IAS Target



Emperor Ashoka, the 3rd Samrat of the Maurya dynasty, is regarded as one of history's most exemplary rulers.
Ashoka was Bindusara's son. He was governor of Taxila & Ujjain during his father's reign. After conquering his brothers, Ashoka ascended to the throne around 268 B.C. There was a four-year gap between Asoka's accession to the throne (273 B.C.) and his coronation (269 B.C.). As a result of the information available, it appears that there was a struggle for the throne following Bindusara's death.

Ashoka – Life & Dhamma

Early life
  • Ashoka was the son of Mauryan Emperor Bindusara and Subhadrangi. Chandragupta Maurya's grandson
  • His other names were Devanampiya (Sanskrit Devanampriya, which means "God's Beloved") and Piyadasi.
  • Ashoka is regarded as one of India's greatest monarchs.
  • He was born in the year 304 BC. And his rule lasted from 268 BC to his death in 232 BC.
  • Ashoka's kingdom spanned from Afghanistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east at its peak. It encompassed practically the entire Indian subcontinent, except modern-day Kerala and Tamil Nadu, as well as modern-day Sri Lanka.
  • Ashoka established many edicts throughout India, including in modern-day Nepal and Pakistan.
  • Pataliputra (Patna) was his capital, and he had regional capitals in Taxila and Ujjain.

Ashoka’s family

Ashoka's mother's name was Subhadrangi. His wife's name was Devi or Vedisa, the princess of Ujjaini. His other two wives were Asandhimitra and Karuvaki. Mahendra, Tivara (the only one listed in an inscription), Kunala, and Taluka were among Ashoka's sons. His daughters, Sanghamitra and Charumati, were well-known.

War with Kalinga

Ashoka conquered Kalinga in the eighth year of his reign. Kalinga represented modern-day Odisha. Ashoka planned to attack Kalinga because of its strategic location. The Kalinga war, according to Ashoka's 13th Rock Edict, was a frightening occurrence. During the fight, hundreds of thousands of people were injured and hundreds of thousands were killed. This event had a great impact on Ashoka, causing him to modify his mind. He vowed never to fight in another battle again. His favorite was Dhammavijay, who was followed by Dig-Vijay.

Ashoka’s Place in history:

Ashoka taught his followers to live and let live. He emphasized the need for animal sympathy. His ideas aimed to fortify the institution of the family as well as the existing social classes. Ashoka was responsible for the country's political unification. He held it together with one dharma, one language, and one script called Brahmi, which he utilized in the majority of his inscriptions. Ashoka instructed his successors to abandon their conquering and aggression policies.

Ashoka and Buddhism

In the 9th year of his reign, Ashoka became a Buddhist after being inspired by Nigrodha, a young monk. Under the influence of Buddhist monk Upagupta, Ashoka accepted Buddhism. Ashoka stated in his Bhabru Edict that he has complete faith in Buddha, the Sangha, and the Dhamma.
He also inscribed Rock Edicts and Pillar Edicts to preach the Buddhist teachings to the populace.
To maintain peace and control, Ashoka kept a big and formidable army. Ashoka established friendly relations with kingdoms throughout Asia and Europe, and he supported Buddhist missions. Ashoka dispatched missionaries to the Chola and Pandya kingdoms, as well as five territories ruled by Greek kings. He also sent missionaries to Ceylon, Suvarnabhumi (Burma), and other Southeast Asian countries.

Rise to power

  • Ashoka was not the heir presumptive because he was not Bindusara's eldest son.
  • Bindusara wished for his eldest son Susima to be crowned king.
  • When Ashoka was appointed governor of Ujjain, he had received military and armament training and had displayed outstanding administrative talents.
  • Ashoka succeeded in the succession dispute that erupted after Bindusara's death in 272 BC, aided by his father's ministers.
  • When he became king, he was said to be a bad-tempered, harsh, and cruel king.
  • He even built a torture chamber in order to torture his victims to death. As a result, his name was changed to Chandashoka.
  • When he ascended to the throne, he began to expand his dominion by conquest. In the ninth year of his reign, he went to war with Kalinga (present-day Odisha).

Conversion to Buddhism

  • Ashoka personally led the battle with Kalinga in 265 BC, and he was able to defeat the Kalingas.
  • During the battle, entire cities were devastated, and over a hundred thousand people were slaughtered.
  • The horrors of war so horrified him that he vowed to avoid violence for the rest of his life and became a Buddhist.
  • The Kalinga battle is clearly described in Ashoka's 13th Rock Edict.
  • From Chandashoka, he became Dharmashoka (the holy Ashoka).
  • Around 263 BC, Ashoka converted to Buddhism. Buddhist monk Moggaliputta Tissa became his tutor.
  • In 250 BC, Ashoka presided over the third Buddhist Council at Pataliputra, which was presided over by Moggaliputta Tissa.

Ashoka’s Dhamma (or Dharma in Sanskrit)

  • Ashoka popularised the concept of paternal kingship.
  • He considered every one of his subjects to be his children and believed it was the king's responsibility to ensure their well-being.
  • He stated in his edicts that everyone should serve parents, respect instructors, and practice ahimsa and truthfulness.
  • He asked everyone to refrain from slaughtering and sacrificing animals.
  • He advocated for the humane treatment of animals, employees, and prisoners.
  • He was a vocal proponent of religious tolerance.
  • He desired to be conquered by Dhamma rather than through war.
  • He dispatched missions to propagate the Buddha's message throughout the world. He famously dispatched his son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitra to Sri Lanka also known as Ceylon.
  • The majority of his edicts are written in Brahmi script in Pali and Prakrit. Some are recorded in Kharosthi and Aramaic scripts as well.
  • There are also some edicts written in Greek. The language is determined by the pillar's position.

Sources of information about Ashoka

  • Buddhist literature and Ashoka's edicts are the two key sources.
  • The 1st person to decipher Ashoka's edicts was James Prinsep, a British antiquary and colonial administrator.
  • The majority of knowledge on Ashoka comes from the Ashokavadana (Sanskrit) written in the second century AD, as well as the Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa (Sri Lankan Pali chronicles).

Emperor Ashoka – Facts

  • Ashoka was born in Patliputra in 304 BCE to Bindusara and Maharani Dharma or Shubhadrangi. Samraat Chakravartin, Devanampriya, and Priyadarsin were some of his aliases.
  • He ruled over a vast territory stretching from Afghanistan's Hindu Kush Mountains to Bangladesh, and from Assam in the east to Kerala and Andhra Pradesh in the south. He died in the year 232 BCE. In Indian history and culture, King Ashoka plays a significant role. Here are some fascinating facts about King Ashoka.
  • In Sanskrit, the word 'Ashoka' means 'without sadness'.
  • The Maurya Dynasty was founded by Ashoka's grandfather.
  • According to Taranatha, a Tibetan writer, Ashoka murdered his six siblings to take the throne of Magadha.
  • Ashoka was also referred to as 'Chandashoka'. The cruel form of Ashoka.
  • After the Kalinga War in BC 261, Ashoka became a Buddhist.
  • He declared Buddhism to be the official religion of the country.
  • He was chosen as the "Dharma Mahapatro" to disseminate Buddhism throughout Asia.
  • He dispatched his daughter Sanghamitra and son Mahinda to Ceylon also known as Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism.
  • To preach Buddhism, he created lion stambhs- Ashok Stambh.
  • The Ashok Stambh in Sarnath has been selected as India's national emblem.
  • In addition to Ashoka Stambh, Ashoka built various pillars and rock edicts such as Bharhut stupa, Dhamek Stupa, and Mahabodhi Temple.

Ashoka’s Death

After governing for 40 years, Ashoka died in 232 BC. It is thought that following his death, his dominion was divided into two parts: western and eastern. Dasaratha, Ashoka's grandson, presided over the eastern part, while Samprati ruled over the western half. In 265 BC, the scale of his dominion was enormous.


The Mauryan Empire reached its pinnacle under Ashoka. For the first time, the entire Indian subcontinent, except the far south, was under imperial rule. It contributed to India's political cohesion as a nation. Ashoka was also important in the establishment of Buddhism as a world religion.