Who was Ashoka and why Ashoka gave up the war? NCERT Class 6
Who was Ashoka?
The lions that we see on our notes and coins have a long history. They were carved into stone and built at Sarnath on top of a massive stone pillar.
Ashoka was one of the greatest rulers known to history and on his directions, inscriptions were engraved on pillars as well as on rock surfaces. Let us see why his kingdom was called an empire until we find out what was written in these inscriptions.
More than 2300 years ago, Chandragupta Maurya, the empire that Ashoka ruled was founded by his grandfather. Chandragupta was supported by a wise man named Chanakya or Kautilya. In a book called Arthashastra, many of Chanakya’s ideas were written down.
There were several cities in the empire (marked with red dots on the map). These included the capital Pataliputra, Taxila, and Ujjain. Taxila was a gateway to central Asia, including the northwest, while Ujjain was on the north-south Indian road. They were probably traders; officials and craftsmen living in these cities.
In other areas, there were villages of farmers and herders. There were forests in some regions, such as central India, where people collected forest produce and hunted animals for food. People in different parts of the empire spoke different languages. They possibly ate various kinds of food, and also wore various kinds of clothing.
How are empires different from kingdoms?
- Emperors need more resources than kings’ because empires are larger than kingdoms, and need to be protected by big armies.
- So also they need a larger number of officials who collect taxes.
Ruling the Empire
Since the empire was so huge, various parts of it were ruled differently. The region around Pataliputra was under the direct control of the emperor. This meant that officials were appointed to collect taxes from farmers, herders, craftspersons, and traders, who lived in villages and towns in the area. Officials punished those who disobeyed orders from the rulers, too. Many of these officials were given salaries. Messengers went to and fro and spies kept a watch on the officials. And of course, the emperor supervised them all, with the help of members of the royal family, and senior ministers.
There were other areas or provinces. Each of these was ruled by Taxila or Ujjain from the provincial capital. While Pataliputra had some influence, and royal princes were often dispatched as governors, local customs and rules were probably followed.
Besides, there were vast areas between these centers. The Mauryas tried here to control roads and rivers that were necessary for transportation and to collect as tax and tribute whatever resources were available. The Arthashastra tells us, for instance, that the north-west was important for blankets and south India for its gold and precious stones. these resources were possibly collected as a way of tribute.
There were also forested regions. People living in these regions were more or less independent, but Mauryan officials would have been able to provide elephants, timber, honey, and wax.
Why was Ashoka a unique ruler?
The most famous Mauryan ruler was Ashoka. He was the first ruler who tried to take his message to the people through inscriptions. Most of Ashoka’s inscriptions were in Prakrit and were written in the Brahmi script.
Ashoka’s war in Kalinga
Kalinga is the ancient name of coastal Orissa. Ashoka fought a war to conquer Kalinga. However, he was so horrified when he saw the violence and bloodshed that he decided not to fight any more wars. He is the only king in the history of the world who gave up conquest after winning a war.
What was Ashoka’s dhamma?
The dhamma of Ashoka did not require worship of a deity, or sacrificial success. He felt that just as a father tries to teach his children, he had a duty to instruct his subjects. The teachings of the Buddha also inspired Ashoka.
There were a lot of problems that troubled him. People in the empire followed different religions, and this sometimes led to conflict. Animals were sacrificed. Slaves and servants were ill-treated. In addition, there were quarrels between families and neighbors. Ashoka felt it was his duty to solve these problems. So, he appointed officials, known as the dhammamahamatta who went from place to place teaching people about dhamma. Besides, Ashoka got these messages inscribed on rocks and pillars, instructing his officials to read his message to those who could not read it themselves.
Ashoka also sent messengers to spread ideas about dhamma to other lands, such as Syria, Egypt, Greece, and Sri Lanka. He built rest houses, roads, and dug wells. He also arranged for medical treatment for both human beings and animals.
Why Ashoka gave up the war?
Ashoka was one of the great Kings during his reign. He had strong infantry. He was also very rich. In his rule, his people were very happy and loved their land very much, and they were ready for any sacrifice for their land.
So, Ashoka had a fierce battle in Kalinga. While he won the war but he lost many of the people of his kingdom during the war and so the sight of the battlefield laid him with shock and horror and from there on the left fighting in the war and walked on the path of Ahinsa or even against animals and insects completely non-violence. He also developed his strategy, which many people followed.
He constructed great buildings and an excellent road network from that day on, paying great attention to agriculture and to the people of his kingdom.
Takshila learning respects this great and respectable ruler who was magnificent and bold enough to stand out for the betterment of the people. The path of Ahimsa or non-violence that Ashoka vowed to follow is the message that Takshila learning wants to spread amongst the student-teacher community.
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