Emperor Ashoka to a stable and peaceful emperor and he started patronising Buddhism.
One of the greatest emperors of all times, Emperor Asoka was a Mauryan ruler whose empire spread across the Indian subcontinent, stretching from the present day Pakistan and Afghanistan to Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam to Kerala and Andhra in south India, thus covering a vast area. He is known as Asoka the Great since he was one of the most able rulers who ruled India. Under his rule, the entire India was united as one single entity with smooth administration. His life is an inspiration to many as he excelled in everything he did. The name Ashoka means without any sorrow in Sanskrit. Read on this biography about the life history of famous Buddhist emperor, Ashoka.
Born in 304 BC, the great king Ashoka was the grandson of the famous ruler Chandragupta Maurya and son of Mauryan emperor Bindusara and his queen, Dharma. As a young lad, Ashoka excelled in whatever he was taught. Be it the art of warfare or reading the Holy Scriptures, Asoka excelled in everything he did. Ashoka had many half brothers and was loved by one and all. Thus, after his father died, his elder brother Suman took over the reign of the kingdom. But most of his fathers ministers found Ashoka to be more efficient and helped him attain power. After a three year war, Ashoka was accepted the throne and was crowned as the king of Magadha in 273 BC. After being crowned as the king, he proved himself by smoothly administrating his territory and performing all his duties as an able and courageous king.
Asoka the GreatAfter a period of eight years of serving as the king, Ashoka planned to seize the territory of Kalinga, the present day Orissa. He led a huge army and fought a gruesome battle with the army of Kalinga. The battle of Kalinga made him pledge to never wage a war again. The battle took place on the Dhauli hills that are located on the banks of River Daya. Though Ashoka emerged victorious at the end, the sight of the battlefield made his heart break with shame, guilt, and disgust. It is said that the battle was so furious that the waters of River Daya turned red with the blood of the slain soldiers and civilians.
The sight of numerous corpses lying strewn across the battlefield made his heart wrench. He felt sick inside. The battle ground looked like a graveyard with bodies of not just soldiers but men, women, and children also. He saw young children crying over the bodies of their dead parents, women crying over the bodies of their dead husbands, mothers crying over the loss of their kids. This turned him heartbroken and thus, made a pledge to never ever fight a battle again. To seek solace, he converted to Buddhism. He was so inspired by the teachings of the Buddhist monks and Buddhist philosophies that he used his status to impart this knowledge all over the world. He is credited to be the first Emperor to make a serious attempt at developing Buddhist policies.
2. Early Life
Asoka was born in 304 BC, to Mauryan Emperor Bindusara and a relatively lower ranked queen, Dharma. The legend associated with the emperor goes that his birth had been predicted by Buddha, in the story of The Gift of Dust. Buddhist Emperor Ashoka had only one younger sibling, Vitthashoka, but, several elder half-brothers. Right from his childhood days Ashoka showed great promise in the field of weaponry skills as well as academics.
3. Accession to the Throne
Asoka quickly grew into an excellent warrior general and an astute statesman. His command on the Mauryan army started growing day by day and because of this, his elder brothers became suspicious of him being favored by Bindusara as the next emperor. The eldest son of Bindusara, Prince Susima, convinced him to send Asoka to Takshashila province (in Sindh) to control an uprising caused by the formation of different militias. However, the moment Ashoka reached the province, the militias welcomed him with open arms and the uprising came to an end without any fight. This particular success of Asoka made his elder brothers, especially Susima, more insecure.
Susima started inciting Bindusara against Ashoka, who was then sent into exile by the emperor. Asoka went to Kalinga, where he met a fisherwoman named Kaurwaki. He fell in love with her and later, made Kaurwaki his second or third wife. Soon, the province of Ujjain started witnessing a violent uprising. Emperor Bindusara called back Ashoka from the exile and sent him to Ujjain. The prince was injured in the ensuing battle and was treated by Buddhist monks and nuns. It was in Ujjain that Asoka first came to know about the life and teachings of Buddha. In Ujjain, he also met Devi, his personal nurse, who later became his wife.
In the following year, Bindusura became seriously ill and was literally on his deathbed. A group of ministers, led by Radhagupta, called upon Ashoka to assume the crown. In the fight that followed his accession, Ashoka attacked Pataliputra, now Patna, and killed all his brothers, including Susima. After he became the King, Ashoka launched brutal assaults to expand his empire, which lasted for around eight years. Around this time, his Buddhist queen, Devi, gave birth to Prince Mahindra and Princess Sanghamitra.
4. The Battle of Kalinga
The battle of Kalinga (now Orissa) became a turning point in the life of Asoka the Great. The exact reason for the battle is not known. However, it is believed that one of Ashokas brothers took refuge at Kalinga and this enraged Asoka, who launched a brutal assault on the province. The whole of the province was plundered and destroyed and thousands of people were killed.
5. Embracing Spreading Buddhism
It is said that after the battle of Kalinga was over, King Asoka went on a tour of the city. He could see nothing except burnt houses and scattered corpses. This was the first time in his life that Emperor Ashoka realized the consequences of wars and battles. It is said that even after he had returned to Patliputra, he was haunted by the scenes he saw in Kalinga. Even his queen, Devi, who was a Buddhist, left him after seeing the brutality at Kalinga.It was during this time that he embraced Buddhism under the Brahmin Buddhist sages, Radhaswami and Manjushri. After adopting Buddhism, Asoka started propagating its principles throughout the world, even as far as ancient Rome and Egypt. Infact, he can be credited with making the first serious attempt to develop a Buddhist policy.
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