The name of King Ashoka forever entered the history of India. This third ruler of the Mauryan Empire is considered one of the greatest people who stood at the head of the state. King Ashoka is not famous for his military successes, like his grandfather. First of all, history knows him as a Buddhist ruler who made an invaluable contribution to supporting this religious trend. King Ashoka's personal name according to dharma (religious piety) is Piyadasi.
In terms of its area, this kingdom was the largest in the history of the state. Its territory extended not only to those lands where modern India is located. It occupied Nepal and Bhutan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Afghanistan, as well as part of Iran. Most of these lands were conquered by Ashoka's grandfather, Chandragupta Maurya, who was the first ruler of the dynasty. His personality is still considered heroic and legendary in India. Ruled by Chandragupta from 317 to 293 BC. e. He came from a noble family Moriah.
As a young man, Chandragupta served with the kings of Magadha (Nandas),with whom he tried to fight for the throne. But, having failed, he fled to the northwestern region of the country, where he joined the Greek-Macedonians who invaded India. A little later, Chandragupta resumed the struggle for the royal throne. And in the end, he managed to overthrow Duan Nanda and seize power. Further, the new ruler subjugated Northern India, founding the pan-Indian empire of the Maurya dynasty, which ruled the country until 184 BC. e. The capital of this state was the city of Pantaliputra (today it is the city of Patna in the state of Bihar).
The successor of the great ruler was his son Bindusara. Subsequently, he further strengthened the throne in Patapiputra.
King Ashoka was born in 304 BC. e. in the family of the ruler Bindusara - the second of the representatives of the mighty dynasty. Ashoka's mother, Subhadrangi, among the other wives of the emperor, had a rather low status. Her father, being a poor Brahmin, gave his daughter to the harem, as, according to legend, he received a prediction that his grandson was destined for the path of a great ruler. Perhaps that is why the boy was named that. After all, the personal name of King Ashoka literally means “without sorrow.”
The same low status as that of the mother was in the harem of the future ruler. He had a large number of brothers, born from other wives of the king, who already had a high position by their origin. Ashoka also had one older brother.
As a child, the future emperor was a frisky and very lively child. The only occupation he enjoyed was hunting. The boy was busyfavorite thing. He soon became a good hunter.
Ashoka could not be called handsome. However, there was not a single prince who surpassed him in courage and valor, skill in management and love of adventure. That is why the future king Ashoka was respected and loved not only by all officials, but even by ordinary people.
All of the above traits of the young man's character were noticed by his father Bindusar, who, despite his son's youth, appointed him to the post of governor of Avanti.
Rise to power
The biography of King Ashoka as a ruler began after his arrival in Ujjain. This city was the capital of Avanti. Here the young man started a family, taking the daughter of a we althy merchant as his wife. The family had two children, whose names were Sangamitra and Mahendra.
During this period, an uprising broke out in Taxila, which was located on the territory of modern Pakistan. The people were dissatisfied with the rule of Magadha. Susuma, the eldest son of King Bindusara, was in Taxila. However, he failed to calm the people. And then, to suppress the uprising, the father sent Ashoka to Taxila. And although the young ruler did not have enough soldiers, he boldly went to the city and besieged it. The citizens of Taxila decided not to confront Ashoka by giving him a warm welcome.
The eldest son of Bindusara, who had every chance of becoming king, showed his inability to govern the country. Then a council was convened, which decided that Susuma, having ascended the throne, would destroy justice in the country, and this, in turn, would cause popular uprisings and the decline of the empire. And the distinguished people who participated in this council,decided that the throne should remain Ashoka. This was the time when Bandusara was dying. The son hurried to him. In 272 BC. e. the emperor died and Ashoka became king of Magaji. His coronation took place in 268 BC. e., on the fifth day of the third month of Justamas.
Expansion of the country's territory
After coming to power, King Ashoka began to strengthen the empire. In 261 BC. e. they unleashed a war with the state of Kalinga. After a stubborn struggle, King Ashoka not only conquered these territories located on the shores of the Bengal Strait, but also subjugated the country of Andhra, located in the neighborhood. All these actions made it possible to complete the unification of India, which was begun by Chandragupta in the 4th century BC. BC e. Only three small countries located in southern India, Keralaputra, Pandya and Chopa, did not fall under the rule of King Ashoka.
Indian king Ashoka managed to get his way. Kalinga was a very important area in trade and strategic terms, and its annexation greatly strengthened the empire. However, here Ashoka ran into stubborn resistance from the locals. Both ordinary people and the nobility did not want to put up with the advent of a new government, which is why the most severe methods of punishment were first applied to them. But later, in order to defuse the situation, Ashoka even gave this area more independence.
Nevertheless, these territories were not without bloody battles. 150 thousand people were taken prisoner. 100 thousand people were counted dead. But this is not all human losses. After all, manydied of hunger and wounds.
From the scale of the massacre, from the suffering and grief brought by the war, Ashoka himself was horrified. This was the beginning of his spiritual and moral transformation, as well as the renunciation of violent actions.
The ruler was tormented by remorse. He felt the deepest sadness, and as a result of reflection, he repented and forever renounced the previously planned path. After the war with Kalinga, Ashoka stopped pursuing a policy of conquest. In the future, the Mauryan emperor tried to resort to diplomatic and ideological methods. He strengthened his influence in the unconquered regions by sending special missions and officials there. They promised the local population the care and love of the emperor, as well as his every support.
At the time when King Ashoka (see the photo with his image below) had just ascended the throne, there were several religions in India.
Including Hinduism and Buddhism. However, the country needed a single common religion. And the policy of King Ashoka most of all corresponded to Buddhism. After all, this trend was against territorial and narrow-caste restrictions and for a single state. That is why the further reign of King Ashoka was carried out in accordance with the views of Buddhism. The ruler of India fully accepted the dharma - "righteousness", as well as the "law of morality". His public activity began to obey no force. The basis of all deeds was the “power of dharma.”
During the reign of King Ashoka in India, the thirdBuddhist cathedral. On it, the ruler emphasized the importance of ethnic norms of behavior. He especially insisted on the need to be tolerant of other religions.
It is worth noting that the teachings of Ashoka in their distribution and significance are close to the activities of the Buddha himself. After all, a representative of the Mauryan family brought Buddhism to Ceylon. In addition, the mighty streams of this religion covered most of the territory of Asia. Then the Buddha's messages reached the countries of the Middle East, as well as the Mediterranean basin. The teachings had an ennobling effect on the populations of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.
All this allowed Buddhism to become a world religion and play a civilizing role in many Asian states, replacing rather primitive communal cults. This direction reached Egypt and Syria.
This monument of ancient Indian culture is also called the edicts of the ruler. The inscriptions of King Ashoka are a set of 33 texts carved on the walls of caves and on stone columns. Such edicts were found not only in India, but also in Pakistan. The columns of King Ashoka were the first reliable evidence of the spread of Buddhism. A fragment of one of them with an engraved Brahmi text is in the British Museum. The estimated date of its creation is 238 BC. e.
The inscriptions of King Ashoka cover a rather narrow range of issues related to the adoption and further spread of Buddhismrepresentative of the Maurya family, religious and moral laws, as well as the concerns of the ruler for the well-being of not only subjects, but also animals.
There have been many kings in history who sought to capture their victories, achievements and more in stone. However, only Ashoka did it on pillars and rocks. It is they who are called to lead people from death straight to immortality, from ignorance to truth, to light from darkness.
In addition to cave temples and majestic columns, Ashoka also ordered the construction of stupas. These mound-shaped places of worship also symbolized the spread of Buddhism in the universe, as well as power over it.
Columns were placed throughout the territory where King Ashoka ruled. A description of the life of the king, as well as his Decrees, were also carved on the rocks. Moreover, many of these monuments have survived to this day. The geographical location of such texts on stone provides researchers with the most reliable information about where King Ashoka ruled and what were the size of his possessions. And the inscriptions themselves are nothing more than the main source telling about the activities of the great ruler.
After King Ashoka in India subjugated the entire territory, in addition to the regions of the extreme south, he launched a huge program of reforms. A fairly extensive construction began in the country. For example, in Pataliputra, by order of the king, wooden buildings were replaced with stone palaces. The large city of Srinagar grew up in Kashmir. In addition, the entire empire was divided by Ashokainto several large areas, the management of which was given into the hands of representatives of the royal family. At the same time, all the threads of power converged to the palace of the ruler.
The eminent emperor fully encouraged the development of medicine and the construction of irrigation systems, built caravanserais and roads, made the system of justice that he inherited from previous kings softer. Ashoka spread the ideas of non-violence by banning sacrifices, for which it was necessary to kill animals. Under his rule, the slaughter of certain types of livestock was stopped, the meat of which was sent for food. The ruler even compiled a list of animals that came under state protection. They were forbidden to hunt for pleasure, as well as burning forests and feasts of gluttony, held without much need.
In order for the subjects to unquestioningly fulfill the norms of the drachma, Ashoka introduced special positions of officials - dharmamahamatras. Their duty was to fight against arbitrariness and encourage good relations among the people.
In those lands where the reign of King Ashoka took place, education was quickly popularized. The ruler worked very hard on this. He founded the most famous university in those days - Nalanda. This educational institution was located in Magadha and became a real center of learning. University students were considered respectable people.
The attitude of the Indian monarch towards his subjects was also a completely new, inspiring ideal of royal power. Ashoka himself claimed that all his actions were aimed at the fulfillment of duty.towards every living being.
Money in the state treasury, the king spent on the welfare of the state. Thanks to this, various crafts, trade and agriculture developed rapidly. Many locks and canals for merchant ships were built in the country. After all, trade in the empire was mostly carried out by waterways.
Ashoka encouraged the planting of forests. This direction has even become part of the state policy. At the call of the ruler, gardens were cultivated, and roads turned into shady alleys.
All over the empire, wells were dug, sheds were built and rest houses were erected. During the reign of Ashoka, the population enjoyed free medical care, and it was not only for people, but also for animals. For the first time, hospitals were built for the younger brothers.
At the behest of the ruler, any difficulty was to be reported to him at the same hour. After all, Ashoka claimed that he was working for the good of his country.
All the activities of the king was aimed at winning the hearts of people and serving the world through good deeds and will, as well as through drachma. And such a reign can be compared to a brilliant feat of devotion to one's people.
Dharma Ashoka considered a kind of cosmic Law, the functions of which were similar to the Vedic Truth (Rita). The king himself was the preacher and guardian of all the precepts of Buddhism. It was believed that people who respect their parents and lead a righteous life, thereby fulfill the decree of the ruler.
There is one very important thing that didKing Ashoka, in order to spread the dharma among the people. He introduced the pilgrimage. It happened two years after the end of the Kalinga war.
The pilgrimage began with Ashok's visit to Sambodhi. It is known that the Buddha received enlightenment here. The ruler also visited other similar places in his realm.
Such actions were extremely important. Ashoka patronized Buddhism, but at the same time did not become his fan, pursuing a policy of tolerance for various religious movements throughout his reign. This is confirmed by the fact that the king presented the caves to the Ajeviks as a gift. At that time they were one of the main rivals of the Buddhists, enjoying considerable influence among the people. Ashoka also sent representatives of his power to the communities of the Brahmins and the Jains. By this, the ruler sought harmony between different areas of religion.
End of reign
Judging by the information contained in historical sources, King Ashoka presented such generous gifts for the development of the Buddhist community that in the end he ruined the treasury of the state. It happened already by the end of the period of his reign.
The sons of Ashoka, Tivala, Kunala and Mahendra, spread the teachings of the Buddha around the world. Meanwhile, the grandchildren of the ruler began to fight for the right to inherit the throne.
The pro-Buddhist policy pursued by Ashoka caused discontent among Jains and followers of Brahmanism. The dignitaries of the king told Sampadi, the main contender for the throne, about the too generous gifts of the ruler. At the same time theydemanded their cancellation. Sampadi ordered not to follow the orders of the emperor and not to give the Buddhist community the funds granted to them. Ashoka had to admit with bitterness that formally he was still in power, but in fact he had already lost it.
Sampadi was a follower of Jainism. At the same time, he was fully supported by a certain circle of large dignitaries. The country experienced difficulties during this period. Her financial situation was difficult, at times here and there rebellions of the common people broke out. One of the largest disturbances was noted in Taxila. Moreover, it was headed by none other than the local ruler.
Queen Tishyarakshita, who was an opponent of Buddhism, became a participant in the conspiracy against the emperor. This is confirmed by the fact that one of the later edicts was not given by Ashoka. It was signed in the name of the queen. It was an order that spoke about the presentation of various gifts. In other words, the edict raised that acute question, which became the basis of the conflict between Ashoka and his entourage.
Based on the data of some sources, at the end of his reign, the king began to feel disgust for life. That is why, as a Buddhist monk, he made a pilgrimage that would allow him to calm the mind. He came to Taxila and has already stayed there forever. Ashoka, loved by people and God, left this earth at the age of 72.
The heirs of the great ruler could not maintain a single empire. They divided it into two parts - eastern and western. The center of the first of them was the city of Pataliputra. Taxil turned out to be the capital of the Western Territories.
Sources inwhich speak of the direct heirs of Ashoka, give conflicting information. However, many researchers believe that Sampadi became the king of Pataliputra. Further, the once powerful empire fell into decline and, as a result of a conspiracy in 180 BC. e. fell.