Born in 265 B.C, the great king Ashoka was the grandson of the famous ruler Chandragupta Maurya. 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 whatever he did. Ashoka had many half brothers and he was loved by one and all. Thus, after his father died, he was crowned as the king of Magadha around 268 B.C. 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. The Mauryan Empire reached its peak under the rule of Ashoka. He undertook military campaign against Kalinga and, after defeating it in a bloody war, annexed it. However, the sight of the large-scale carnage moved Ashoka, and he embraced Buddhism. The war of Kalinga was the turning point in the life of Ashoka to the extent that he shunned all forms of violence and became a strict vegetarian. For the rest of his life, Ashoka preached the principles of Buddhism not only in his vast empire, but also sent missions abroad. Ashoka built a number of rock edicts and pillars to spread the gospel of Buddhism.
ADMINISTRATION UNDER ASHOKA
Before the Kalinga war, the Mauryan administration under Ashoka was not different from that of his predecessors. Ashoka, like previous Mauryan kings, was at the head of the centralized administrative system. He was helped by a council of ministers that was in charge of different ministries like taxation, army, agriculture, justice, etc. The empire was divided into administrative zones, each one having its hierarchy of officials. The top most officers at the zonal level had to keep in touch with the king. These officers took care of all aspects of administration (social welfare, economy, law and order, military) in the different zones. The official ladder went down to the village level. The war with Kalinga transformed Ashoka both on a personal as well as public level. He made a number of changes in the administration. Ashoka introduced a new cadre of officials, by the name of Dhamma Mahamatta, who were sent across the empire to spread the message of Ashoka's Dhamma (dharma).
As Ashoka became a devout Buddhist, he began to spread the teachings of Buddha by issuing edicts, which not only propagated religion but also his ideas on society and governance. These edicts were sent to different parts of the empire, where they were engraved on rocks or pillars, for the common people to see and read them.These edicts were written in different scripts. Most of them were in Brahmi, which was common in most parts of the empire. The language was generally Prakrit (ancient language), as it was spoken by the common people, whereas Sanskrit was spoken by educated upper caste people. Some inscriptions were also written in Greek and Aramaic (an Indo-Persian language). As Ashoka wanted his message to reach all his subjects, he used the language they understood. Ashoka believed in high ideals, which, according to him, could lead people to be virtuous, and peace loving. This he called Dhamma (which is a Prakrit form of the Sanskrit word Dharma). His rock edicts and pillar inscriptions propagated the true essence of Dhamma. Ashoka asked the different religious groups (Brahmins, Buddhist and Jain) to live in peace. His lofty ideals also included shunning violence and war, stopping animal sacrifice, respect for elders, respect of slaves by their masters, vegetarianism, etc. Above all, Ashoka wanted peace in his empire. Ashoka believed that the King should look upon his subjects as a father treats his children. He took care of his subjects in various ways and was responsible for carrying out a lot of welfare activities during his reign like building of roads, planting of trees along these roads, wells, rest houses for travelers, hospitals for the sick, etc. The Dhamma Mahamattas (officers responsible for promoting the policy of Dhamma) looked after...
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