Rock and Pillar Edicts of Asoka

(257–240 BCE)

About the Author

The author of the Rock and Pillar edicts is Asoka, one of the greatest rulers of Indian history. He belonged to the Maurya Dynasty (322–185 BCE), which ushered in a new chapter in the political evolution of the Indian Subcontinent, as a unified state came into existence encompassing present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Asoka was a son of Emperor Bindusara and Subhadrangi, who exclaimed at the time of the child's birth around 304 BCE that she was asoka, meaning “without sorrow,” which became his name. According to Buddhist traditions, Asoka was a cruel person in the early part of his life. A transformation took place after he embraced Buddhism; from Chandasoka (“cruel Asoka”), he purportedly became Dharmasoka (“righteous Asoka”). Most scholars regard this story as mere fiction and believe that he was attracted to Buddhism later on, after the bloodshed of the Kalinga War. In 286 BCE, Emperor Bindusara appointed Asoka viceroy of the province of Ujjain,...

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Seated Buddha (Yale University Art Gallery)

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