Ashoka Maurya

Ashoka Maurya (304–232 BC)

304 BC This seems to be the year when Asoka Maurya was born. He was the first great ruler of India. He was the third king of Maurya Dynasty, who led the empire that stretched over the most part of sub-continental India’s surface. He had lived in luxury and wealth until he left to the war for conquering Kalinga Kingdom, established along the East coast, on the place where nowadays there is Orissa Province which is a part of modern India. After he had given up to the violent style of life and had embraced the Buddhist religion, Asoka led his empire manifesting a great respect to human life which was seen as something sacred. He was the promoter of a social philosophy that was completely new.

273 BC Asoka succeeded to the throne.

269 BC He was crowned as king.

264 BC The war against Kalinga Kingdom happened.

260 BC Asoka became Buddhist monk.

232 BC He died.

Information about Asoka came from a series of edicts by which he founded the theory and the practice of a new social ethics. Edicts, typed in Prakriti (term that means the “natural”, gross form of a language that is used in India) for Indian people and in Greek and Aramaic for people in the North-West of the empire or were inlaid on the surface of stones and of some columns.

In a message sent to rulers of the provinces, Asoka said: “There are still some inclinations that make success be impossible to achieve, namely: envy, lack of perseverance, roughness, impatience, wish to perform the things as soon as possible, laziness and indolence. So, you should try to make you free of such inclinations.”

 He was also very strict with him: “I also did necessary agreements in order to be informed by official raporteurs about people’s problems that I am ready to solve everywhere, wherever I would be – even if I eat, if I am in the Ladies’ flats, in my bedroom or in my private rooms, in the carriage or in the palace’s gardens” and “I must work for the public wellness.”

It was not only propaganda. Edicts had a refreshing, fresh aura of frankly and sincerity and Asoka practised all the time what he said. He often visited different regions of his empire sharing his lessons. He cared about the wellness of his subjects, he built a large network of roads and ways of communication, planted shady trees on roadside, made fountains for pedestrians, built shelters where pedestrians could have rested for free, founded new medicinal crops, built hospitals both for people-his subjects, and for animals.

Asoka seemed to have a special interest for women’s problems and for the condition of poor people in the countryside. He supported the principle of religious freedom, saying that he had made more things with nice words than with orders. Few rulers after him, maybe none of them, did not succeed to care about his subjects manifesting in the same time so much tolerance.

Even if the law of piety did not exist a long time after his death, Asoka was able to offer to India an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity while ensuring that Buddhism and his lessons were shared all over the world. [1]