Ashoka, the Great - Part I

Exact Match
  Indus Valley
  Mauryan Era
  Post Mauryan
  Kushana Era
  Golden Age
  Post Gupta

  Arab Invasion
  South India
  Prithviraj Era
  Delhi Sultunate
  Mughal Period
  Maratha Era
  British Period

  Subhash & INA

The Mauryan Empire | Seleucus's Invasion | Bindusara | Ashoka | Kalinga War | Economy & Administration | Decline 

Ashoka (?-232 B.C.), also spelled Asoka, was the greatest emperor of ancient India. He ruled the Maurya Empire from about 272 B.C. until his death. Ashoka was the grandson of Chandragupta, founder of the Mauryan dynasty. His father, Bindusara, ruled northern India for 29 years.

Ashoka was a fierce military leader who expanded his kingdom in the Ganges-Jamuna valley. He continued his victorious campaigns in southern and eastern India for eight years. In 261 B.C., he conquered Kalinga (now known as Orissa), a region on the east coast of India.

The conquest of Kalinga marked a turning point in Ashoka's life and reign. His armies killed about 100,000 people in battle and took 150,000 prisoners. Horrified at the slaughter of the defenders of Kalinga, Ashoka decided to renounce warfare. He sent peace missions to his Asian neighbours as far away as Burma and Sumatra. Although born into the Hindu religion, Ashoka turned to the teachings of Buddhism, which challenged many Hindu beliefs. He vowed to maintain his rule by dharma, the Buddhist law of piety.

Ashoka believed that a king's duties took precedence over recreation, relaxation, enjoyment, and sleep. He often worked late into the night in consultation with his ministers of state. He was responsible for many reforms. These reforms included an efficient civil service and a fair system of land taxation. He introduced a secret information service to help him gauge the mood and needs of his people first hand. The network of agents speedily conveyed his commands and collected information from distant parts of the kingdom. He set up his court in the capital, Pataliputra (now Patna in Bihar). His messengers regularly entered and left the capital at night, after the great gates were closed. They used specially built tunnels to move quickly and safely.

Ashoka also built safe roads, with rest houses for travellers. He established hospitals for both people and animals. He encouraged and controlled international trade and restrained the powerful trade guilds that developed from these measures. He boosted agriculture with revolutionary ideas. These included improved systems of irrigation and drainage. He also offered state-sponsored loans to poorer farmers. After a period of five years, the farmers became owners of the land they cultivated.


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