Asoka / Ashoka The Great / अशोक
Ashoka (reign 273-232 B.C.) was a Maurya king. His kingdom extended from Hindukush in north to Mysore and south of Godavari in south; from Bengal in east to Afghanistan in west. It was the biggest Indian empire up till that time. He is not only known for his vast empire but also as an efficient ruler and as a Buddhism promoter. He became a devotee of Buddha at an early age and stood a pillar in his remembrance. It is still present in Buddha’s birthplace, Lumbini, in Nepal, near Maya Devi Temple. Ashoka preached Buddhism to Srilanka, Afghanistan, west Asia, Egypt and Greece. Asoka’s writings give a nourishing and caring outlook towards his people.
Son of Maurya King Bindusar
He was the son of Bindusar, a Maurya king, born around 297 B.C. He was crowned after a civil war with his brothers in 272 B.C. He ruled till 232 B.C. In the beginning, just like his grandfather Chandragupt Morya and Father Bindusar, he expanded his empire with number of wars. After conquering Kashmir, Kalinga and few other regions, he became the ruler of complete India. It’s western border reached upto Iran. The man slaughter in the battle of Kalinga shook him to the soul. He left the cruel and violent wars. Ashoka’s fame is not because of his vast empire but as a promoter of religion, non-violence and brotherhood.
Ashoka turned to Buddhism and took steps to promote it not only in India but in far away lands as well. He sent his son, Mahendra, and his daughter, Sanghmitra, to Srilanka for the same. In his reign, he scribed many stones stating the sermons. He was the first to put the ruling powers for the benefit of his people. Many Stupas and pillars were made. The famous Sarnath’s pillar, whose Lion’s head is honoured as India’s national symbol, is one of them.
Warm-Hearted Tolerant Kind
Many historians believe that his kind and warm nature hindered the growth of the country…considering the facts that he had vast empire and could’ve been like the great Roman Empire. His policies made the armies dull and couldn’t resist the foreign invaders. This stopped the substantial growth of the people and also the feeling of nationhood didn’t develop. The other opinion is just the opposite. They say that with his teachings, India became a well known country. A violent history got the tolerant and kind chapters. It gave a new direction to the history. Ashoka is the only ruler of his time who cared for his people and their welfare. With all the differences in the opinions, they agree that Ashoka was famous and known because of his abilities and not fear.
An important point to note is that a ruler with a vast empire, huge army and endless power tries to present himself as a promoter of the moral values in his inscriptions? As a matter of fact, able rulers were always appointed for the protection of the kingdom. In Magadh, centre of Buddhism teachings, people had a general consciousness against exploitation. Upagupt, a religious teacher, gave Ashoka the advice of spreading Buddhism and building Stupas, inscribed stones and pillars. When Buddha visited Mathura for the second time, he foretold his dear student, Anand, that in later times there will be a religious scholar named Upagupt who will spread Buddhism just like him. Upagupt was born in a merchant’s family. His father traded scents. Upagupt was a very handsome and talented man. He turned to Buddhism at in his teenager ship. Anand’s student, Shaanakvasi, taught Upagupt the “Sarvastivadi Sampradaay” in the Nat-Bhat Vihar of Mathura.