Ashoka the Great: History of India, Greatest Ruler, Ashoka Pillar, Example

Emperor Ashoka earned the moniker of Ashoka the Great due to his just rule and the prosperity of his region and his people. But do you know the story of why Ashoka gave up war? It is said that the death and destruction that he witnessed during the Kalinga war, completely changed his view of the world. Let us journey through the life of King Ashoka.

Ashoka The Great

Did you know that before Ashoka the Great became a peace-loving monarch he was known as Chanda Ashoka, meaning ‘Cruel Ashoka’? Widely believed to be one of the kindest, strongest rulers of India Emperor Ashoka has a fascinating life history. Let us take a look.

The greatest ruler known to Indian history is  Ashoka The Great. His empire was founded by Chandragupta Maurya, who was a grandfather of Ashoka, more than 2300 years ago. Ashoka was greatly supported and lead by the famous man Chanakya, also known by Kautilya. The Maurya’s were comprised of three major rulers known for their attributes – Chandragupta, his son Bindusara and Bindusara’s son, Ashoka.

Ashoka was the third ruler of the Maurya dynasty and was one of the most powerful kings in ancient times. His reign between 273 BC and 232 B.C. in the history of India was one of the most prosperous periods. Ashoka was born to Mauryan King Bindusara and his queen Devi Dharma was the grandson of the founder emperor of the Maurya Dynasty, the great Chandragupta Maurya.

To a great extent, Ashoka the Great made justified contributions to the art as well as architecture. He built stupas at Sanchi, Sarnath, Deor, Bharhut, Butkara, Kothar, etc. He also made significant contributions to the Nalanda University and Mahabodhi temples. The main source of revenue in the empire was the taxes and tributes. With this, the government used to look after the maintenance for better revenues and transport.

Ashoka: The Unique Ruler

Ashoka was named to be a unique ruler as he was the first ruler who tried to take forward his message to people through inscriptions wherein he described his change in belief and thought after the Kalinga War. He is also one of the rulers who fought a war to conquer Kalinga, however, gave up conquest even after winning a war.

Ashoka also followed a religious policy wherein he formulated the policy of the Prakrit word, Dhamma coming from the Sanskrit term, Dharma. The excessive accumulation of Ashoka’s Dhamma consists of good teachings of different religions.

Ashoka the Great was also troubled with numerous issues including the killing of animals, ill-treatment of slaves and servants, quarrels in families and amongst neighbors. He considered it his duty to solve these problems. For this, he appointed officials, commonly known as dhamma mahamatta who went to different places to teach people about dhamma.

Ashoka had made provisions in regard to medical facilities for both human and animals as well as worked for public welfare like making rest houses, digging wells. He has also strictly prohibited sacrificing animals.

Not only this, Ashoka the Great also sent messengers to other lands like Egypt, Syria, Greece and Sri Lanka focused specifically spread ideas about Dhamma. He also got his message inscribed on the rocks and pillars which later came to be known as Ashoka Pillars.

Ashoka Pillar

People perform a variety of rituals when they fall ill when their children get married, when children are born, or when they go on a journey. These rituals are not useful. If instead, people observe other practices, this would be more fruitful. What are these other practices?

These are: being gentle with slaves and servants. Respecting one’s elders. Treating all creatures with compassion. Giving gifts to Brahmins and monks. It is both wrong to praise one’s own religion or criticise another’s. Each one should respect the other’s religion. If one praises one’s own religion while criticizing another’s, one is actually doing greater harm to one’s own religion. Therefore, one should try to understand the main ideas of another’s religion and respect it.

Solved Question for You

Question: Why do we say that Ashoka the Great was a unique ruler?

Answer: Ashoka was the most famous Mauryan ruler and was a unique ruler because

  • He was the first ruler who tried to spread his message through inscriptions to the people.
  • Ashoka is the only king in the world’s history who gave up the conquest even after winning a war.
  • He started to follow a religious policy of his own after the violence and bloodshed held in Kalinga war and formulated various policies of Dhamma.