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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Reign of Ashoka in Ancient India

The Reign of Ashoka
Chandragupta's grandson, Ashoka (uh.SHOH.kuh), became Maurya emperor about 273 B.C. The new emperor ruled as firmly as his father and grandfather had. "Any power superior in might to another should launch into war," Ashoka believed.

About 265 B.C. Ashoka's army marched into the kingdom of Kalinga on the empire's southern border. There the Maurya forces defeated the Kalingans. Ashoka recorded that "150,000 people were deported,100,000 were killed, and many times that number died."

The invasion of Kalinga was a turning point in Ashoka's life. A turning point is a time of important change. The bloody invasion of Kalinga turned Ashoka against violence. He began to follow the teachings of Buddha. He refused to eat meat or to hunt and kill animals. His change led many of his people to adopt peaceful ways, too.

To spread the message of Buddhism, Ashoka issued a number of edicts, or commands. He had these edicts carved on rocks and stone pillars along main roads. Many of these pillars can still be read. One of Ashoka's edicts called on people to show "obedience to mother and father." Ashoka also sent missionaries, or people who teach about their religion, to spread Buddhism to other parts of Asia.

Ashoka used his power to make the lives of his people better. During his rule, people began to place less importance on the caste system.

So fair was Ashoka that he is known in history as "the greatest and noblest ruler India has known." Not long after his death in 232 B.C., India again became a land of several smaller kingdoms.

Today the people of India still honor Ashoka. The lion and the wheel, two designs Ashoka used to decorate his edicts, are symbols of present-day India.

What principles guided Ashoka's government after the invasion of Kalinga?


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