From Emperor Ashoka to Buddhist Emperor Ashoka

The Indian subcontinent witnessed one of its most powerful emperor in Ashoka. During his reign the Mauryan Empire reached its peak and expanded its reign conquering parts of Afghanistan and Persia alongside the whole of India upto Mysore. He ruled this enormous empire from 273 B.C. to 232 B.C. However, the Battle of Kalinga proved out to be a turning point in his life. A change of heart compelled him to relinquish his desire for power and embrace Buddhism with open arms. He preached Buddhism throughout the world.

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Ashoka was born to Emperor Bindusara and Dharma in 304 B.C. The name ‘Asoka’ means ‘without sorrow’ or simply ‘painless’. Ashoka is also referred to as “Devanampiya” (the one who is beloved of the gods) and also as “Priyadarshin” (the one who treats and regards everyone with affection) in his edicts. Bindusara had several wives and therefore Ashoka had many half-brothers and a younger sibling*sibling*
➤ (n) a person's brother or sister
called Vitthashoka. He has exceptional weaponry skills and academics.

Ashoka was a sharp witted statesman and a brilliant warrior. His popularity and command in the armed forces of the Mauryan Empire grew day by day. Envied by his excellent personality, his half-brothers feared that Bindusara shall prefer Ashoka over them for the throne. So they started plotting conspiracies against Ashoka. Susima, the eldest of them all persuaded Bindusara to send Ashoka to manage a militias rebellion occurring in the province of Takshashila. Ashoka tackled the uprising with patience and he was welcomed by the militias. This success of Ashoka caused a lot of insecurity among his half-brothers.

Susima began instigating Bindusara against Ashoka so that he (Ashoka) is sent into an exile. Ashoka decided to go to Kalinga. During his stay in Kalinga, he fell in love with Kaurawaki and married her. Emperor Bindusara asked him to return to go to Ujjain to suppress a mutiny. This ultimate result was a battle wherein Ashoka was gravely injured. He was then treated by nuns and Buddhist monks. During his treatment he was introduced to the preachings of Buddhism. He then married Devi, his personal nurse.

After a span of 1 year Emperor Bindusara was ill and his health deteriorated drastically. Most of the ministers under the guidance of Radhagupta supported Ashoka to be crowned as the king. The fight for accession to the throne began and Ashoka killed all his half-brothers who were contending for the throne and uprooted the competition. He only spared Vitthashoka his younger sibling. After being crowned, his brutality and torture knew no bounds for around 8 years. He continued expanding the Mauryan Empire and was fierceful ruler. This was the time when Prince Mahindra and Princess Sanghamitra were born to Queen Devi.

Kalinga battleground:

The battle of Kalinga changed everything. It was a massive battle that killed more than 1, 00,000 soldiers. His tour of the city gave him a glimpse of his deeds and he could see only dead bodies drained in blood, the wails around, burnt houses and the pitiable sight of the bloodshed battle ground. The horrifying sight of the city moved his heart. He was repenting for his cruel, brutal deeds. He felt ashamed for his lethal act that disgraced the essence of humanity. He then decided to embrace Buddhism. Queen Devi could not bear the brutality of her husband and left him.

Spreading Buddhism:

Buddhist sages Radhaswamy and Manjushri mentored him in adopting Buddhism. He then attempted to spread the Buddhist principles across the globe and even sent his son Mahindra and daughter Sanghamitra to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to create awareness about Buddhism. Ashoka concentrated on constructing Viharas and Stupas for all the followers of Buddhism. The UNESCO has declared The Sanchi Stupa as a World Heritage site. A four lion pillar at Sarnath was named as Ashoka pillar. Republic of India has adopted this as the National Emblem.

He created a few policies during his reign. Ashoka preached non-violence and preferred to be a vegetarian. The freedom of equality was rendered during his reign that abolished the caste system completely. Emperor Ashoka decided to send various missionaries to Himvanta (Nepal), Suvannabhumi (Thailand), Maharattha (Maharashtra), Vanavasi (Tamil Nadu), Kashmir, Mahisamandala (Mysore), Macedonia, Egypt, Cyrene (Libya) and Epirus (Greece and Albania).

Ashoka ruled approximately for 40 years and died in 232 BC. After his death, the Mauryan Empire survived the test of time for merely 50 years.