Rock and Pillar Edicts of Asoka

(257–240 BCE)

The Rock and Pillar Edicts of Asoka (the Mauryan ruler who reigned from 273 to 232 BCE) constitute inscriptions engraved on pillars, gigantic boulders, and caves in scattered locations across the Indian Subcontinent and Afghanistan. One of the most notable rulers in world history, Asoka—whose name with royal titles was Devanampiya (“Beloved of the Gods”) Piyadasi (“Benignant, Beloved of Us”) Raja (“King”) Asoka—used his Rock and Pillar Edicts to leave blueprints of his ideas and ideals throughout the Maurya Empire. Reflecting his benevolent attitude and activities, Asoka issued the royal proclamations in the Rock and Pillar Edicts after the fateful Kalinga War of around 261 BCE. The large-scale devastation resulting from that war greatly moved Asoka, and he thenceforth relinquished war in favor of victory by dhamma, meaning “righteous path” or “piety.” The concept of dharma  (“religion” in Sanskrit), or dhamma (the Prakrit version of dharma), as used by the emperor denoted...

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Seated Buddha (Yale University Art Gallery)

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