Ashoka was one of the two greatest emperors of India. He sat on the throne of Magadha in 273 BC after the death of his father, Bindusar. He reigned about 40 years. He was the first monarch to educate his men and lead them to the path of truth. He is the only military man on record who gave up warfare after winning a grand victory.
Birth, Childhood and Education:
Ashoka was the grandson of Chandragupt who founded the Maurya Empire in the year of 322 BC in Magadha. The name of his father was Bindusar.
Ashoka was brought up in his father’s palace in Pataliputra, the Capital of Magadha. In the name of his education he received thing that learning, culture and wealth could supply. It is said that in his childhood he had a very wild nature. But after he had ascended the throne, there was a complete change in his nature.
Accession to the Throne:
Ashoka ascended the throne in 273 BC at the age of about twenty. For the first eleven years he ruled just like his father and grandfather. Then came a great change in him like a king.
His Conquest over Kalinga:
About the year 262 BC he decided to extend his empire by conquering the kingdom of Kalinga now called Orissa. He waged a very bloody war. After a great slaughter of men, women and children, he conquered Kalinga and added it to his empire.
Conversion to Buddhism:
But he had not the cruel heart of a conqueror. The sight of the terrible ruin and destruction filled his mind with horror. The sufferings and bloodshed which resulted from the war had a great effect on his mind. At his time he had a chance to meet a great Buddhist preacher named Upagupt. The teaching of Upagupt brought about a complete change in his life and character. He made Buddhism the state religion. He decided to establish the empire on the basis of love, order and peace.
Spread of Buddhism:
Buddhism made him a lover of all forms of life. He established hospitals for men and animals. He banned animal sacrifice throughout his empire. He sent missionaries to Tibet, China, Japan, Burma, Ceylon and Deccan for the spread of Buddhism. He made Buddhism as the state religion. He began to practice the Law of Piety. He instructed people in that law. He robes of a Buddhist monk. It was due to his efforts that China, Japan, Tibet, Ceylon and some other Asiatic countries still follow Buddhism.
He was not satisfied only with the spread of Buddhism to foreign countries. He did his best to make people happy and peaceful. For this purpose he made 14 principals of law. He got them inscribed on rocks and pillars throughout the empire. They are known as the edicts of Ashoka. They taught the people to truthful, loving, dutiful, non-violent and obedient to their superiors.
Ashoka is a man of character. This is clear from the fact that he kept peace in a war-like age. He adopted Buddhism which was thought a heretical religion in those days. He carried into practice its teachings. As a king he was just and merciful. He was accessible to people at all hours. He would hear their complaint and redress their grievances himself. He was in the true sense of the father of his people. He spent his life to the services of their best interest.
Kings from Europe and Africa sent ambassadors to his court. They sought his friendship. He was not only one of the greatest emperors of India but one of the greatest and the best the world has ever seen.