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King Ashoka Visited Bodh Gaya and get indoctrinated into Buddhism

Updated on March 21, 2016

Ashoka, The Buddhist Emperor


Ashoka issued many rock edicts

Ashoka issued many rock edicts as well as pillar edicts on which he engraved the principles of dhamma. Whatever reforms he carried out and moral principles he encouraged, he engraved them on fourteen rock edicts and seven pillar edicts. The script of most of the edicts is Brahmi and it is written in prakrit language. Most of the edicts were put in public places – in markets or temples, where a large number of citizens gathered. He instructed his officials to read his messages to those who could not read it themselves.

These edicts are found in India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan. To propagate dhamma in distant lands like Sri Lanka, Egypt, Syria and Greece, Ashoka sent trained messengers.

Ashoka spread his messages to other kings as well and sought to befriend them. His envoys travelled with his messages to Egypt, Greece, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

Ashoka became a follower of Buddhism. He provided all help to the Buddhist Sangha. He also visited Buddha's birth place called Lumbini Vana (situated in present – day Nepal). In spite of being a follower of Buddhism, Ashoka extended his support to other faiths. He repeatedly made his subjects realise the need to understand the teachings of all religions.

The king Ashoka


Kalinga war


Ashoka set – up Rock Pillar Edicts in different parts of his empire to communicate to the people

Bindusara was succeeded by one of his sons, Ashoka 273 – 232 BC. Ashoka conquered the Kingdom of Kalinga, modern Odisha in the famous Kalinga War 261 BC. However, this was not an easy victory. According to the Emperor's declaration in one of the Rock Edicts, one lakh men were killed and one and half lakh were taken as prisoners. This was a turning point in Ashoka's life. He was grief – stricken and decided not to wage war in future. He changed his policy of Dig Vijaya (conquest by war) to Dharma Vijaya (conquest by peace. It is after this that Ashoka visited Bodh Gaya and get indoctrinated into Buddhism. He gave up hunting and the killing of animals.

Ashoka set – up Rock Pillar Edicts in different parts of his empire to communicate to the people. The language of the edicts was that of the common man, such as Pali and Prakrit. In the north – west, the Kharosthi, Greek and Aramaic scripts were used, and elsewhere it was the brahmi script. In these Edicts, Ashoka stressed upon certain moral codes and family rules. They were essentially related to the good conduct of the individual, such as respect for elders, monks and Brahmins and kindness to servants. Peace in the family would bring stability in the locality and law and order in the country then could easily be established.

Ashoka erected a number of pillars throughout his kingdom. There he inscribed his message to the people. Ashoka referred to himself as the `father of his subjects' and also as Devanampriya (the beloved of the gods). Thus he emphasize the fact that he was superior to the people and that his message was meant to be followed by all. He repeatedly stated, `in the happiness of his children (subjects) lay his happiness'. He called it Dhamma, the Pali term meaning `truth'. This dharma was not the propagation of the principles of Buddhism, though, it was influenced by the teachings of the Buddha. As for example, he requested people to kill animals only when it was necessary for food and encouraged women to give up the practice of ritual and customs.

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saranath pillar


Sarnath pillar is one of the finest examples of Mauryan art

The Aryans introduced stone masonry. Megasthenes writes that the royal palace at Pataliputra was the most impressive. The ruins of the eighty – pillared hall, discovered at Kumrahar, near Patna, bears testimony to the fact. The stone pillars of the palace, as described by Megasthenes, were all polished. The Mauryan age also started the usage of ring – wells, particularly in the cities. At first, it was used in Magadha and later, ring wells were used in other parts of India.

The rock pillar edicts erected by Ashoka's, throughout the empire were also polished. The monolithic Ashokan pillars had three parts, the base, the shaft and the capital ( the top). They are the best examples of Mauryan art. The Mauryan sculptures also started the art of cave dwellings and sculpture. This cult was later followed by the Buddhist monks in different parts of India.

The Sarnath pillar is one of the finest examples of Mauryan art. It was built b y Ashoka in the third century BC. Its impressive capital has four lions sitting back to back. The round abacus of the capital has four wheels, indicating the wheel of law, or the Dharma Chakra. The four wheels are placed alternatively in between a bull, a horse, a lion and elephant. The abacus is supported by an inverted lotus. The Lion Capital has been adopted as our National Emblem. The wheel appears in our National Flag.

The pillar at Nandangarh in Bihar, is of grey sandstone from Chunar. It belongs to the third century BC. It has no base and stands directly on the ground. The abacus is decorated with a raw of flying geese, considered to be sacred. The shaft is 9.7 meters high. The pillar has shining polish.

The Sanchi Stupa, near Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, originally built Ashoka, was enlarged during the Stupa period. The Stupa is 16.46 meters high and 36.58 meters in diameter. The original wooden railings have been replaced by stone railings. The pillars of the railing are 2. 784 meters high, connected by three horizontal bars, each 61 meters wide. The Sanchi Stupa has four gateways.

Ashka's Dhamma



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