be the daughter of a Brahmin of Champa. She became a favorite of her husband Bindusara. Samrat Ashoka Maurya had several wives and children. Traditional sources mention the names of Kaurwaki, Devi, Padmavati, Tishyaraksha, etc. Kaurwaki was the mother of Prince Tala.

Religious Tolerance: Samrat Ashoka was tolerant of other creeds during the major part of his reign. Asoka knew that religious partiality would weaken the social basis and unity of the Mauryan Empire. Hence he practiced tolerance to all creeds during the major part of his reign. He warned his officials against the exaltation of one's own religion and condemnation of others

Asoka as a ruler before embracing Buddhism: We shall now see how Samrat Ashoka Maurya behaved himself as a king before he embraced Buddhism. It is generally believed by scholars that Samrat Ashoka was a follower of Brahmanism before his conversion to Buddhism after the Kalinga war. Asoka was a devotee of Siva. The Ceylonese chronicles and the Samantapasadika state how Asoka became gradually attached to Buddhism and paid visits to the Buddhist community.

In subsequent years, when Ashoka Maurya became an advocate of non-violence, he abolished the first type of celebration. In order to win the loyalty of the people, he introduced many administrative reforms including the release of prisoners from jails on every anniversary of his coronation.

Conclusion: Samrat Ashoka was the greatest among the rulers of Magadha. His policy of conquest as well as his religious belief is equally important.
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