Ashoka – The Great
Ashoka was a great king of India. He inherited the crown from his father Bindusara in 273 B.C. Bindusara is said to be a very successful ruler and commander. Almost the whole of India and Kalinga was under his rule.
Ashoka was a brave and ambitious ruler. He, like his father, wanted to extend his kingdom all over India. He organized a big army and attacked many kingdoms. He won some of them and brought them under his kingdom.
During this time, Kalinga was one of the powerful states. It was not easy to conquer Kalinga. So, Ashoka took an army of three lakh and attacked Kalinga.
The famous battle started between Ashoka and the people of Kalinga. People fought bravely against Ashoka. Lakhs of people were killed in this battle and many more injured. At last, Ashoka became triumphant. Kalinga was completely demolished.
Though Ashoka was victorious in this battle, but it failed to give him the satisfaction which he desired. He was horrified at the ghastly sight of destruction, killings and wounds. The pains and sufferings of the people completely changed him. This battle created a sense of guilt in him. He thought himself responsible for all these. He vowed never to raise arms again in his life.
He was deeply impressed by the teachings of Lord Buddha. He himself in the later stage of his life took to Buddhism. He worked hard for Buddhism to reach all over his kingdom and outside the kingdom, too. For this, he carved different messages on stone pillars built on different places. One such pillar is situated at Sarnath near Varanasi. Our national emblem ‘Ashoka Lions’ is taken from here. It stands for Dharma (piety).
He built many monasteries for the Buddhist monks. He also worked for the welfare of his people. He made wells for them at different places. He treated his people like children. He built rest houses. He also built hospitals for animals. He completely banned the killing of animals in his kingdom. He made special proclamation about being kind, tolerant and non-violent.
Ashoka never purposely made his people to follow Buddhism. Instead, he asked them to follow their own religion.
Ashoka sent his messengers to various parts of the world like China, Tibet, Japan, Thailand and other South Asian countries. For this, he sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra to Sri Lanka. In many countries people still follow Buddhism.
The great king died in the year 232 B.C. He held his empire strongly and ruled wisely. Ashoka was a just and fair ruler. People were happy and satisfied during his rule. People out of love and respect call him Ashoka the great.
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