How did the Mauryan dynasty fall

Ashoka - Ashoka

3. Emperor of the Maurya dynasty, patron saint of Buddhism

Ashoka (/ ə ʃoʊ k ə /; Brahmi: 𑀅𑀲𑁄𑀓, Asoka , IAST: Asoka), also known as Ashoka the Great , was an Indian emperor of the Maurya dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from c. 268 to 232 BC Ashoka, a grandson of the founder of the dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya, promoted the spread of Buddhism in ancient Asia. Regarded by many as one of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka expanded Chandragupta's empire to rule over an empire stretching from what is now Afghanistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east. It covered the entire Indian subcontinent with the exception of parts of what is now Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. The capital of the empire was Pataliputra (in Magadha, today's Patna) with provincial capitals in Taxila and Ujjain.

Ashoka waged a destructive war against the state of Kalinga (modern Odisha), which he started around 260 BC. Chr. Conquered. According to one interpretation of his edicts, he converted to Buddhism after witnessing the mass deaths of the Kalinga War, which he waged out of a desire for conquest and which reportedly led directly to more than 100,000 deaths and 150,000 deportations. He is known for the Ashoka Pillars and edicts, for sending Buddhist monks to Sri Lanka and Central Asia, and for the erection of monuments marking several significant places in the life of Gautama Buddha.

Beyond Ashoka's edicts, biographical information about him draws on legends written centuries later, like that Ashokavadana from the 2nd century (" Narrative of Ashoka ", part of the Divyavadana ) and the Sri Lankan text Mahavamsa (" Great Chronicle ") "). The symbol of the modern Republic of India is an adaptation of the lion capital Ashoka. Its Sanskrit name" Aśoka "means" painless, without sorrow "( a privativum and śoka , "Pain, distress"). In his edicts he is called Devānāmpriya (Pali Devānaṃpiya or "the beloved of the gods") and Priyadarśin or Priyadarshi (Pali Piyadasī or "Who looks at everyone with affection"). His preference for a tree is the reason that his name is related to the "Ashoka tree" or Polyalthia longifolia is linked , and this is done in the Ashokavadana mentioned .

In The Outline of History (1920) HG Wells wrote: "Amid the tens of thousands of names of monarchs who populate the pillars of history, their majesties and graces and serenities and royal highs and the like, the name Ashoka shines and shines almost alone as a star."

Sources of information

Information about Ashoka comes from his own inscriptions; other inscriptions mentioning him or possibly from his reign; and ancient literature, especially Buddhist texts. These sources often contradict each other, although various historians have tried to relate their testimony. Much is known or not known, and so, for example, while Ashoka is often credited with building many hospitals during his time, there is no clear evidence that ancient India began in the 3rd century BC. Chr. Hospitals existed or that Ashoka was responsible for starting the hospital construction of any.


Ashoka's own inscriptions are the earliest self-portrayals of an imperial power on the Indian subcontinent. However, these inscriptions mainly focus on the subject Dhamma and provide little information on other aspects of the state and society of Maurya. Even on the subject Dhamma the contents of these inscriptions cannot be seen at face value: in the words of the American academic John S. Strong, it is sometimes useful to regard Ashoka's messages as propaganda by a politician whose aim is to present a favorable image of himself and his administration rather than recording historical facts.

A small number of other inscriptions also contain information about Ashoka. For example, it is mentioned in the Junagadh rock inscription by Rudradaman from the 2nd century. An inscription discovered in Sirkap mentions a lost word beginning with "Priy" which is theoretically Ashoka's title "Priyadarshi", although this is not certain. Some other inscriptions, such as the copperplate inscription from Sohgaura, have been tentatively dated to Ashoka's time by a group of scholars, although this is disputed by others.

Buddhist legends

Much of the information about Ashoka comes from Buddhist legends depicting him as a great, ideal king. These legends appear in texts that are out of date for Ashoka and were written by Buddhist authors who used various stories to illustrate the effects of their beliefs on Ashoka. This makes it necessary to exercise caution while relying on them for historical information. Opinions among modern scholars range from utterly rejecting these legends as mythological to accepting any historical parts that appear plausible.

The Buddhist legends about Ashoka exist in several languages, including Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Chinese, Burmese, Sinhala, Thai, Lao, and Khotan. All of these legends can be traced back to two main traditions:

  • the North Indian tradition found in Sanskrit texts like Divyavadana (including its component Ashokavadana ) is preserved ; and Chinese sources like A-yu wang chuan and A-yu wang ching .
  • the Sri Lankan tradition found in Pali-language texts such as Dipavamsa , Mahavamsa , Vamsatthapakasini (a comment on Mahavamsa ), Buddhaghosha's Commentary on Vinaya, and Samanta-pasadika is preserved .

There are several major differences between the two traditions. For example, the Sri Lankan tradition emphasizes Ashoka's role in convening the Third Buddhist Council and sending several missionaries to distant regions, including his son Mahinda in Sri Lanka. However, North Indian tradition does not mention these events and describes other events not found in Sri Lankan tradition, such as a story about another son named Kunala.

Even when the common stories are told, the two traditions differ in several ways. For example mention both Ashokavadana as well as Mahavamsa, that Ashoka's Queen Tishyarakshita had destroyed the Bodhi tree. In Ashokavadana the queen manages to let the tree heal after her mistake recognized Has. in the Mahavamsa it destroys the tree permanently, but only after a branch of the tree has been transplanted in Sri Lanka. In another story, both texts describe Ashoka's unsuccessful attempts to collect a relic of Gautama Buddha from Ramagrama. In Ashokavadana does he does not do this because he is inconsistent with the devotion of the Nagas keep up who can hold the relic. in the Mahavamsa he does not, however, because the Buddha intended the relic to be kept by King Dutthagamani of Sri Lanka. With such stories the glorifies Mahavamsa Sri Lanka as the new reserve of Buddhism.

King Ashoka visits Ramagrama to take relics of the Buddha from the Nagas, but to no avail. South Gate, Stupa 1, Sanchi.

Other sources

Numismatic, sculptural, and archaeological evidence complement research on Ashoka. Ashoka's name appears in the lists of the Moorish kings in the various Puranas, but these texts do not give any further details about him as their Brahmin authors were not supported by the Moors. Other texts like Arthashastra and Indica of Megasthenes , which provide general information about the Maurya period, can also be used to draw conclusions about Ashoka's reign. The Arthashastra however, is a normative text that focuses on an ideal rather than a historical state, and its dating to the Moorish period has been the subject of debate. The Indica is a lost work, and only parts of it are preserved in later writings in the form of paraphrases.

The text Rajatarangini from the The 12th century mentions a Kashmiri king Ashoka from the Gonandiya dynasty who built several stupas: some scholars such as Aurel Stein have identified this king with the Maurya king Ashoka; others, like Ananda WP Guruge, reject this identification as inaccurate.

Alternative interpretation of the epigraphic evidence

For some scholars such as Christopher I. Beckwith, Ashoka, whose name appears only in the Minor Rock Edicts, should be from the ruler Piyadasi or Devanampiya Piyadasi (ie, "lover of the gods Piyadasi", "lover of the gods") is a fairly common title for "king"), which is named as the author of the Major Pillar Edicts and the Major Rock Edicts. This inscribed evidence could suggest that they were two different rulers. According to him, Piyadasi lived in the 3rd century BC. BC, probably the son of Chandragupta Maurya, known to the Greeks as Amitrochates, and in his Major Pillar Edicts and Major Rock Edicts only advocated piety ("Dharma") without ever mentioning Buddhism, the Buddha or the Samgha. The geographical distribution of its inscription also shows that Piyadasi ruled a vast empire that borders the Seleucid Empire in the west.

On the contrary, for Beckwith Ashoka was a later king of the 1st to 2nd centuries AD, whose name only appears explicitly in the Minor Rock Edicts and alluding to in the Minor Pillar Edicts and the Buddha and the Samgha explicitly mentions Buddhism. Its inscriptions cover a very different and much smaller geographic area that is concentrated in central India. According to Beckwith, the inscriptions of this later Ashoka were typical of the later forms of "normative Buddhism", which are well documented by inscriptions and Gandhari manuscripts from the turn of the millennium and around the time of the Kushan Empire. The quality of the inscriptions on this Ashoka is significantly lower than the quality of the inscriptions on the earlier Piyadasi.

Name and title

The name "A-shoka" literally means "without grief". One Ashokavadana- Legend has it that his mother gave him this name because his birth eliminated her worries.

The name Priyadasi was associated with Ashoka in the 3rd to 4th centuries CE Dipavamsa . The term literally means "he who looks upon kindly" or "with a gracious expression" (Sanskrit: Priya-darshi). It could have been a rainy name adopted by Ashoka.

Ashoka's inscriptions mention his title Devanampiya (Sanskrit: Devanampriya , "Beloved of the Gods"). The identification of Devanampiya and Ashoka as the same person is established by the inscriptions of Maski and Gujarra, both of which use terms for the king. The title has been adopted by other kings, including the contemporary King Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura and Ashoka's descendants Dasharatha Maurya.

Early life

Ashoka's own inscriptions do not describe his early life, and much of the information on the subject comes from apocryphal legends written hundreds of years after him. While these legends obviously contain fictional details such as accounts of Ashoka's previous life, they do contain some plausible historical details about Ashoka's time.


Ashoka's exact date of birth is uncertain as the surviving contemporary Indian texts did not record such details. It is known that he was born in the 3rd century BC. Lived because his inscriptions mention several contemporary rulers whose dates are known with greater certainty, such as Antiochus II Theos, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, Antigonus II Gonatas, Magas of Cyrene and Alexander (of Epirus or Corinth). Ashoka, for example, must have been told sometime in the late 4th century BC. BC Or in the early 3rd century BC. B.C. (ca. 304 B.C.) may have been born.


Ashoka's own inscriptions are fairly detailed but do not mention his ancestors. Other sources such as the Puranas and the Mahavamsa say that his father was the Moorish emperor Bindusara and his grandfather Chandragupta - the founder of the empire. The Ashokavadana also calls his father Bindusara, but traces his ancestry back to Buddha's contemporary king Bimbisara through Ajatashatru, Udayin, Munda, Kakavarnin, Sahalin, Tulakuchi, Mahamandala, Prasenajit and Nanda. The 16th-century Tibetan monk Taranatha, whose account is a skewed version of earlier traditions, describes Ashoka as the illegitimate son of King Nemita of Champarana by the daughter of a merchant.

Ashokavadana states that Ashoka's mother was the daughter of a Brahmin from Champa and was prophesied to marry a king. Accordingly, her father took her to Pataliputra, where she was accepted into Bindusara's harem and eventually became his chief queen. The Ashokavadana does not mention them by name, although other legends have different names for them specify . For example, she calls Asokavadanamala they Subhadrangi. The Vamsatthapakasini or Mahavamsa-tika to comment on Mahavamsa , calls her "Dharma" ("Dhamma" in Pali) and states that she belongs to the Moriya Kshatriya clan. A Divyavadana- Legend calls them Janapada-kalyani; According to the scholar Ananda WP Guruge, this is not a name, but an epithet.

According to the 2nd century historian Appian, Chandragupta entered into a marital alliance with the Greek ruler Seleucus I. Nicator, which led to speculation that either Chandragupta or his son Bindusara married a Greek princess. However, there is no evidence that Ashoka's mother or grandmother was Greek, and the idea has been rejected by most historians.

As a prince

According to Ashokavadana Didn't like Bindusara Ashoka because of his rough skin. One day Bindusara asked the ascetic Pingala-vatsajiva to determine which of his sons was worthy of his successor. On the advice of the ascetic, he asked all the princes to gather in the garden of the Golden Pavilion. Ashoka was reluctant to leave because his father didn't like him, but his mother convinced him to do so. When Minister Radhagupta saw Ashoka leaving the capital for the garden, he offered the prince to provide a royal elephant for the trip. In the garden, Pingala-vatsajiva examined the princes and realized that Ashoka would be the next king. In order not to annoy Bindusara, the ascetic refused to name the successor. Instead, he said that one who had the best mount, the best seat, the best drink, the best vessel, and the best food would be the next king; Each time, Ashoka stated that he met the criterion. He later told Ashoka's mother that her son would be the next king and, on her advice, left the kingdom to avoid Bindusara's wrath.

While legends say that Bindusara disliked Ashoka's ugly appearance, it is also said that Bindusara entrusted him with important tasks, such as suppressing an uprising in Takshashila (according to North Indian tradition) and the government of Ujjain (according to Sri Lankan tradition). This suggests that Bindusara was impressed by the prince's other qualities. Another possibility is that he sent Ashoka to distant regions to keep him away from the imperial capital.

Rebellion in Takshashila

According to Ashokavadana Bindusara dispatched Prince Ashoka to suppress an uprising in the city of Takshashila (today's Bhir Mound). This episode is not mentioned in the Sri Lankan tradition which instead states that Bindusara sent Ashoka to rule Ujjain. Two other Buddhist texts - Ashoka Sutra and Kunala Sutra - state that Bindusara appointed Ashoka viceroy in Gandhara (where Takshashila was), not in Ujjain.

The Ashokavadana states that Bindusara Ashoka provided a quadruple army (consisting of cavalry, elephants, chariots and infantry) but refused to provide weapons for that army. Ashoka explained that if he were worthy of being a king, weapons would appear before him, and then the deities emerged from the earth and provided weapons to the army. When Ashoka reached Takshashila, the citizens greeted him and told him that their rebellion was only against the evil ministers and not against the king. Some time later, Ashoka was also welcomed into the territory of Khasa, and the gods declared that he would conquer the whole earth.

Takshashila was a prosperous and geopolitically important city, and historical evidence shows that it was over the Ashokan times Uttarapatha- Trade route was well connected with the Moorish capital of Pataliputra. However, no surviving contemporary source mentions the Takshashila uprising, and none of Ashoka's own records state that he ever visited the city. The historicity of the legend about Ashoka's participation in the Takshashila rebellion is possibly confirmed by an inscription in the Aramaic language discovered in Sirkap near Taxila. The inscription includes a name beginning with the letters "prydr" and most scholars restore it as "Priyadarshi" which was a title of Ashoka. Further evidence of Ashoka's connection to the city could be the name of the Dharmarajika stupa near Taxila; The name suggests that it was built by Ashoka ("Dharma-Raja").

The story of the deities miraculously bringing weapons to Ashoka could be the text's way of idolizing Ashoka. or to point out that Bindusara - who disliked Ashoka - wanted him to fail in Takshashila.

Governor of Ujjain

According to Mahavamsa appointed Bindusara Ashoka viceroy of today's Ujjain (Ujjeni), an important administrative and commercial center in the central Indian province of Avanti. This tradition is confirmed by the inscription Saru Maru discovered in central India. This inscription says that he visited the place as a prince. Ashoka's own rock edict mentions the presence of a viceroy in Ujjain during his reign, which further supports the tradition that he himself served as viceroy in Ujjain.

The Saru Maru memorial inscription appears to mention Ashoka's presence in the Ujjain area when he was a prince.

Pataliputra was linked to Ujjain in several ways in Ashoka's time, and on the way Ashoka's entourage may have encamped at Rupnath, where his inscription was found.

According to Sri Lankan tradition, Ashoka visited Vidisha on his way to Ujjain, where he fell in love with a beautiful woman. According to the Dipamvamsa and Mahamvamsa was the wife of Devi - the daughter of a merchant. According to the Mahabodhi-vamsa she was Vidisha-Mahadevi and belonged to the Shakya clan of Gautama Buddha. The Shakya connection may have been made by Buddhist chroniclers to link Ashoka's family with Buddha. The Buddhist texts allude to the fact that she was a Buddhist in later years, but do not describe her conversion to Buddhism. Hence, it is likely that she was already a Buddhist when she met Ashoka.

The Mahavamsa states that Devi in ​​Ujjain gave birth to Ashoka's son Mahinda and a daughter named Sanghamitta two years later. According to Mahavamsa Ashoka's son Mahinda was ordained a priest at the age of 20 in the sixth year of Ashoka's reign. That is, Mahinda must have been 14 years old when Ashoka took the throne. Even if Mahinda was born when Ashoka was only 20 years old, Ashoka must have ascended the throne at the age of 34, which means he must have served as viceroy for several years.

Ascension to the throne

Legend has it that Ashoka was not the crown prince and his ascension to the throne was controversial.

Ashokavadana states that Bindusara's eldest son Susima once joked a bald minister on the head. The minister feared that Susima might jokingly injure him with a sword after ascending to the throne. So he instigated five hundred ministers to support Ashoka's claim to the throne when the time came and found that Ashoka was predicted to be one Chakravartin (universal ruler) becomes. Some time later, Takshashila rebelled again and Bindusara dispatched Susima to contain the uprising. Shortly thereafter, Bindusara fell ill and expected to die soon. Susima was still in Takshashila after failing to suppress the uprising. Bindusara reminded him of the capital and asked Ashoka to march to Takshashila. However, the ministers told him that Ashoka was sick and suggested that he temporarily install Ashoka on the throne until Susmia returned from Takshashila. When Bindusara refused, Ashoka declared that the gods would crown him as the next king if the throne rightfully belonged to him. In this case, the gods did so, Bindusara died, and Ashoka's authority extended to the whole world, including the Yaksha territory above the earth and the Naga territory below the earth. When Susima returned to the capital, Ashoka's newly appointed Prime Minister Radhagupta took him to a charcoal mine. Susima died a painful death and his general Bhadrayudha became a Buddhist monk.

The Mahavamsa states that when Bindusara fell ill, Ashoka returned to Pataliputra from Ujjain and gained control of the capital. After the death of his father, Ashoka had his eldest brother killed and ascended the throne. The text also states that Ashoka killed ninety-nine of his half-brothers, including Sumana. The Dipavamsa states that he killed a hundred of his brothers and was crowned four years later. The Vamsatthapakasini adds that an Ajivika ascetic predicted this massacre based on an interpretation of a dream by Ashoka's mother. According to these reports, only Ashoka's uterine brother Tissa was spared. Other sources name the surviving brother Vitashoka, Vigatashoka, Sudatta (So-ta-to in A-yi-uang-chuan ) or Sugatra (Siu-ka-tu-lu in Fen-pie-kung-te-hun ).

The numbers like 99 and 100 are exaggerated and seem to be a statement that Ashoka killed several of his brothers. Taranatha states that Ashoka, who was an illegitimate son of his predecessor, killed six legitimate princes in order to ascend the throne. It is possible that Ashoka was not the rightful heir to the throne and killed a brother (or brothers) to gain the throne. However, the story was obviously exaggerated by the Buddhist sources attempting to portray him as an evil person before converting to Buddhism. Ashokas Rock Edict No. 5 mentions officials whose duties include overseeing the welfare of "the families of his brothers, sisters, and other relatives." This suggests that more than one of his brothers survived his ascent, although some scholars disagree with this suggestion, arguing that the inscription was only about that Familys of his brothers, not about the brothers themselves.

Date of ascent

According to the Sri Lankan texts Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa Ashoka ascended the throne 218 years after the death of Gautama Buddha and ruled for 37 years. The date of Buddha's death is itself controversial, and North Indian tradition has it that Ashoka ruled a hundred years after the Buddha's death, which has sparked further debate about the date.

Assuming the Sri Lankan tradition is correct, and assuming that the Buddha was in 483 B.C. Died - a date suggested by several scholars - Ashoka must have died in 265 BC. Have ascended the throne. The Puranas state that Ashoka's father Bindusara ruled for 25 years, not 28 years as is stated in Sri Lankan tradition. If this is true, Ashoka's ascent can date back to 268 BC three years earlier. To be dated. However, if the Sri Lankan tradition is correct, we assume that the Buddha was born in 486 BC. Died (a date supported by the Cantonese dotted record) Ashoka's ascent may date back to 268 BC. To be dated. The Mahavamsa states that Ashoka consecrated himself as king four years after his sovereignty. This interregnum can be explained on the assumption that during these four years he waged a war of succession with other sons of Bindusara.

The Ashokavadana contains a story about Ashoka's minister, Yashas, ​​who hides the sun with his hand. Professor PHL Eggermont suspected that this story was an indication of a partial solar eclipse that occurred on May 4, 249 BC. Was observed in northern India. According to the Ashokavadana made a pilgrimage Ashoka to various Buddhist sites some time after this solar eclipse. Ashoka's inscription on the Rummindei column states that he visited Lumbini during his 21st year in reign. Assuming this visit was part of the pilgrimage described in the text, and assuming that Ashoka visited Lumbini about 1 to 2 years after the solar eclipse, the ascension date seems to be from 268 to 269 BC. More likely to be. However, this theory is not widely accepted. For example, according to John S. Strong, the im Ashokavadana The event described has nothing to do with chronology, and Eggermont's interpretation grossly ignores the legend's literary and religious context.

Rule over Buddhist influence

Both Sri Lankan and North Indian traditions claim that Ashoka was a violent person prior to his conversion to Buddhism. Taranatha also states that Ashoka was originally called "Kamashoka" because he spent many years in pleasurable pursuits ( kama ); he was then called "Chandashoka" ("Ashoka the Savage") because he spent several years doing extremely evil deeds; and finally, after his conversion to Buddhism, he became known as Dhammashoka ("Ashoka the Righteous").

The Ashokavadana also calls him "Chandashoka" and describes some of his cruel deeds:

  • The ministers who had helped him ascend to the throne began to treat him with contempt after his ascension. To test their loyalty, Ashoka gave them absurd orders to cut down every flower and fruit-bearing tree. When they failed to carry out this order, Ashoka personally cut off the heads of 500 ministers.
  • One day Ashoka and his concubines came across a beautiful Ashoka tree while walking in a park. The sight put him in a sensual mood, but the women didn't like caressing his rough skin. Some time later, when Ashoka fell asleep, the angry women chopped the flowers and branches of his namesake tree. After Ashoka woke up, he burned 500 of his concubines as punishment.
  • Prime Minister Radha-gupta was alarmed by the king's personal involvement in such massacres and suggested hiring an executioner to carry out future mass murders in order to keep the king undamaged. Girika, a village boy from Magadha who boasted that he could execute all of Jambudvipa, was hired for this purpose. He became known as Chandagirika ("Girika the Fierce") and at his request, Ashoka built a prison in Pataliputra. The prison, called Ashoka's Hell, looked lovely on the outside, but inside Girika brutally tortured the prisoners.

The 5th century Chinese traveler Faxian states that Ashoka personally visited the underworld to study torture methods and then invented his own methods. 7th century traveler Xuanzang claims to have seen a pillar marking the location of Ashoka's "hell".

The Mahavamsa is playing also briefly on Ashoka's cruelty and explains that Ashoka was formerly called Chandashoka because of his evil deeds, but was called Dharmashoka because of his pious deeds after his conversion to Buddhism. Contrary to the North Indian tradition, however, the Sri Lankan texts do not mention any specific evil deeds that Ashoka performed other than the murder of 99 of his brothers.

Such descriptions of Ashoka as an evil person prior to his conversion to Buddhism seem to be an invention of Buddhist authors who tried to portray the change Buddhism brought him as a miracle. In an attempt to dramatize this change, such legends exaggerate Ashoka's past wickedness and post-conversion piety.

Kalinga War and conversion to Buddhism

Ashoka's own inscriptions mention that he conquered the Kalinga region during his eighth year of reign: the destruction during the war made him regret violence and in the following years he was drawn to Buddhism. Edict 13 of the Edicts of the Ashoka Rock Inscriptions expresses the great repentance the king felt after watching the destruction of Kalinga:

Immediately after the annexation of the Kalingas, His Holy Majesty's zealous protection of the law of piety began, his love for that law and his implementation of that law. Hence the repentance of His Holy Majesty for having conquered the Kalingas, for the conquest of a previously unconquered land involves the slaughter, death and deportation of the people. This is a matter of deep sorrow and regret to His Holy Majesty.

On the other hand, Sri Lankan tradition suggests that Ashoka was a devoted Buddhist in his eighth year of reign, converted to Buddhism in his fourth year of reign and built 84,000 viharas in his fifth to seventh year of reign. The Buddhist legends do not mention the Kalinga campaign.

Based on the Sri Lankan tradition, some scholars - like Eggermont - believe that Ashoka in front converted to Buddhism after the Kalinga War. Critics of this theory argue that if Ashoka had already been a Buddhist, he would not have waged the violent Kalinga War. Eggermont explains this anamolia with the theory that Ashoka had his own interpretation of the "Middle Way".

Some previous authors believed that Ashoka dramatic converted to Buddhism after seeing the suffering caused by the war, as his Major Rock Edict 13 states that he came closer to the Dhamma after the annexation of Kalinga. Even if Ashoka to Converted to Buddhism after the war, epigraphic evidence suggests that his conversion was more likely a step by step Trial was considered a dramatic event. For example, in a Minor Rock Edict issued during his 13th year in office (five years after the Kalinga Campaign), he states that he has been one for more than two and a half years Upasaka (Lay Buddhist) was but made little progress ;; in the past year he was drawn closer to the sangha and became a more passionate follower.

The war

According to Ashoka's Major Rock Edict 13, he conquered Kalinga 8 years after his accession to the throne. The edict states that 100,000 people and animals were killed in action during his conquest of Kalinga; a multiple of this number "perished"; and 150,000 people and animals were carried away as prisoners from Kalinga. Ashoka explains that the repentance of these sufferings led him to devote himself to the practice and dissemination of the Dharma. He proclaims that he now regards the slaughter, death and deportation during the conquest of a country as painful and regrettable; and that he found the suffering inflicted on religious people and households even more regrettable.

This edict was found inscribed in several places including Erragudi, Girnar, Kalsi, Maneshra, Shahbazgarhi and Kandahar. However, omitted from Ashoka's inscriptions in the Kalinga region, where Rock Edicts 13 and 14 have been replaced with two separate edicts that do not mention Ashoka's repentance. It is possible that Ashoka did not find it politically appropriate to make such a confession to the Kalinga people. Another possibility is the Kalinga War, and its consequences, as described in Ashoka's rock edicts, are "more imaginary than real": this description is intended to impress those who are far from the scene and therefore unable to prove its accuracy to check.

Ancient sources mention no other military activity by Ashoka, although the 16th century writer Taranatha claims that Ashoka conquered all of Jambudvipa.

First contact with Buddhism

Different sources report differently about Ashoka's conversion to Buddhism.

According to Sri Lankan tradition, Ashoka's father Bindusara was a follower of Brahmanism and his mother Dharma was a follower of Ajivikas. The Samantapasadika states that Ashoka followed non-Buddhist sects for the first three years of his reign. The Sri Lankan texts add that Ashoka was not satisfied with the behavior of the Brahmins who received his alms on a daily basis. His courtiers brought up some Ajivika and Nigantha teachers before him, but they also failed to impress him.

The Dipavamsa states that Ashoka invited several non-Buddhist religious leaders to his palace and made them great gifts in hopes that they could answer a question asked by the king. The text does not state what the question was, but does mention that none of the invitees were able to answer it. One day Ashoka saw a young Buddhist monk named Nigrodha (or Nyagrodha) looking for alms on a street in Pataliputra. He was the king's nephew, although the king was not aware of it: he was a posthumous son of Ashoka's eldest brother Sumana, whom Ashoka had killed during the conflict of the throne. Ashoka was impressed by Nigrodha's calm and fearless appearance and asked him to teach him his faith. In response, Nigrodha offered him a sermon on appamada (seriousness). Impressed by the sermon, Ashoka Nigrodha offered 400,000 silver coins and 8 daily servings of rice. The king became a Buddhist Upasaka and visited the Kukkutarama shrine in Pataliputra. In the temple he met the Buddhist monk Moggaliputta Tissa and devoted himself more to the Buddhist faith. The accuracy of this story is not certain. This legend of Ashoka's search for a worthy teacher could aim to explain why Ashoka did not adopt Jainism