Chapter 8: Ashoka, the Emperor who gave up war

Ashoka, one of the greatest rulers of history ruled-empire founded by his grandfather, Chandragupta Maurya-over 2300 years ago-supported by a wise man named Chanakya or Kautilya-Chanakya’s ideas written down in the Arthashastra-several cities in the empire (marked with black dots on the map)-included the capital Pataliputra, Taxila, and Ujjain-Taxila a gateway to the northwest, including Central Asia- Ujjain lay on the route from north to south India-Merchants, officials and craftspersons lived in these cities-In other areas there were villages of farmers and herders-In central India, there were forests where people gathered forest produce and hunted animals for food. People in different parts of the empire spoke different languages-ate different kinds of food-wore different kinds of clothes as well.

How are Empires Different From Kingdoms?

Emperors need more resources than kings-are larger than kingdoms-need to be protected by big armies-they need a larger number of officials who collect taxes.

Ruling the Empire

Large empire-different parts ruled differently-area around Pataliputra under the direct control of the emperor-officials were appointed to collect taxes from farmers, herders, craftspersons and traders(lived in villages and towns in the area)-also punished those who disobeyed the ruler’s orders-officials were given salaries-Messengers went to and fro-spies kept a watch on the officials- the emperor supervised them all, with the help of members of the royal family and senior ministers-other areas or provinces- ruled from a provincial capital such as Taxila or Ujjain-some amount of control from Pataliputra, and royal princes were often sent as governors, local customs and rules were probably followed-were vast areas between these centres-Mauryas tried to control roads and rivers important for transport-collect whatever resources were available as tax and tribute.


Unlike taxes, collected on a regular basis, tribute was collected as and when it was possible from people who gave a variety of things, more or less willingly.

Ashoka, Unique Ruler

Famous Mauryan ruler-Ashoka-first ruler who tried to take his message to the people through inscriptions-inscriptions were in Prakrit- written in the Brahmi script.

Ashoka’s War in Kalinga

Kalinga-the ancient name of coastal Orissa-Ashoka fought a war to conquer Kalinga-he was horrified when he saw the violence and bloodshed-decided not to fight any more wars- is the only king in the history of the world who gave up conquest after winning a war.

What was Ashoka’s Dhamma?

Did not involve worship of a god, or performance of a sacrifice. He had a duty to instruct his subjects-was also inspired by the teachings of the Buddha-a number of problems troubled

him. People in the empire followed different religions- led to conflict- Animals were sacrificed-Slaves and servants were ill treated-quarrels in families and amongst neighbours-Ashoka’s duty to solve these problems-appointed officials, known as the dhamma mahamatta-went from place to place teaching people about dhamma- got his messages inscribed on rocks and pillars- instructed his officials to read his message to those who could not read it themselves- sent messengers to spread ideas about dhamma to other lands, such as Syria, Egypt, Greece and Sri Lanka-built roads, dug wells, and built rest houses- arranged for medical treatment for both human beings and animals.

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