Thursday, 7 November 2013

Emperor of Emperor's Ashoka

            King Ashoka is the Emperor of Emperors, belong to Maurya Dynasty(304-232 BCE). He is One of India's greatest emperors who ruled thirty eight years, Ashoka reigned over most of present-day India after a number of military conquests. Great king Ashoka was the grandson of the famous ruler Chandragupta Maurya and son of Mauryan emperor Bindusara and his queen, Dharma. As a young lad, Ashoka excelled in whatever he was taught. Be it the art of warfare or reading the Holy Scriptures, Asoka excelled in everything he did. Ashoka had many half brothers and was loved by one and all. Thus, after his father died, his elder brother Suman took over the reign of the kingdom. But most of his father's ministers found Ashoka to be more efficient and helped him attain power. After a three year war, Ashoka accepted the throne and was crowned as the king of Magadha in 273 BC. After being crowned as the king, he proved himself by smoothly administrating his territory and performing all his duties as an able and courageous king.

 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,  from which he controlled northern India and 14 other states, extending to Bactria and Persia, in the west, and southern India to the Krishna River and eastward to Bengal. The capital city, according to Kautilya's "Arthaśāstra" on War and Diplomacy in Ancient India," by Roger Boesche [The Journal of Military History, Vol. 67, No. 1 (Jan., 2003), pp. 9-37], was the largest city in the world at the time. There were about fifty million people in this empire, making it larger than the later Mughal Empire and  the British Empire in India.

When Ashoka was in his eighth year of rule, his wife Devi gave birth two twins: Prince Mahindra and Princess Sanghamitra.

            Ashoka posted "the edicts of Ashoka" on large, animal-topped pillars, chiseled in the ancient Brahmi script, rather than Sanskrit. Mostly reforms, the edicts also list public works projects, including universities, roads, hospitals, and irrigation systems. In these edits, Ashoka calls himself "Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi," according to King Ashoka - His Edicts and His Times, where you'll find translations of the edits. The edicts are found in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The pillars of Ashoka are a series of columns dispersed throughout the northern Indian subcontinent, and erected by Ashoka during his reign in the 3rd century BCE. Originally, there must have been many pillars of Ashoka although only ten with inscriptions still survive. Averaging between forty and fifty feet in height, and weighing up to fifty tons each, all the pillars were quarried at Chunar, just south of Varanasi and dragged, sometimes hundreds of miles, to where they were erected. The first Pillar of Ashoka was found in the 16th century by Thomas Coryat in the ruins of ancient Delhi. The wheel represents the sun time and Buddhist law, while the swastika stands for the cosmic dance around a fixed center and guards against evil. There is no evidence of a swastika, or manji, on the pillars.

The nobler phase of his reign followed Ashoka's conversion to Buddhism, which came after he had waged a far too bloody war in Kalinga, in c. 265. After a period of eight years of serving as king, Ashoka planned to seize the territory of Kalinga, the present day Orissa. He led a huge army and fought a gruesome battle with the army of Kalinga. The battle of Kalinga made him pledge to never wage a war again. The battle took place on the Dhauli hills that are located on the banks of River Daya. Though Ashoka emerged victorious at the end, the sight of the battlefield made his heart break with shame, guilt, and disgust. It is said that the battle was so furious that the waters of River Daya turned red with the blood of the slain soldiers and civilians. The battle was a massive one and caused the deaths of more than 100,000 soldiers and many civilians who rose up in defence; over 150,000 were deported.

             The sight of numerous corpses lying strewn across the battlefield made his heart wrench. He felt sick inside. The battle ground looked like a graveyard with bodies of not just soldiers but men, women, and children also. He saw young children crying over the bodies of their dead parents, women crying over the bodies of their dead husbands, mothers crying over the loss of their kids. This turned him heartbroken and thus, made a pledge to never ever fight a battle again. 

To seek solace, he converted to Buddhism. He was so inspired by the teachings of the Buddhist monks and Buddhist philosophies that he used his status to impart this knowledge all over the world. He is credited to be the first Emperor to make a serious attempt at developing Buddhist policies.

Devi his wife was Buddhist and perhaps this in combination with Ashoka's memory of learning about Buddhist principles led him to change his ways.
From this point on, he embraces Buddhism. He took on the Buddhists Radhaswami and Manjushri as his teachers. He decided that he would base the rest of his rule on Buddhist principles.

Ashoka ruled for over 40 years. 50 years after his death, the Mauryan Empire came to an end. He had numerous wives and many heirs but most of their names are lost. Buddhism did not, of course, stay the state religion of India. Still, empowered by Ashoka, Buddhism quickly spread outside of India's borders into Southeast Asia.

The Lion capital of Ashoka is a sculpture of four "Indian lions" standing back to back. It was originally placed atop the Aśoka pillar at Sarnath, now in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. The pillar, sometimes called the Aśoka Column is still in its original location, but the Lion Capital is now in the Sarnath Museum. This Lion Capital of Ashoka from Sarnath has been adopted as the National Emblem of India and the wheel "Ashoka Chakra" from its base was placed onto the center of the National Flag of India.
Today, the Ashokra Chakra, the Wheel of Dharma, is featured on the national flag of India.  Ashoka used this image on many of his constructions. 

The wheel has 24 spokes which represent:
Self sacrifice
Godly knowledge
Godly wisdom
Godly moral
Reverential fear of God
Hope/trust/faith in the goodness of God 


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