Page | 9
Maryum Urooj Khan
Dr. Abdul Jabbar
Man has always housed ideas in his mind to stand out. This way of expressing himself has led him to create innovative things which help in carrying forward his culture and also his civilization. Especially for monarchs, leaving a mark and creating a place in history is of great value. They go to the furthest extent to achieve it. To achieve it monarchs are found to erect glorious and huge monuments usually the aim of the king is to impose the idea of his glory by erecting these magnanimous and beautified structures. King Ashoka did the same but with a different purpose. Ashok’s famed pillars in different locations in the sub continental region are a mark left behind by the emperor of his efforts to spread his dhamma far and wide. The actual driving force behind the installation of his famous pillars and rock edicts was the emperor’s religion.
This paper will deal with the seven pillars of Ashoka which he got installed in different and distant locations of his empire. It will also discuss his teachings and what idea of his image one gets, of the once blood thirsty king who transformed into a religious preacher and peace monger.
Ashoka was the third ruler of the muryan dynasty who peacefully ascended the throne after Bindusara in 232 B.C. at Patliputra and reigned successfully for thirty seven years. According to the text of maski edict and other epigraphs he was commonly known as Ashoka. But Ashoka himself in the inscriptions is referred to as Devanampiya Piyadasi, “the beloved of the god”, he also referred to his ancestors with same titles. [footnoteRef:1]Information regarding Ashoka is very limited. The only sources which tell us about the monarch are firstly his imperial orders. These orders have a legislative character. The only positive outlook of these edits is that they are the words of emperor himself hence these edicts are strictly contemporary of his time. [1: RC Majumdar, HC Raychaudhuri and Kalinkar Dtta, An advance history of India (newyork:su.Martin’s press,1965. P103]
The second sources available are the Theravada traditions. These legends record Ashoka life career and his conversion to Buddhism. They also mention how the religion of Buddhism reached them via Ashoka.
Third source is based on the tales of Ashoka called Asokavadana written in Sanskrit and Chinese versions are also found. It was compiled at Patliputra in Kukkutarama monastery patronized by the king. It was written long before the Christian era. The only common information among the three sources is the discussion about the mighty ruler, who after change of faith shifted from a cruel policy to a more humane one[footnoteRef:2]. [2: https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/jiabs/article/viewFile/8572/2479]
The story of conversion of Ashoka to Buddhism is a strange one. It is said the war of Kalinga was the turning point for Ashoka. The sight of the sufferings of the people...