King Ashoka was the Mauryan Dynasty’s third king and the son of Bindusara, the 2nd king of the Mauryan Dynasty and perhaps the Brahmin queen, Subhadrangi. For the very first time the Indian continent got unified by this dynasty. He ruled right from c.270 BC till c.232 BC until he died.
The reputation King Ashoka gained kept changing during his lifetime. In the initial years he was well known for his cruelty but later on he attained reputation for his great edicts and tactics which included non violence or ahimsa. He was into a noble phase when he converted to Buddhism. In c.265 BC at Kalinga he waged a bloody war after which he decided to convert to Buddhism abandoning his Hindu religion. King Ashoka was one of the best rulers of ancient India.
King Ashoka believed that there couldn’t be any other better work than promoting welfare and peace across the world. He was devoted to the welfare of his subjects, even if he wasn’t a skillful politician. To ensure that his policies were carried out, he appointed inspectors of morality. He was largely responsible for the reformation of the Indian judicial and administrative systems.
Political, Social And Cultural Contributions Made By Ashoka
Ashoka’s hereditary succession was indeed questionable. In 274 BCE he was anointed as the Mauryan Empire’s new emperor. After his father fell mysteriously ill and Ashoka succeeded as king. He controlled a bigger kingdom as compared to his father. It is believed by historians that Ashoka had his brothers eliminated in order to succeed Bindusara, his father.
Ashoka embarked on ruthless campaigns to expand his kingdom. The 260 BC Kalinga war marked a watershed in his career and life. Loss of life was unprecedented and the suffering he saw at the battlefield made him turn against war. Buddhism influenced him and he started practicing Dharma or duty.
He showed great respect for all living beings while following the righteous path. This would help bringing in unity and harmony in the country in the form of compassion. His main aim was to instigate a social behavior practice in such a way that none of the religions would object to it reasonably.
Unifying The Nation
One of the dreams that Ashoka had was to unify the country. Many aspects including culture, religion diversity, and ethnicity held the people of the country against each other which in turn created social barriers. Dharma which he started following helped in linking the commoner and the king. Everyone lived by the same religious, moral and civil obligations towards the rest of the people.
Prakrita - The First Written Language In The Country
Ashoka left behind a record of his beliefs. Various teachings and actions which he wanted to publish are etched in stone in the sculpted boulders and pillars. After the language of the ancient city of Harappa which existed in 1500BC, Prakrita which he used was the next written language.
Reforms And Policies
In the history of the world, Emperor Ashoka was considered as one of the most exemplary rulers. In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal, edicts in large numbers on pillars and rocks came to light in the 19th century. His policies and reforms and advice promulgated to his subjects are proclaimed on inscriptions on the pillars and rocks. These provide an insight into the capabilities and power of Ashoka the ruler.
He searched for a political philosophy that went beyond dictatorship or delusion, hatred or communism and greed better known as capitalism. The political system was based on spirituality and the contribution made towards development was very meaningful. Ashoka was respected by all. He persuaded his subjects to respect and love all things and recognize the sanctity of human life. He abolished unnecessary animal mutilation and slaughter. Branding and sport hunting was abolished, and wildlife was protected. Prisoners were let out into the open for a day once a year.
To study, he built universities and for agriculture and trading purposes he built irrigation and water transit systems. Regardless of caste, politics and religion he treated all the people as equals.
Extent Of The Mauryan Empire
His capital was Pataliputra, from which he controlled the northern region of India and other fourteen states which extended to Krishna River in Southern India, and Bactria in the West. He put in a lot of effort for the spread of Buddhism in not only in India but also in Asia. Most of the Indian subcontinent was ruled by the Mauryan Dynasty was ruled from ca. 269 BCE to 232 BCE. The empire stretched from Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush Mountains to Bangladesh in the present times and from the Assam in the east to Andhra Pradesh and northern Kerala in the south.
Pataliputra, Ujjain and Taxila were the capitals of the Mauryan Empire. A destructive war was waged in 260 BCE against Kalinga state, which he conquered. It was in Magadha, Bihar that his reign headquartered.
Reasons For Decline of the Mauryan empire
Kind Ashoka died in 232 BC after which the Mauryan Empire Dynasty got divided into eastern region and the western region. His son, Kunala ruled the western part and one of his grandsons, Dasratha, ruled the eastern part. The western empire collapsed during invasion on the Bactrians while under Samprati’s rule, Dasratha’s successor, the eastern region continued to remain intact. Brihatratha was the last of the Mauryan Kings who Pushyamitra Sunga later assassinated.
Keeping the Mauryan Empire in tact was difficult for the successors of Ashoka. Independence was declared by the provinces gradually. The Mauryans were not able to control northwest India and the region was attacked by a number of foreigners. Independence was declared by Kalinga. Independent rule was established by the Satavahanas further south. Due to this, the rule of the Mauryas remained confined to the valleys of the Ganga River.
The Sunga Dynasty soon replaced the Mauryan Dynasty. The successors were weak, besides which the inadequate economic and political institutions were not able to sustain the vast Mauryan Empire which led to the decline of the empire. The Brahmins were antagonized by the pro-Buddhist policies of Ashoka. Pushyamitra Sunga led a revolution against this.