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Asokan Inscriptions 

by Dr. Jyotsna Kamat
First Online: August 03, 2006
Page Last Updated: February 25, 2017

Relevance of Ashokan Inscriptions (272-232 B.C)

Living in the violence-ridden world today, the message of these oldest inscriptions of emperor Ashoka (3rd century B.C.) seems most humane, compassionate and loving. The greatest emphasis is the regard for sanctity of life. The other points are reverence, sympathy and truthfulness. Cruelty, irreverence, intolerance and falsehood were to be avoided.

Ashoka insisted on liberality and reverence to all persons. Amenities were equally available to human beings and animals.

He issued orders prohibiting slaughter of birds and animals, even for his royal kitchen. Festivals where mass killing of birds and animals took place were banned.

He declared that his subjects of all sects and communities were his children. Though a devout Buddhist, he respected other sects and creeds. He advised all subjects of different religions to respect one another's religion.

Rampurva Text

Thus saith king Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods.

Twelve years after my coronation, records relating to Dharma were caused to be written by me for the first time for the welfare and happiness of the people, so that, without violation thereof, they might attain the growth of Dharma in various respects.

Thinking: "Only in this way the welfare and happiness of the people may be secured." I scrutinize as to how I may bring happiness to the people, no matter whether they are my relatives or residents of the neighborhood of my capital or of distant localities. And I act accordingly. In the same manner, I scrutinize in respect of all classes of people. Moreover, all the religious sects have been honored by me with various kinds of honors. But what I consider my principal duty is meeting the people of different sects personally.

This record relating to Dharma has been caused to be written by me twenty-six years after my coronation.

This edict is found only on the Topra pillar now at Delhi

Thus saith king Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods.

Those kings, who flourished in times past, had this desire:

"How can the people progress through the promotion of Dharma?" But the people did not progress through an adequate promotion of Dharma.

Thus saith king Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods, on this point.

This thought occurred to me: "In times past, kings desired as to how the people could progress through an adequate promotion of Dharma. The people, however, did not progress through an adequate promotion of Dharma. How can the people progress assuredly through an adequate promotion of Dharma? How can I elevate them through the promotion of Dharma?"

Thus saith king Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods, on this point.

This thought occurred to me: "I will cause proclamations of Dharma to be proclaimed and instructions in Dharma to be imparted. Hearing these, the people will conform to them, will be elevated and will progress considerably through the promotion of Dharma."

For this purpose have I caused proclamations on Dharma to be proclaimed, and various kinds of instructions in Dharma have I ordered to be imparted, so that those officers of mine who are placed by me over many people will also preach and disseminate them. The Rajjukas are placed by me over many hundred thousands of beings and they have also been ordered: "Instruct the people who are devoted to Dharma in such and such a manner."

Thus saith Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods.

Having this very matter in view, I have set up pillars bearing records relating to Dharma, appointed Mahamatras to deal with the affairs connected with Dharma and issued proclamations on Dharma.

Thus saith Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods.

Banyan trees have been caused to be planted by me on the roads, so that they will offer shade to beasts and men. Besides, mango-groves have been caused to be planted by me for the same purpose. And I have caused wells to be excavated at intervals of eight Krosas, and rest-houses have also been caused to be constructed by me. Moreover, numerous watering sheds have been caused to be set up by me at different places for the enjoyment of beasts and men. This provision of enjoyment is, however, certainly a trifle. Because mankind has been blessed with many such comforts by former kings as well as by myself. But I have done this for the following purpose, viz., that people might conform to such practices of Dharma.

K.L. Kamat/Kamat's Potpourri
Ashokan Edict, Sanchi
Ashokan Edict, Sanchi
The edict shows the Dharma Chakra (or Seal of Natural Law) that is used in the Indian National flag

Thus saith Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods.

Those Dharma-Mahamatras of mine are occupied with various kinds of activities which are beneficial both to ascetics and to householders. And they are occupied with all the religious sects. I have arranged that some of them will be occupied with the affairs of the Sangha. Likewise I have arranged that some of them will be occupied with the Brahmanas and Ajivikas. Similarly I have arranged that some of them will be occupied with the Nirgranthas. In the same way I have arranged that some of them will be occupied with various other religious sects. The different Mahamatras are occupied especially with the affairs of the different religious sects. My Dharma-Mahamatras are occupied not only with the communities referred to above but also with all the other sects not mentioned specifically.

Thus saith king Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods.

Those mentioned above and many other chief officers of mine are occupied with the delivery of the gifts of myself as well as of the queens. And, to all the members of my entire household, they are bringing, in various ways, reports regarding the worthy recipients of gifts both here and in all the quarters. And I have arranged that some of the officers shall be occupied with the delivery of the gifts of my sons and of other queen's sons, so that the noble deeds of Dharma and the practice of Dharma may be promoted. My intention is that the noble deeds of Dharma and the practice of Dharma which consist of compassion, liberality, truthfulness, purity, gentleness and goodness will thus be promoted among men. Thus saith king Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods.

Whatever good deeds I have performed, those the people have imitated and to those they are conforming. Thereby they have progressed and will progress further in respect of obedience to mother and father, obedience to elders, courtesy to the aged and courtesy to the Brahmanas.

See Also:

Epigraphic Inscriptions from India
Epigraphic Inscriptions

Pictures
Illustrated Kannada InscriptionInscription in Kannada Describing a Temple GrantKannada Inscription of BanavasiKannada Copper Inscription
Shasana (Edict) of AmritapurCopper Plates of the Mahale FamilyCopper Plates of the Mahale FamilyCopper Plates of the Mahale Family
Abandoned InscriptionAn Inscription from Shravanabelagola

 

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