Kalinga war and conversion of Emperor Ashoka, propagation of Buddhism

Dr.Santosh Kumar Sain

 Ashoka the Great (268–232 BC) was the third great emperor of the Maurya Empire (322–185 BC), who renounced war policy, developed the concept of Dhamma policy (sacred social conduct), and promoted Buddhism. Was known. As well as his successful and effective rule of almost an all-India political unit.


Kalinga war and conversion of Emperor Ashoka, propagation of Buddhism


Kalinga war and conversion of Emperor Ashoka, propagation of Buddhism

At its height, under Ashoka, the Maurya Empire extended from modern-day Iran to almost the entire Indian subcontinent. Ashoka was able to rule this vast empire initially through the precepts of the political treatise known as the Arthashastra, attributed to Prime Minister Chanakya (also known as Kautilya and Vishnugupta, 350–275 BC) ), who served under Ashoka's grandfather Chandragupta (321–297 BCE), who founded the empire. ,

Ashoka means "without suffering" or painless, which was most likely his given name. He is referred to in his inscriptions, carved in stone, as Devanampiya Piyadassi, which according to scholar John K.

He is said to have been particularly ruthless at the beginning of his reign until he launched a campaign against the Kalinga Empire in 261 BCE.

261 BC resulting in such massacres, destruction, and death that Ashoka abandoned war policy and converted to Buddhism over time, devoting himself to peace, as in his conception of the Dhamma. Example is. Apart from his inscriptions, much of what is known about him comes from Buddhist texts, which regard him as an ideal of proselytizing and virtuous behavior.

It is astonishing that the empire he and his family built did not last even 50 years after his death. Although he was the greatest of the kings of one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms in ancient times, his name was lost to history until he was recognized in 1837 by the British scholar and orientalist James Prinsep (1799–1840).

Since then, Ashoka has been recognized as one of the most famous and powerful emperors of ancient India for his efforts to renounce war policy, increase religious tolerance, and establish Buddhism as a world religion outside India. Began to be recognized.

Kalinga war and conversion of Emperor Ashoka, propagation of Buddhism

Emperor Ashoka's Early Life and Rise to Power

Although the name of Ashoka appears in the Puranas (Ashoka Vardhan is found), the Puranas do not give any other information about him. The details of his youth, empire expansion, and non-violence after the Kalinga war are mainly found in Buddhist texts, historians in many ways consider Buddhist texts to be more religious than historical.

His date of birth is unknown, and he is said to have been one of the hundred sons of the wives of his father Bindusara (297–273 BC). His mother's name is given at one place as Subhadrangi while at another place it is described as Dharma.

Subhadrangi is described as a Brahmin in some texts, although she is generally considered a Kshatriya, and is also described as the daughter of Bindusara's principal wife, while other sources describe her as a low-caste woman and a minor wife.

The story of Bindusara's 100 sons is rejected by most scholars, who believe that Ashoka was the second of the four. His elder brother, Susima, was the heiress and prince, and the chances of Ashoka ever taking power were slim and even uncertain as his father disliked him.

Ashoka was the highly educated crown prince at his father's court and was trained in martial arts, and all this must have happened according to Kautilya's Arthashastra - even if he was not considered the heir to the throne - just one of the royal sons. In form of.

Arthashastra is a treatise studying many different subjects related to society, but primarily, a guide on political science that provides instructions on how to govern effectively.

This is attributed to Chandragupta's prime minister, Chanakya, who selected and trained Chandragupta to become the king. When Chandragupta abdicated in favor of Bindusara, Ashoka is said to have been trained according to the Arthashastra and it is clear that he was his own son.

When Ashoka was 18 years old, he was sent to Takshashila (Taxila) from the capital of Pataliputra to suppress the rebellion. According to one legend, Bindusara sent his son with an army but no weapons; Weapons were later provided by supernatural means.

The same legend claims that Ashoka was kind to those who laid down their arms upon his arrival. There is no historical account of Ashoka's campaign at Taxila; It is accepted as a historical fact based on inscriptions and suggestions for place names but the details are unknown.

 After suppressing the rebellion at Taxila, Bindusara appointed his Ashoka as governor of the commercial center of Ujjain, in which he was successful. No details are available as to how Ashoka performed his duties at Ujjain, because as K. notes, "What was most noteworthy according to Buddhist texts was Ashoka's affair with the daughter of a local merchant. The name of this woman is given as the goddess of the city of Vidisha (also known as Vidisha-Mahadevi), who according to some traditions was instrumental in Ashoka's attraction to Buddhism.

K Notes:

    "Apparently she was not married to Ashoka nor destined to go to Pataliputra with him and become one of his queens. Yet she bore Ashoka a son and a daughter. The son, Mahinda, who served on the Buddhist mission of Sri Lanka and it may be that his mother was already a Buddhist, thus raising the possibility that Ashoka was attracted [at this time] to the teachings of the Buddha."

According to some legends, the goddess was the first to introduce Ashoka to Buddhism, but it is also said that Ashoka was already a minor Buddhist when he met the goddess and may have accompanied the Buddha to him. Have shared the teachings.

Buddhism was a minor philosophic-religious sect in India at this time, inclined to acceptance with the orthodox belief system ("eternal system") of Sanatana Dharma (along with the Alive, Jainism and Charvakas) known as Hinduism. One of many heterogeneous entities of thought.

Instead of what Ashoka's relationship with the beautiful Buddhist goddess was, historians focus on Ashoka's administrative achievements, rather than his love story, the one who carried Buddhism out of India through his non-violent efforts.

Despite Ashoka's presence in Ujjain, there was a rebellion, to suppress which Bindusara sent Susim to Ujjain. Susim was engaged in suppressing the rebellion in Ujjain, when Bindusara fell ill, he asked Susim to call him back.

But here a disputed situation arose because Bindusara wanted Susim to be the ruler and the ministers liked Ashoka, so after the death of Bindusara, Ashoka was crowned. (Or, according to some legends Ashoka crowned himself with a sword).

Later, Ashoka is said to have killed (or as his ministers did) his brother Susima by throwing him into a wood-burning coal pit where he burned to death.

Some Buddhist legends also state that Ashoka killed 99 of his brothers as well, but scholars say that he killed only two and the youngest, a Vitashoka, renounced all claims to rule and became a Buddhist monk. Gone.

Ashoka's change of heart after the Kalinga war

After becoming the ruler, young Ashoka started living a life of ease. He imposed heavy taxes on the people. He was ruling in a very cruel manner. According to Kei, however, Ashoka's pre-Buddhist association with the goddess and his description of Ashoka as a murderous demon-saint are inconsistent and ridiculous, he remarks:

    Most Buddhist sources express Ashoka's pre-Buddhism policy as one of indulgence steeped in cruelty. After the adoption of Buddhism, Ashoka's policy was that of non-violence. It is true that Ashoka had to fight a war of succession to get the throne which resulted in violence.

The Buddhist texts describe Ashoka as it is not true. His policy of cruelty and ruthlessness was a historical fact, this is known from his inscriptions, especially his 13th major inscription, which describes the Kalinga War and mourns the dead, the injured and the missing. .

The kingdom of Kalinga (modern state of Orissa) was located to the south of Pataliputra on the coast and was a major center of trade. Ashoka besieged Kalinga as part of his empire expansion. What inspired Ashoka to the Kalinga campaign is unknown, but in 261 BCE, Ashoka invaded Kalinga, killing 100,000 soldiers, taking 150,000 more captives and leaving thousands more wounded, dying of disease and famine. left.

Seeing the bloodshed in this war, Ashoka's heart changed and he decided not to fight again. In place of war policy, Dhamma policy was announced. Ashoka described his 13th inscription as follows: ....

    On conquering Kalinga, the beloved of the gods [Ashoka] suffered greatly, when a free country (Kalinga) was conquered, people were killed, death and exile was very painful for the beloved of the gods (Ashoka) and his mind. Even those who are lucky to have survived, and those who are not lacking in love, are saddened to see the suffering of their friends, acquaintances, co-workers and relatives ... today If a hundredth or a thousandth of those people were killed or injured or exiled when Kalinga was likewise annexed, it would be heavy on the mind of the beloved of the gods (Ashoka).

Background: Conquest of Kalinga

While the early part of Ashoka's reign was apparently quite bloodless, he became a follower of the Buddha's teachings in the states of present-day Odisha and northern coastal Andhra Pradesh after Kalinga's conquest of India's eastern coast.

Kalinga was a state which was proud of its sovereignty and democracy. With its monarchical parliamentary democracy, it was quite an exception in ancient India where the concept of Rajdharma existed. Raja dharma means the duty of the rulers, which was intrinsically linked with the concept of bravery and dharma.

The Kalinga war took place eight years after his coronation. From Ashoka's 13th inscription, we learn that the battle was huge and resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 soldiers and many civilians who rose to the defense; More than 150,000 were deported. As he was walking through the plains of Kalinga after his conquest, rejoicing in his victory, he was shaken by the number of dead bodies scattered here and the lamentations of the bereaved.
conversion to Buddhism

Inscription 13 on Ashoka's edicts shows the great remorse the king felt after witnessing the destruction of Kalinga:

    The conquest of Kalinga caused His Majesty to repent because, during the subjugation of an already invincible country, slaughter, death, and captivity would necessarily occur, while His Majesty felt deep sorrow and regret.

The order addresses an even greater degree of grief and regret resulting from Ashoka's understanding that the friends and families of the deceased would also suffer great loss.

Legend says that a day after the war ended, Ashoka went out for a walk in the city and all he saw were burnt houses and scattered corpses. The deadly war with Kalinga turned the vengeful Emperor Ashoka into a stable and peaceful emperor, and he became a patron of Buddhism.

According to the leading Indologist, A. L. Basham, Ashoka's personal religion became Buddhism, if not earlier, then certainly after the Kalinga War. However, according to Basham, the religion officially promoted by Ashoka was not Buddhism. Nevertheless, his patronage led to the expansion of Buddhism into the Maurya Empire and other kingdoms during his rule, and around the world from about 250 BCE.

After the Kalinga War and Ashoka's conversion, the empire experienced nearly half a century of peace and security. Mauryan India also enjoyed an era of social harmony, religious change, and expansion of science and knowledge. Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism spurred social and religious renewal and reform in his society, while Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism has been said to be the foundation of a rule of social and political peace and non-violence throughout India.

Buddhist monarchy

One of Ashoka Maurya's more enduring legacies was the model he provided for the relationship between Buddhism and the state. Throughout Theravada Southeast Asia, the model of governance embodied by Ashoka replaced the notion of divine kingship that had previously dominated (for example, in the Angkor Empire). Under this model of "Buddhist kingship", the king sought to legitimize his rule not through descent from a divine source, but through the support and approval of the Buddhist sangha.

Following Ashoka's example, the kings established monasteries, funded the construction of stupas, and supported the ordination of monks in their kingdom. Many rulers also took an active part in resolving disputes over the status and regulation of the union, as Ashoka did during his reign by convening a conference to resolve many contentious issues.

This development eventually led to a close relationship between the monarchy and religious hierarchy in many Southeast Asian countries, a union that can still be seen today in Thailand's state-backed Buddhism, and the traditional role of the Thai king as both a religious one. and a secular leader. Ashoka also said that his courtiers always ruled the people in an ethical manner.

As a Buddhist emperor, Ashoka believed that Buddhism was beneficial to all human beings as well as animals and plants, so he built many stupas, Sangharamas for Buddhist monks throughout South Asia and Central Asia. Build viharas, chaityas, and residences. According to the Ashokavadan, he ordered the construction of 84,000 stupas to house the relics of the Buddha.

In Aryamanjushrimoolakalpa, Ashoka takes prasad to each of these stupas, traveling in a chariot decorated with precious metals. He donated to viharas and monasteries. He sent his only daughter, Sanghamitra, and son, Mahindra (then known as Tamraparni) to spread Buddhism in Sri Lanka.


 The debate about Ashoka's transformation and rule

The use of Buddhist sources in the reconstruction of Ashoka's life has had a profound effect on Ashoka's perceptions as well as the interpretations of his inscriptions. Building on traditional accounts, early scholars regarded Ashoka as a predominantly Buddhist emperor who had converted to Buddhism and actively engaged in sponsoring and supporting a Buddhist monastic institution.

Some scholars have tended to question this assessment. The only source of information is the inscriptions of Ashoka, due to Buddhist sources, and these do not explicitly state that Ashoka was a Buddhist. In his inscriptions, Ashoka expresses support for all the major religions of his time: Buddhism, Brahmanism, Jainism, and Ajivikaism. Their orders addressed to the population at large (some specifically addressed to Buddhists, which is not the case with other religions) generally focused on moral themes that members of all religions would accept.

However, the inscriptions alone strongly indicate that he was a Buddhist. In one inscription he shortened the ritual, and he banned Vedic animal sacrifice; These strongly suggest that he did not at least look to the Vedic tradition for guidance. In addition, many inscriptions are attributed only to Buddhists; In one, Ashoka declares himself a "worshipper", and in the other, he displays closeness with Buddhist texts.

He erected stone pillars at Buddhist holy sites but did not do so for sites of other religions. He also used the term "Dhamma" to refer to those qualities of the heart that fall under moral action; This was an exclusively Buddhist use of the word. Finally, he promoted ideals that correspond to the first three stages of the Buddha's undergraduate discourse.

Interestingly, the Ashokavadana presents an alternative view of the familiar Ashoka. In this source, his conversion has nothing to do with the Kalinga War or his descent from the Maurya dynasty. Rather, Ashoka's reason for adopting non-violence appears to be much more personal.

The Ashokavadana reveals that the main source of Ashoka's conversions, and his subsequent acts of welfare, are rooted in intense personal suffering, from a well within himself, rather than inspired by a specific event. It illuminates Ashoka as more humanly ambitious and passionate, with both greatness and flaws. This Ashoka is very different from the "shady do-gooder" of the later Pali chronicles.

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