Samrat Ashoka, The great Indian King:
Samrat Ashoka was a great king in Indian History. Once, he was called a cruel king and later became a benevolent Buddhist king. Samrat Ashoka was the third emperor of the Maurya Dynasty and ruled almost all of the Indian Subcontinent from 268 BCE to 232 BCE.
Early Days of Samrat Ashoka’s Life:
Ashoka was born in 304 BCE; his father was Bimbisara, the second emperor of the Maurya Dynasty and his mother was Sughadrangi, who belonged to the brahmin, Ajivika sect family. She was beautiful and fair, and her services to Bimbisara surprised him. He granted her wish to become a mother to his son Ashoka.
Ashoka was not a good-looking boy. Bimbisara had no soft corner for Ashoka. However, Ashoka made his spot among his brothers with his skills and courage. Ashoka had several elder half-brothers. Bimbisara’s eldest son Susima was very insecure that the abilities of Ashoka made him the emperor of the Maurya Dynasty. So he sought to eliminate Ashoka. He convinced his father to send Ashoka to Taxila to quell an uprising. Ashoka courageously suppressed the uprising without any bloodshed. His success made him a victorious warrior.
Samrat Ashoka’s succession to the throne:
In the following year, 273 BCE, Bimbisara fell ill and died. A war of succession was fought between Ashoka and his half-brothers. In this fight, Ashoka succeeded and became the third Mourya emperor. Bimbisara wanted his son Sushima to follow him, but the ministers supported Ashoka. Among the ministers, Radhagupta seems to have played an essential role in Ashoka’s success. The coronation happened in 269 BCE, four years after his succession to the throne.
As a brutal Ruler Samrat Ashoka:
In the beginning, his attitude was wicked, cruel and evil temper. One day he wanted to know the loyalty of his ministers and ordered them to chop down all the flowers and fruit trees but leave the thorn trees alone. Then the ministers questioned his orders. Ashoka got rage and cut off the heads of five hundred Ministers. He also kept a harem of around 500 women. When a few women insulted him, Ashoka moved furious and put all the women into burnt to death. He also built a hell chamber which was used for horrific tortures. So all called him Chand Ashoka means Ashoka the fierce.
Expand of Maruya Kingdom:
His empire spread from present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan in the west to present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam in the east and northern Kerala and Andhra Pradesh in the east. He conquered the kingdom of Kalinga, which was impossible by his father, Bimbisara and grandfather, Chandragupta Maurya, starting from the Chandragupta Maurya dynasty. His reign was headquartered in Magadha (present-day Bihar). He embraced Buddhism after witnessing the mass deaths of the Kalinga War.
Effect of the Kalinga War on Ashoka:
The brutal scenes disheartened Ashoka against the wars. The lamented situations in the war made Ashoka change his attitude towards imperialism. He saw the dead bodies without heads. The despair and loss of innocent people filled his heart with sorrow and regret. The lamentation of the wives and women of the deceased, the children’s tears, and the dying soldiers’ terrifying sufferings had changed his heart and mind.
This sight made him sick, and he cried the famous monologue:
“What have I done? If this is a victory, what’s a defeat then? Is this a victory or a defeat? Is this justice or injustice? Is it gallantry or a rout? Is it valour to kill innocent children and women? Do I do it to widen the empire and for prosperity or to destroy the other’s kingdom and splendour? One has lost her husband, someone else a father, someone a child, someone an unborn infant…. What’s this debris of the corpses? Are these marks of victory or defeat? Are these vultures, crows, eagles the messengers of death or evil”?
Adopted the Buddhism:
The brutality of the conquest led him to accept Buddhism. As the king, he declared Buddhism his state religion around 260 BCE. He decided to preach the concept of The Dhammapada all over the world. He chose some Buddhist monks and sent them to Sri Lanka, Burma, and eastern countries. Among them, his son Mahindra and daughter Sangamitra also participated. Emperor Ashoka undoubtedly first seriously attempted to develop a Buddhist policy.
Patron of Buddhism:
Samrat Ashoka built thousands of Stupas and Viharas for Buddhist followers. The Stupas of Sanchi are world famous, and Emperor Ashoka built the stupa named Sanchi Stupa. He pursued an official policy of nonviolence. Everyone became protected by the king’s law and also promoted the concept of vegetarianism. Ashoka also showed mercy to those imprisoned, allowing them to leave for the outside a day of the year. He attempted to raise the professional ambition of the commoner by building universities for study and water transit and irrigation systems for Samrat and agriculture. He is acclaimed for constructing hospitals for animals and renovating major roads throughout India. After this transformation, Ashoka came to be known as Dhamma Ashoka; they followed Buddha’s teachings and implemented them in his daily life.