Ashoka Maurya

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Ashoka The Great

Ashoka (304BC-232 BC) (अशोक) was a very capable ruler and administrator of Mauryan Empire.

Variants of name

In Mahavansa

Mahavansa/Chapter 5 tells that ....The sons of Kalasoka were ten brothers, twenty-two years did they reign in Magadha. Afterwards, the nine Nandas were kings in succession; they too reigned twenty-two years in Magadha. Then did the brahman Canakka anoint a glorious youth, known by the name Candagutta, as king over all Jambudipa, born of a noble clan, the Moriyas, when, filled with bitter hate, he had slain the ninth (Nanda) Dhanananda.

Twenty-four years he reigned, and his son Bindusära reigned twenty-eight. A hundred glorious sons and one had Bindusara; Asoka stood high above them all in valour, splendour, might, and wondrous powers. He, when he had slain his ninety-nine brothers born of different mothers, won the undivided sovereignty over all Jambudipa. Be it known, that two hundred and eighteen years had passed from the nibana of the Master unto Asoka's consecration.

Four years after the famous (Asoka) had won for himself the undivided sovereignty he consecrated himself as king in the city Pataliputta. Straightway after his consecration his command spread so far as a yojana (upward) into the air and downward into the (depths of the) earth.'

Mahavansa/Chapter 5 further tells that .... Nigrodha was the son of prince Sumana, the eldest brother of all the sons of Bindusara. When Bindusära had fallen sick Asoka left the government of Ujjeni conferred on him by his father, and came to Pupphapura, and when he had made himself master of the city, after his father's death, he caused his eldest brother to be slain and took on himself the sovereignty in the splendid city.

The consort of prince Sumana, who bore the same name (Sumana), being with child, fled straightway by the east gate and went to a candala village, and there the guardian god of a nigrodha-tree called her by her name, built a hut and gave it to her.

Mahavansa/Chapter 11 tells that ...The king Mutasiva reigned Sixty years in Anuradhapura in Lanka. He had ten sons and two daughters The second son, known by the name Devanampiya Tissa, was foremost among all his brothers in virtue and intelligence. This Devanampiya Tissa became king after his father's death. Even at the time of his consecration many wonders came to pass. In the whole isle of Lanka treasures and jewels that had been buried deep rose up to the surface of the earth. ....King Devanampiya Tissa thought to send pearls to his friend King Dhammasoka. The king sent four persons appointed as his envoys: his nephew Maharittha, who was the chief of his ministers, then his chaplain, a minister and his treasurer, attended by a body of retainers, and he bade them take with them those priceless jewels, the three kinds of precious stones, and the three stems (like) waggon-poles, and a spiral shell winding to the right, and the eight kinds of pearls. When they had embarked at Jambukola and in seven days had reached the haven in safety, and from thence in seven days more had come to Pataliputta, they gave those gifts into the hands of king Dhammasoka. ....When the ministers had stayed five months, highly honoured they set forth with the envoys, on the first day of the bright half of the month Vesakha. Having embarked at Tamalitti and landed at Jambukola they sought out the king, when they arrived here on the twelfth day. The envoys handed the gifts (in return from Dhammasoka) to the ruler of Lanka; the ruler of Lanka made them welcome with great hospitality.

The Mahavamsa mentions an early friendship with Ashoka.... that "the two monarchs, Devanampiyatissa and Dhammasoka, already had been friends a long time, though they had never seen each other", Dhammasoka being an alternate name for Ashoka. The chronicle also mentions Tissa sending gifts to the mighty emperor of the Maurya; in reply Ashoka sent not only gifts but also the news that he had converted to Buddhism, and a plea to Tissa to adopt the faith as well. The king does not appear to have done this at the time, instead adopting the name Devānaṃpiya "Beloved of the Gods"[1] and having himself consecrated King of Lanka in a lavish celebration.

In Mahabharata

Asoka (अशॊक तीर्थ) is mentioned in Mahabharata (III.86.9) abounding in woody retreats of ascetics.

In Rajatarangini

Rajatarangini[2] has discussed about Ashoka in history of Kashmir. It tells Suvarna was a liberal prince ; he gave away gold to beggars, and caused a canal which, he called Suvarna-mani to be dug at Karala (कराल).

Janaka: Suvarna's son Janaka was like a father to his subjects ; he built Vihāra and Jālara.

Shachinara: Janaka's son Shachinara, of forgiving temper and of noble mind, then ruled the kingdom ; he built Rajāgrahāra and Samāngāsāshanāra. He died childless.

Ashoka: Shachinara was succeeded by Ashoka, the great grandson of Shakuni, and son of king Shachinara's first cousin. He was a truthful and spotless king, and a follower of Buddha. He caused many stupas to be built on the rocky banks of the Vitasta (Jhelum) at Shushkaletra.

On the extremity of Dharmaranya he built a chaitya so high that its top could not be seen. It was he who built Srinagara, which contained no less than ninety-six lacs of beautiful houses. He pulled down the dilapidated wall of the compound of the temple of Srivijayesha and built a new stone wall in its stead. He also caused to be erected two palaces near the courtyard of that god, and named them Ashoka and Isvra.

[p.9]: In his reign, it appears, the Mlechchhas (Scythians?) overran the country, and he retired into privacy and ended his life in devotion.

Jaloka: Ashoka's brave son Jaloka, said to have been the gift of Shiva whom he pleased by his worship, drove back the Mlechchhas from the country and succeeded in regaining his father's throne. An account of his accomplishments, would astonish even the gods. If a golden egg wore thrown into a tank, he could pierce it with his arrow. He knew the art of being under water, by which device he enjoyed the youthful daughters of the Nagas. He was the worshipper of Vijayeshvara, Nandisha and Kshetrnjyeshtesha — all, different representations of Shiva. His victory over those foreigners, which gained him great reputation, did not cease with their expulsion from his kingdom, but he pursued them to the sea. Weary of battles against them, he rested at a place where he tied up his hair, for which reason the place was named Ujjatadimba.

He then turned his arms in another direction, conquered Konouje, and thence carried to his kingdom, some men of each of the four castes, who were versed in law and religion. Before his time, Kashmira was a poor country, and justice was not well administered. For the proper administration of the country he created seven new offices, viz. : those of Chief Justice, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Treasurer, Commander-in-Chief, Ambassador, High Priest and Augur. He entrusted the government of Dvāra and other places to his queen

[p.10]: Ishānadevi, He established eighteen places of worship, and built Vāravāla and other edifices, and used to hear the Nandi Purana recited by disciple of Vyasa. He set up the god Jeshtharudra in Srinagara, and also worshipped the god Sodara.


Ashoka was the ruler of the Mauryan Empire from 273 BC to 232 BC. He was the third and the most popular of the Mauryan Kings. He was born in about 304 BC. During his father, Bindusara’s reign he had served as the governor of Taxila and Ujjain which had given him enough experience as an administrator. He succeeded to the throne after his father’s death in 273 BC.

Genealogy of Mauryas

Ram Sarup Joon[3] writes that ....Ashoka was a very capable ruler and administrator. After the Kalinga War, in 261 BC, he felt deep remorse and became a follower of Buddhism. He had built up a larger empire than any ruler before him had. He contributed a great deal to the expansion of Buddhism. His son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra became Bhikshus for the propagation of Buddhism. Unfortunately his successors were not capable. His son Kunal was blind. His grandsons Dasarath Maurya and Samprati Maurya were weak. Pushyamitra, a minister, killed the last Maurya ruler and usurped the throne. This Brahmin ruler was very cruel. He embarked upon mass persecution of Buddhists. According to the book Dev Vidhan he awarded 100 Dinars to any one producing a head of Buddhist monk. His dynasty ruled for 112 years till its last ruler was killed by another Brahmin named Kanva whose descendants ruled for another 45 years.

Similar persecutions were carried out by Satvahanas and Andhra Brahmins against Shaka Kshatriyas who were followers of Buddhism.

History of the Jats, End of Page-53

Edicts of Ashoka

See List of Edicts of Ashoka - These Edicts of Ashoka and The translating of these pillars was a turning point in history. They changed beliefs and understanding. It turned assumptions into facts.

Name Controversy settled

Earlier, there was some controversy about the third Mauryan Emperor’s name and about the authorship of the inscriptions found in length and breadth of the country. However, the identity of Piyadasi of inscriptions with Asoka has been confirmed since 1915 with the finding of Maski inscription which begins: “devanampiyasa Asokasa”..... This inscriptions reading is in agreement with Asoka of the Buddhist sources and Asokavardhana of the Puranas which had long been a matter of inferences. Asoka the Maurya is mentioned in the Girnar inscription of Rudradaman [A.D. 150]. In the Calcutta-Bairat inscription Asoka refers himself as ‘Piyadasi laja Magadhe’, i.e. the King of Magadha. According to KA Nilakantha Sastri, “the more usual formula is ‘devanampiya piyadasi laja’. The compound word devanampiya, meaning dear to gods’, was in Asoka’s time and until much later, an honorific term, sometimes used also as a synonym of rajan... Piyadasi and slightly altered form Piyadassana occur repeatedly in Dipavamsa as equivalent of is applied to Chandragupta Maurya in the Mudraraksasa; the expression means both ‘of amiable appearance’ and ‘who sees with affection’. Whether piyadasi was the proper name and Asoka the biruda as has been thought, or the other way round, this great will ever be known to history as Asoka,” [4]

Important events in the life of Ashoka

  • Birth of Ashoka - 304 BCE
  • Marriage with Maharani Devi of Vidisha - 286 BCE
  • Reign - 272/273 BCE to his Nirvana / Death (232 BCE)
  • Rajyabhisheka - 270 BCE
  • Building Chaityas - 266/263 BCE
  • Dharmayatra - 263-250 BCE
  • Third Buddhist council - 250-253 BCE
  • Buddhist Proselytism - 250 to his Death / Nirvana
  • Edicts - 243/242 BCE
  • Rani Tishyaraksha becomes Pattarani - 236 BCE
  • Prince Kunal becomes Upraja - 233 bc
  • Ashoka's Death / Nirvana - 232 BCE



  1. See, e.g., Keown, Hodge & Tinti (2003), p. 72, entry for 'Devānampiya Tissa,' where it is translated as 'dear to the gods'.
  2. Rajatarangini of Kalhana:Kings of Kashmira/Book I,p.8-10
  3. History of the Jats/Chapter IV ,p. 53
  4. K.A. Nilakantha Sastri, Age of the Nandas and Mauryas, 1952, Banaras.

External links

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