describe the achievements of ashoka
The Edicts of Ashoka are a collection of 33 inscriptions on the Pillars of Ashoka, as well as boulders and cave walls, made by the Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty during his reign from 269 BCE to 231 BCE. These inscriptions are dispersed throughout the areas of modern-day Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan and represent the first tangible evidence of Buddhism. The edicts describe in detail the first wide expansion of Buddhism through the sponsorship of one of the most powerful kings of Indian history. According to the edicts, the extent of Buddhist proselytism during this period reached as far as the Mediterranean, and many Buddhist monuments were created.
These inscriptions proclaim Ashoka's beliefs in the Buddhist concept of dharma and his efforts to develop the dharma throughout his kingdom. Although Buddhism and the Buddha are mentioned, the edicts focus on social and moral precepts, rather than specific religious practices or the philosophical dimension of Buddhism.
In these inscriptions, Ashoka refers to himself as "Beloved of the Gods" and "King Priya-darshi." The identification of King Priya-darshi with Ashoka was confirmed by an inscription discovered in 1915 by C. Beadon at Maski, the village in Raichur District of Karnataka State. The inscriptions found in the eastern part of India were written in the Magadhi language, using the Brahmi script. In the western part of India, the language used is closer to Sanskrit, using the Kharoshthi script, one extract of Edict 13 in the Greek language, and one bilingual edict written in Greek and Aramaic.These edicts were decodified by British archeologist and historian James Prinsep.
The inscriptions revolve around a few recurring themes: Ashoka's conversion to Buddhism, the description of his efforts to spread Buddhism, his moral and religious precepts, and his social and animal welfare program.
Ashoka coronated as Mauryan king[273 BC - 232 BC]
Ashoka, the most trusted son of Bindusara and the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, was a brave soldier. He was the most famous of the Mauryan kings and was one of the greatest rulers of India. During his father's reign, he was the governor of Ujjain and Taxila. Having sidelined all claims to the throne from his brothers, Ashoka was coronated as an emperor. Ashoka extended the Maurya Empire to the whole of India except the deep south and the south-east, reaching out even into Central Asia.
261 BC: The Kalinga War
Ashoka succeeded in conquering Kalinga after a bloody war in which 100,000 men were killed, 150,000 injured and thousands were captured and retained as slaves. The sight of the slaughter involved in his conquest deeply distressed Ashoka and deeply affected his mind. This was a turning point in his life. He renounced war and sought peace in Buddha's preachings of love and ahimsa (non-violence). The war also developed in him a hatred for all kinds of violence. So he gave up hunting and slaughtering of animals. He became a strict vegetarian.
Under his reign Buddhism spread to Syria, Egypt, Macedonia, Central Asia, Burma. For propagation of Buddhism, he started inscribing edicts on rocks and pillars at places where people could easily read them. These pillars and rocks are still found in India, spreading their message of love and peace for the last two thousand years. To his ideas he gave the name Dharma. Ashoka died in 232 BC. The capital of Ashoka pillar at Sarnath is adopted by India as its national emblem. The "Dharma Chakra" on the Ashoka Pillar adorns our National Flag.
Asoka was born in 304 BC, to Mauryan Emperor Bindusara and a relatively lower ranked queen, Dharma. The legend associated with the emperor goes that his birth had been predicted by Buddha, in the story of 'The Gift of Dust'. Buddhist Emperor Ashoka had only one younger sibling, Vitthashoka, but, several elder half-brothers. Right from his childhood days Ashoka showed great promise in the field of weaponry skills as well as academics.
Accession to the Throne
Asoka quickly grew into an excellent warrior general and an astute statesman. His command on the Mauryan army started growing day by day and because of this, his elder brothers became suspicious of him being favored by Bindusara as the next emperor. The eldest son of Bindusara, Prince Susima, convinced him to send Asoka to Takshashila province (in Sindh) to control an uprising caused by the formation of different militias. However, the moment Ashoka reached the province, the militias welcomed him with open arms and the uprising came to an end without any fight. This particular success of Asoka made his elder brothers, especially Susima, more insecure.
Susima started inciting Bindusara against Ashoka, who was then sent into exile by the emperor. Asoka went to Kalinga, where he met a fisherwoman named Kaurwaki. He fell in love with her and later, made Kaurwaki his second or third wife. Soon, the province of Ujjain started witnessing a violent uprising. Emperor Bindusara called back Ashoka from the exile and sent him to Ujjain. The prince was injured in the ensuing battle and was treated by Buddhist monks and nuns. It was in Ujjain that Asoka first came to know about the life and teachings of Buddha. In Ujjain, he also met Devi, his personal nurse, who later became his wife.
In the following year, Bindusura became seriously ill and was literally on his deathbed. A group of ministers, led by Radhagupta, called upon Ashoka to assume the crown. In the fight that followed his accession, Ashoka attacked Pataliputra, now Patna, and killed all his brothers, including Susima. After he became the King, Ashoka launched brutal assaults to expand his empire, which lasted for around eight years. Around this time, his Buddhist queen, Devi, gave birth to Prince Mahindra and Princess Sanghamitra.
The Battle of Kalinga
The battle of Kalinga (now Orissa) became a turning point in the life of 'Asoka the Great'. The exact reason for the battle is not known. However, it is believed that one of Ashoka's brothers took refuge at Kalinga and this enraged Asoka, who launched a brutal assault on the province. The whole of the province was plundered and destroyed and thousands of people were killed.
Embracing & Spreading Buddhism
It is said that after the battle of Kalinga was over, King Asoka went on a tour of the city. He could see nothing except burnt houses and scattered corpses. This was the first time in his life that Emperor Ashoka realized the consequences of wars and battles. It is said that even after he had returned to Patliputra, he was haunted by the scenes he saw in Kalinga. Even his queen, Devi, who was a Buddhist, left him after seeing the brutality at Kalinga.
It was during this time that he embraced Buddhism under the Brahmin Buddhist sages, Radhaswami and Manjushri. After adopting Buddhism, Asoka started propagating its principles throughout the world, even as far as ancient Rome and Egypt. Infact, he can be credited with making the first serious attempt to develop a Buddhist policy.
Buddhist Emperor Asoka built thousands of Stupas and Viharas for Buddhist followers. One of his stupas, the Great Sanchi Stupa, has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNECSO. The Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath has a four-lion capital, which was later adopted as the national emblem of the modern Indian republic. Throughout his life, 'Asoka the Great' followed the policy of nonviolence or ahimsa. Even the slaughter or mutilation of animals was abolished in his kingdom. He promoted the concept of vegetarianism. The caste system ceased to exist in his eyes and he treated all his subjects as equals. At the same time, each and every person was given the rights to freedom, tolerance, and equality.
Missions to Spread Buddhism
The third council of Buddhism was held under the patronage of Emperor Ashoka. He also supported the Vibhajjavada sub-school of the Sthaviravada sect, now known as the Pali Theravada. He sent his missionaries to the following places:
- Kashmir - Gandhara Majjhantika
- Mahisamandala (Mysore) - Mahadeva
- Vanavasi (Tamil Nadu) - Rakkhita
- Aparantaka (Gujarat and Sindh) - Yona Dhammarakkhita
- Maharattha (Maharashtra) - Mahadhammarakkhita
- "Country of the Yona" (Bactria/ Seleucid Empire) - Maharakkhita
- Himavanta (Nepal) - Majjhima
- Suvannabhumi (Thailand/ Myanmar) - Sona and Uttara
- Lankadipa (Sri Lanka) - Mahamahinda
- Seleucid Empire (Middle Asia)
- Cyrene (Libya)
- Epirus (Greece and Albania)
After ruling over the Indian subcontinent for a period of approximately 40 years, the Great Emperor Asoka left for the holy abode in 232 BC. After his death, his empire lasted for just fifty more years.
While the early part of Ashoka's reign was apparently quite bloodthirsty, he became a follower of the Buddha's teachings after his conquest of Kalinga on the east coast of India in the present-day states of Odisha and North Coastal Andhra Pradesh. Kalinga was a state that prided itself on its sovereignty and democracy. With its monarchical parliamentary democracy it was quite an exception in ancient Bharata where there existed the concept of Rajdharma. Rajdharma means the duty of the rulers, which was intrinsically entwined with the concept of bravery and dharma. The Kalinga War happened eight years after his coronation. From his 13th inscription, we come to know that the battle was a massive one and caused the deaths of more than 100,000 soldiers and many civilians who rose up in defence; over 150,000 were deported. When he was walking through the grounds of Kalinga after his conquest, rejoicing in his victory, he was moved by the number of bodies strewn there and the wails of the kith and kin of the dead.Buddhist conversion A similar four "Indian lion" Lion Capital of Ashoka atop an intact Ashoka Pillar at Wat U Mong near Chiang Mai, Thailand showing another larger Dharma Chakra / Ashoka Chakra atop the four lions.
Edict 13 on the Edicts of Ashoka Rock Inscriptions reflect the great remorse the king felt after observing the destruction of Kalinga:His Majesty feels remorse on account of the conquest of Kalinga because, during the subjugation of a previously unconquered country, slaughter, death, and taking away captive of the people necessarily occur, whereat His Majesty feels profound sorrow and regret.
The edict goes on to address the even greater degree of sorrow and regret resulting from Ashoka's understanding that the friends and families of deceased would suffer greatly too.
Legend says that one day after the war was over, Ashoka ventured out to roam the city and all he could see were burnt houses and scattered corpses. This sight made him sick and he cried the famous monologue:[dubious discuss]What have I done? If this is a victory, what's a defeat then? Is this a victory or a defeat? Is this justice or injustice? Is it gallantry or a rout? Is it valor to kill innocent children and women? Did I do it to widen the empire and for prosperity or to destroy the other's kingdom and splendor? One has lost her husband, someone else a father, someone a child, someone an unborn infant.... What's this debris of the corpses? Are these marks of victory or defeat? Are these vultures, crows, eagles the messengers of death or evil?
The lethal war with Kalinga transformed the vengeful Emperor Ashoka to a stable and peaceful emperor and he started patronising Buddhism. Whether or not he converted to Buddhism is unclear  although Buddhist tradition mentions so. According to the prominent Indologist, A. L. Basham, Ashoka's personal religion became Buddhism, if not before, then certainly after the Kalinga war. However, according to Basham, the Dharma officially propagated by Ashoka was not Buddhism at all.Romila Thapar argues  that modern day historians argue his conversion into Buddhism, in the aftermath of the Kalinga war. She argues that Ashoka curiously refrained from engraving his confession anywhere.
Nevertheless, his patronage led to the expansion of Buddhism in the Mauryan empire and other kingdoms during his rule, and worldwide from about 250 BCE. Prominent in this cause were his son Mahinda (Mahendra) and daughter Sanghamitra (whose name means "friend of the Sangha"), who established Buddhism in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).Ashokan Pillar at Vaishali
Archaeological evidence for Buddhism between the death of the Buddha and the time of Ashoka is scarce; after the time of Ashoka it is abundant.