The great emperor Ashoka (ca. 275(?)-235) today seems to be all but forgotten by the Indian population. There is the Ashoka Lions as a symbol for modern days Bharat (India), to be found most anywhere, but no one seems to know the story.

Ashoka's grandfather, Chandragupta, started the Indian Empire building. He is said to have met Alexander. Around 269 Ashoka became king after his father, Bindisara, and started a ruthless subjugation of his subjects, and later on the neighbouring country of Kalinga (Orissa). He succeeded in 260. Two and a half year later, his conversion to Buddhism started a process that led to the Edicts, and possibly the first documented "modern" state of justice and personal freedom.

By our values, his actions as a young king were terrible. In his time, things may have looked differently. If we were living a life where different warlords would keep on making war and "taxing" people as they wanted, a little hardship might be preferable. To be the subject of one strong king, and only have to pay taxes to him, might be preferable. And, to have safe roads and civil servants might feel good too.

The edicts is a remarkable set of laws, to be bettered only at the times of the American, French (and Norwegian) constitutions were made, the king of Prussia, Friederich der Grosse, and so on. Ashoka even did one thing one might want rulers to do more often: He apologized to the people of Kalinga for his conquest. The ideals of Buddhism made for a remarkably modern community, but sadly, Hindu radicals of that time destroyed it later on, with mass killings of Buddhists.


The Ashoka Lions

Ashoka's India (yellow)



1. Denounces animal slaughter for sacrifices and festivities, and details the reduced consumption by the royal household from hundreds of beast to only two peacocks and one deer per day.

2. Records the imports and cultivation of herbs, roots and fruits for the treatment of humans and animals, and the building of highways and wells.

3. Instructs Mahamatras ("Officers of righteousness") to carry out dharma.

4. Embellishes edict 3.

5. Requests Ashoka's subjects to aid the families of prisoners and wean criminals from evil.

6. Says Ashoka is available for council at any time.

7. Recommends self-control and purity of thought so that religious sects may live in harmony.

8. Tells of Ashoka's pilgrimages and acts of charity.

9. Encourages the practice of dharma in place of superstitious rites.

10. Praises the modesty brought about by dharma, and denounces fame and glory.

11. Propounds the beneficial results of dharma.

12. Advises the Mahamatras to expound the principles of all religions.

13. Apologizes for the devastation of Kalinga.

14. Summarizes the previous thirteen.





Buddhists use the word dharma in several ways. Three of the most simple:

- The teachings of the Buddha

- Whatever is wholesome for body, mind, all sentient beings

- The things, things as they are, reality.