“The people of the unconquered territories beyond the borders might think: "What is the king’s intention towards us?" My only intention is that they live without fear of me, that they may trust me and that I may give them happiness, not sorrow. Furthermore, they should understand that the king will forgive those who can be forgiven, and that he wishes to encourage them to practice Dhamma so that they may attain happiness in this world and the next.”
From Ashoka’s edicts
Ashoka the great was more than a Mauryan king. On the one hand, he was one of the greatest of Indian emperors. On the other, he was one of the true practitioner, preacher and propagator of Buddhism.
According to H G Wells, In the history of the world there have been thousands of kings and emperors who called themselves "their highnesses," "their majesties," and "their exalted majesties" and so on. They shone for a brief moment, and as quickly disappeared. But Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day.”
Ashoka succeeded his father Bindusara as the third king of Mauryan emperor. His name meant ‘without shoka, i.e. without sorrow’. Born to Bindusara and Subhadrangi in 304 BC, Ashoka was an adventurous young learner in his early days. He was very fond of hunting. He excelled in weaponry and academics. Other siblings were suspicious that he will be favored by their father as the next king.
Being incited by them, Bindusara sent Ashoka in exile to Kalinga. From there he met a fisherwoman named Kaurwaki. He married her later. When the place of Ujjain saw a violent uprising, Ashoka was called back by Bindusara and sent to Ujjain to control the situation.
Though Ashoka was succeeded in doing so, he was injured. He was treated by Buddhist nuns and monks and Ujjain became a place for Buddhist study for Ashoka although he realized the essence of Buddhism only after the Kalinga war.
On the death of Bindusara, Ashoka succeeded as the king killing all his brothers by attacking Pataliputra in 273 BC. The empire of Ashoka stretched from the Himalayas, Nepal and Kashmir to Mysore in the South, from Afghanistan in the N.E. to the banks of the River Brahmaputra in the East. In the West his territory covered Saurashtra and Junagarh.
The year 263 BC was a turning point in the life of Ashoka. The Kalinga war led to the death of more than 100,000 people. The war transformed him from ‘Ashoka the terrible’ to ‘Ashoka the great. After witnessing the bloodshed and the misery after the war, Ashoka decided to give up wars and violence forever. He was converted to Budhism.
Thereafter, he dedicated his life for the propagation of Buddhism. He contributed largely to the global spread of Buddhism. He was also a brilliant administrator. The Ashoka chakra of the Indian flag points out to the importance of this king in Indian republic. The pillars of Ashoka or. Ashoka Sthamba is also famous. The Ashoka Lion capital or the Sarnath lion is the national symbol of India.
After the death of Ashoka, Mauryan Empire declined.