Ashoka ruled huge parts of modern India which extended from present day Afghanistan in north to Karnataka in South, Orrisa in East to Gujarat in west which probably constitutes 80% of present day India. So its not entirely true that India as we know today is gift of the British rule. And thanks to Ashoka’s Rock Edicts this expanse can be proven by history and archaeology as well and it cannot be judged to be someone’s figment of imagination.
The problem with Indian history is so enmeshed with mythology that it sometime become very difficult to differentiate between mythology and history. Ashoka was a visionary and quite innovative for his times. Almost two thousand years ago when communication was not as easy he developed means to communicate to his subjects and he used the Rock Edicts all over his empire to convey his message. In Today’s world if Prime Minister Modi wants to convey his messages he can just go to his twitter handle or do “Mann Ki Baat” that is telecasted in various modes like radio, television or internet. Internet has made dissemination of information very easy. In modern age one doesn’t have to be so powerful like Modi or Ashoka to broadcast messages, Facebook wall or a blog like this has become for us what Rock Edicts were for Ashoka.
According to the legend Ashoka was not the heir apparent to the throne of his father Bindusara as her mother was not the senior most and he already had a substantial harem and heir apparent called Susima. Ashoka was sent as an emissary to Taxila in order to thwart the rebellion brewing up there. But eventually he was successful in becoming the third ruler after his Grandfather Chandragupta who established Maurya Dynasty by overthrowing Nandas. The inflection point in the life of Ashoka was the battle to include a considerably smaller kingdom of Kalinga, present day Orissa under his Dynasty. Though he had won but there was extreme violence which changed his heart. From then on he became follower of Buddhism and its greatest patron in the entire history. And thus began the story of a communicator-par-excellence. Ashoka started sending out his thoughts for public around his empire to be written on Rocks surrounding places where common people can read it.
These edicts were commissioned throughout his years as an emperor. It covered thoughts of emperor on dhamma promoting morality to secure happiness, protection of animal from mindless sacrifice, proper courtesy of people from slaves to Brahmins and many other similar discussions. These messages were in Brahmi script in parts of current day India and in Kharosthi in present day Afghanistan. How these messages were perceived by the common people of that time is somewhat difficult to judge as nothing else has survived apart from these Rock Edicts and incriptions. Any written account Ashokvadana was written in or around 2nd Century CE or Mahavamsa written around 5th Century CE which is much after the time of Ashokan rule.
Ashoka is a ruler whose story will continue with us as the Indian national emblem and National Flag both have Ashoka’s legacy deeply integrated. The Lion Capital and Chakra of Ashoka is symbol of present day India.
Ashok’s wall is probably the earliest wall in today’s world where everyone has a wall and probably an inspiration for Modi’s “Mann Ki Baat”
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