History

The Mauryas

Inscriptions of Ashoka

Minor Rock Edict I

This edict is found at the following places – Ahraura, Bahapur, Bairat, Brahmagiri, Gavimath, Gujarra, Jatinga Ramesvara, Maski, Nittur, Palkigundu, Panguraria, Rajula Manadagiri, Rupnath, Sahasram, Siddapura, Udegolam and Yerragudi. Details of some important texts are give below.

There are many variations of in the text of this edict however the theme of it remains same. Rupnath text is the most complete one. Maski, Nittur and Gujarra texts refer the king with his personal name.

Gujarra Text

Sanskrit text by D C Sircar (Epigraphia Indica vol XXXI)

  1. देवानंपियस पियदसनो असोकराजस
  2. अद्दतियं सवंच्छरानि उपासके स (म) इ |
  3. साधिके संच्छरेय मे संघे य (आ) ते ती (अह) म बाढ च परकंते ती (आ) हा |
  4. एतेना अंतरेना जंबूदीपसि देवानं पियं (स) मिसं-देवा संतो मुनिस मिसं-देवा कटा |
  5. परकमस इयं फले |
  6. नो (च इ) यं मह्तेना ति व चिकिये पापोतवे |
  7. खुदाकेण पि परकमनिणेना धम्मं चरमीनेना पाणेसु | संयेतेना विपुले पि स्वगे चकिये आराधयितवे
  8. स (ए) एताय अठा(ये) इयं सावणे |
  9. खुदाके च उढारे च धम्मं चरतुं(यो) ग्गं युंजतु |
  10. अंता पि चा जानन्तु किंति च | चिलथ (इति) के धम्मंच ……….(सि) ति इनं वा धम्मं चरंतु (यो)गं युंजतुं |
  11. इयं च सावन व्युत्थेन २००५०६

English translation by D C Sircar

This is a proclamation of Priyadarsi Ashokaraja, Beloved of the Gods.
I have now been a lay follower of the Buddha for two and a half years.
Saith he, “It is now more than a year since the Samgha has been intimately associated with me and I have been exerting myself in the cause of Dharma”.
During this period, Devanampriya’s subjects in Jambudvipa, who had been unmingled with the gods, were made mingled with them by him. This is the result of his exertion in the cause of Dharma. It is not that this result can be obtained by the rich man alone. Even the poor man, if he exerts himself in the cause of Dharma, practices the duties associated with Dharma and observes restraint in respect of living beings, can attain the great heaven.
This proclamation is issued by the king for the following purpose.
Let both the poor and the rich practice the duties associated with Dharma and effect thereby their association with the gods. Let the people living beyond the borders of his empire also know that the practice of duties associated with Dharma should increase further. This matter will increase if people practice the duties associated with this Dharma alone to a considerable degree.
And, this proclamation is issued by the king when he has been on a tour and spent 256 nights away from the capital.

Maski Text

Sanskrit text by G S Murti and A N K Aiyangar

  1. देवानंपियस असोकस (सावने | अधिकानी ) अढाति-
  2. या नि वषानि यं अं सुमि बुधशके (संवछरे सा) तिरे (के)
  3. अं सु मि संघं उपगते उठ (नं च सु) मि उपगते | पुरे जंबु
  4. (दिप) सि ये अमिसा देवा हुसु ते दानि मिसिभुता | इय अठे खुद….
  5. केन पि धमयुतेन सके अधिगतवे | न हेवं दखितविये उडा
  6. लके व इम अधिगछेयाति | खुदके च उडालके च वत-
  7. विया हेवं वे कलंतं भदके से अ ( ठे चिरठि ) तिके च वढी
  8. सिति या दियाढीयं  हेवं ति |

English Translation by Meena Talim

  1. This is a proclamation of the Beloved of the God, Ashoka
  2. I have been a follower of Buddha, the Shakya for more than two and half years; later with an addition of a year more
  3. I am serving (approaching) Samgha, I get up and serve Samgha
  4. In the past, in Jambudvipa those godly ones who were not mixing have started mixing. This means (essence should be extended) to small ones….
  5. To my Dhammayuttas, it will be possible to acquire this. They should see this -
  6. Great ones would obtain it. Both small and great ones should be observant (of religious duties)
  7. By doing this you will do good (act); an essence (of Dhamma) will last for longer time and will grow
  8. and it will grow day by day.

Rupnath Text

English translation by V A Smith

Thus saith his sacred majesty:
For more than two-and-a-half years I was a lay disciple, without, however, exerting myself strenuously. But it is more than a year since I joined the Order, and have exerted myself strenuously.
The gods who up to this time had been unassociated [with men] in India (Jambudipa) have now been associated. For this is the fruit of exertion. Nor is this to be attained by greatness only, because even by the small man who choose to exert himself, immense heavenly bliss may be won.
For that purpose has the proclamation been made:
Let small and great exert themselves.
My neighbors, too, should learn this lesson, and may such exertion long endure.
And this purpose will increase – yea, it will increase immensely, at least half as much again will it increase.
And this purpose must be written on the rocks as opportunity offers. And measures must be taken to have it engraved upon stone pillars, wherever there are stone pillars in my dominion.
And according to this text, as far as your jurisdiction extends, you must send it out everywhere.
By to body of missioners was the proclamation made – to wit, 256 persons [were]missioners.

English translation by D C Sircar

Thus saith the Beloved of the Gods.
A little more than two years and a half have passed since I have been avowedly a lay follower of the Buddha. But I was not vigorously exerting myself in the cause of Dharma for the first one year. However, it is a little more than a year since I have been devoutly attached to the Samgha and been exerting vigorously.
The gods, who were unmingled with the people inhabiting Jambudvipa during the ages down to the present time, have now been made mingled with them by me. This is indeed the result of my exertion in the cause of Dharma.
And this result is not be achieved only by people of superior position like myself; but even a poor man is as well able to attain the great heaven if he is zealous in the cause of Dharma.
Now, this proclamation has been issued for the following purpose, viz., that both the poor and the rich may exert themselves, that even the people residing in the territories outside the borders of my dominion may realize this, and this exertion on the part of the people may be of long duration. This cause will be made by me to progress more or less to one and a half times.
And now, my officers, cause ye this matter to be engraved on stone wherever an opportunity presents itself. And , wherever there are stone pillars here in my dominions, this should be cause to be engraved on those pillars of stone.
And with the implication of this proclamation in mind, you should go on tour everywhere throughout the district in your charge.
This proclamation is issued by me when I am on a tour of pilgrimage and have spent 256 nights away from the capital.

English translation by D R Bhandarkar for last few lines

Have this matter engraved on hills. Here and after off where there is any stone column, have it engraved on the stone column, And with this verbal order, go ye forth on tour everywhere so far as your jurisdiction extends. The proclamation has been made by 256 Vyushtas, (the figure indicating) the settings out on tour of (as many) individuals.

Calcutta-Bairat Text

Sanskrit Text by E Hultzsch, Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum vol I

  1. देवानंपिये आहा साति …………………………
  2. वसानि य हकं उपासके नो चु बाढम ……………….
  3. अं ममया सद्द्ये उपयति बाढ च …………………
  4. जंबूदीपसि अमिसा न देवेहि ……….. मी ………….. कमस एस ………….. ले
  5. नो हि एसे महतनेव चकिये ……………….. कममिनेना
  6. विपुले पिश्र्वगे चक्ये आलाधेतवे …………….. का च उडाला चा पलकमतु  ति
  7. अंता पि च जानंतु चिलठित ……………… लं पि वठिसति …………
  8. दीयंठियं वठिसति

English translation by Meena Talim

  1. Thus said the beloved of Gods
  2. I have been a lay devotee for …. years but no exceeding………
  3. But when I personally (served) Samgha then exceeding …………
  4. In Jambudipa, Godly ones were not mixing with ….. this is a fruit of exertion
  5. Not that only higher ones can do (possible) …. With exertion…….
  6. Much (fruit can be obtained), possible to obtain heaven, accomplished ….. lower ones and higher ones, by exerting
  7. Others living on borders should also know about it; it will last for long time and increase exceedingly
  8. Day by day it will grow (increase)

Ahraura Text

Sanskrit text by Dr S Sankarnarayana, (Indian Historical Quarterly vol XXXVII)  

  1. …………(I)…….(पिये) शा (IA) ति
  2. ………..(II) (सा) धिका
  3. ……..(III) (न) च बाढम पलकमंते
  4. (IV)………. च पलकमंते  (V) एतेन
  5. (अनंतले)………………. मिसमंदेवा कता
  6. (VI) पलकमे (स)…………(VII)………….. न (ए) व चक्ये पापोतवे ख़ुदककेन पि
  7. पलकममिनेना विपुले पि स्वर्गे चक्ये आलाधेतवे (VIII) एताये अठाये
  8. इयं सावने खुदका च उडाला च पाकममंतु अंता पि च जानमंतु
  9. चिलठितिके च पलकमनो होतु (IX) इयं च अठे वठिसति विपुलं पि च
  10. वठिसति दियठिय अवलधिया वठिसति (X) एसा सावने विवुत्थें
  11. दुवे सपम्मा लातिसति (XI) आम्मम च बुधस सलिले आलोढे तिओच |

English Translation by Meena Talim

  1. …..(I)……beloved of God.
  2. …..(II) a lay follower
  3. ……(III) did not exert much
  4. (IV)…. and exerted. (V) In between this period
  5. After….mixed with godly ones, done (this) by me
  6. (VI) by exertion…. (VII)….. this is not only possible, but even lower ones can gain (obtain)
  7. By exerting one can gain much and even heaven and it should be accomplished (VIII). For this purpose this
  8. The proclamation: Let exertion be made lower ones and higher ones and let others, living on the borders also know this
  9. Let exertion last for a long time (IX). Thus, an essence (of teaching) will immensely increase and
  10. Will grow; without stopping (obstructing) day by day; it will increase (X). This proclamation is made after completion of two hundred nights, spent on tour (XI).
  11. I have come here and gone (up) to (the place) where lies the relics (body) of Buddha; thus I have said.

English translation of the last few lines by D C Sircar

Let exertion in the cause of Dharma be everlasting. This matter will increase – will increase even to a great extent – will increase one and a half times. This declaration has been made by me while I am on a tour of pilgrimage for 256 nights (i.e. days) since the relics of the Buddha ascended the platform (i.e. were caused to be installed by me on the platform for worship).

Brahmagiri Text

Sanskrit text by G S Murti and A N K Aiyangar, Edicts of Ashoka

  1. सुवंणगिरीते अयपुतस महामत्तानं च वचनेन इसिलसि महामाता आरोगियं वतविया हेवं वतविया | देवाणंपिये आणपयति |
  2. अधिकानि  अढातियानी वसानि य हकं उपासके नो तु खो बाढम पकंते हुसं एकं संवछरं | सातिरेके तु खो संवछरं |
  3. यं मया संघे उपयीते बाढ च मे पकंते | इमिना चु कालेन अमिसा समाना मुनिसा जंबूदीपसि
  4. मिसा देवेहि | पकमस हि इयं फले | नो हीयं सक्ये महात्पेनेव पापोतवे कामं तु खो खुदकेन पि
  5. पकममिनेना विपुले स्वगे सक्ये आराधेतवे | एतायठाय  इयं सावणो साविपते
  6. यथा खुदका च महात्पा च इमं पकमेयु ति अंता च मे जानेयु चिरठितीके च इयं
  7. पकमे होतु | इयं च अठे वठिसति विपुलं पि च वठिसति  अवरधिया दीयंठियं
  8. वठिसति | इयं च सावणे सावपिते व्युत्थेन २००५०६

English translation by Meena Talim

  1. The ministers Suvarnagiri, in the name of (Ashoka) Noble-son, after having exchanged the greetings with minister of Isilasi should say this. Thus Devamppiyo has commanded.
  2. When I was a lay devotee for more than two-and-a-half years, no exceeding growth was apparent.
  3. After a year when I started serving Samgha, there was exceeding growth. In this period, in Jambudipa the Samanas and men who were not associated
  4. (mixed) with godly men have mixed with them. This is a fruit of my exertion. Here, it is not only possible for great ones to obtain but smaller ones can by putting exertion
  5. By more exertion they will gain much and it will be possible for them to win favor of heaven. For this purpose this proclamation has been proclaimed.
  6. Just as smaller one, so the greater one should exert. Let those living on the order know of it; let this
  7. Exertion last for a long duration. The meaning “of Dhamma will be increased; it will increase much without stopping; day by day
  8. It will increase. This proclamation  has been proclaimed on 200506, dwelling away from home.

English translation by V A Smith

According to the words of the Prince and High officers of Suvarnagiri, the High officers and Isila are to be addressed with salutations and addressed in the manner following:
‘His sacred majesty (Devanampiya) gives these instructions’:
‘For more than two-and-a-half years I was a lay disciple, without, however, exerting myself strenuously. But a year –in fact, more than a year ago, I entered the Order, and since then have exerted myself strenuously.’
During that time the men in India who had been unassociated with the god became associated with them. For this is the fruit of exertion. Nor this to be attained by greatness only, because even by the small man who choose to exert himself, immense heavenly bliss may be won.
For that purpose has this proclamation been proclaimed:
Let [small] and great exert themselves to this end.
My neighbors, too, should learn this lesson, and may this lesson long endure.
And this purpose will increase – yea, it will increase vastly, at least half as much again will it increase.
And this proclamation was proclaimed by the body of missioners, [to wit], 256 [persons].

English translation by D R Bhandarkar

By command of the Prince and the Mahamatras from Suvarnagiri, the Mahamatras at Isila should be asked (their) health, and (then) addressed as follows:
‘The Beloved of gods saith:
It was more than two years and a half that I was a lay worshipper but did not exert myself strenuously. It is one year, indeed, more than one year that I have lived with the Samgha and have exerted myself, but during this period men who were unmixed, were caused to be mixed, with gods throughout Jambudipa. For this is the fruit of exertion. This is to be attained not by the superior one only. But indeed it is possible for even a subordinate one, if he exerts himself, to cause (people) to attain much heavenly bliss.
For this purpose this proclamation has been made; namely, in order that the subordinate ones and the superior ones shall exert themselves to this (end), that my neighbors should know this and that this exertion may long endure. And this object shall grow, indeed shall grow profusely, shall grow (at least) one-and-a-half fold. And this proclamation has been proclaimed by 256 Vyushtas.

Panguraria Text

Sanskrit text by D C Sircar (Epigraphia Indica vol XXXIX)

  1. पियदसि नामे
  2. राजा कुमारे (स)
  3. संवस माणे
  4. म-देसे (उ) पुनिथ
  5. विहार- (य) ताये
  6. सावण वियुथे(न) २००५०६ | देवानंपिये आणायति | अद्दतिया
  7. नि वसानि यते सुमी उपसके नो चु बा(ढ) (प)काते हुसं ति वा | सं (वच्छ) रं (सा)
  8. (धिकं मे संघ य या ) ते हाढ चु सुमि पकन्ता | इमं च कालं ज (म्बुदिप) सि
  9. देवा न मनुसेहि (मि) सिभूता हुसु |
  10. ल | नो च एस महाप-का रणेणो (न) व | खुदके पि पकम …………
  11. अठाय एसा सावणे किता(ति) खुदका च उडारका च पक………….
  12. किती एते पि पकमेयु ति | अयं हि अठे वढसिति विपुला ( पि च )…..(व) ढी…..
  13. सिति | चि (र)- थितिके च होसिति | यथा च पवता यथा च सिला-थमा  …….(त) वा (वि) यति |

English translation by Meena Talim

  1. King named Piyadasi
  2. was living with the prince
  3. the prince was a young man
  4. who was sent to Majjhima country
  5. during sojourning the pilgrimage
  6. The Beloved of the God made the (this) proclamation on 200506 (when he was on tour) away from home
  7. When I was a lay follower for two and a half years, no noticeable growth was apparent
  8. But more than a year when I have served (exerted) myself for Samgha, there was exceeding growth. In between this period in Jambudvipa
  9. Godly ones started mixing with men
  10. This is not only for higher ones, but lower ones also, with exertion…….
  11. For this purpose this proclamation has been made. Lower ones and higher ones with exertion……
  12. This should be exerted. Thus, the meaning (of Dhamma) will be increased, and will grow exceedingly.
  13. It will last for a long time. Just as mountains have been engraved so are the rock-pillars, which are open to (inscribing) inscription.

Observations from above texts of Minor Rock Edict I -

देवानंपिये (Devanampiye) – In almost every edict of his, Ashoka is referred with title ‘devanampiya’. His full name was, probably, Ashokavardhana as evident from Vayu Purana.  However his full name does not appear in any of his inscriptions, except, in few he is referred as Ashoka.

Devanampiya or Devanampriya would be a title to refer a king in those times. Dasaratha, the grandson of Ashoka, was referred with the same title in his cave inscription. Tissa, a contemporary king of Sri Lanka, was also referred as Devanampiya in Mahavamsa.

Patanjali’s tells that the term devanampriya, in the form of a compound, is used as an honorific as well as in ironical sense. Bana used this term as honorific in his play Harshacharita. Katyayana in his Vartika, a commentary of Panini’s Ashtadhyayi, tells that this term was used in abusive sense. Hemachandra’s lexicon and Siddhantakaumudi explicitly say that devanampriya means ‘a fool’.

Amulya Chandra Sen explains why the term Devanampriya would come to be used ironically in disparagement at a later time. He says there were some social reasons behind this. Ashoka’s policy was a major blow to the vedic Brahmanism. His policy of prohibition on animal sacrifice and social or religious gatherings were against the Vedic Brahmanism.

This would have led to widespread dissatisfaction. It can be surmised therefore that many popular jokes circulated about him and many nicknames were given to him. It can also be imagined that in the opinion of many of his contemporaries, Ashoka was a mad man.

Scholars in majority have translated it as ‘beloved of the gods’, V A Smith translates as ‘his sacred and gracious majesty’ as he takes this phrase synonymous with the king. This phrase was used as a title as evident from Mahavamsa in which king Tissa is also referred with the same title.

But who were these gods? Were these the Brahman gods or the Buddhist gods? Or this word is used in neutral sense without any association to any religion? We have only one more example where this title is used, that is of the Sri Lankan king Tissa who was also a Buddhist. Does this mean that this title was prominently used by kings devoted to the Buddhist faith?

If yes, then whom the word ‘gods’ refer to? We have an phrase later in this edict where Ashoka mentions that because of his exertion, gods were comingled with the men of Jambudvipa. And in another text of the same MRE, gods were equated with Sramanas. Does this means that ‘Beloved of the Gods’ means ‘Beloved of the Sramanas’?

Ashoka is also referred as Piyadassi (Priyadarshi) in his inscriptions and in Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa. This seems to be his another title. Chandragupta, the grandfather of Ashoka, was also referred as Priyadarshi in Mudrarakshasa.

देवाणंपिये आणपयति (devanampiye aanpayati) – V A Smith translates as ‘His sacred majesty (Devanampiya) gives these instructions’, R K Mookerji as ‘Thus saith His Sacred Majesty’ and Meena Talim as ‘Thus Devamppiyo has commanded’. E Senart was probably the first to suggest a parallel of this phrase in the issues of the King Darius the Great of Persia.

V A Smith, D R Bhandarkar, R K Mookerji, Meena Talim etc accepted the theory that Ashoka was influenced with the issues of Darius and hence he adopted the same formula. R K Mookerji mentions that such a formula in issuing commands is absolutely singular instance in Indian epigraphy, without any precedent.

However, have we come across any inscription of any Indian king which is of the same nature as of Ashoka. In my opinion, we have not. None of the later Indian king had tried to issue commands by engraving those in stone. In such a case as Ashoka’s inscriptions are singular in nature so no comparison needs to be done with other inscriptions of India.

R K Mookerji also states that though he may have copied the Darius formula, however the phrase, ‘evam aha’ should be taken indigenous. I think that not only this phrase but the whole formula should be taken indigenous. Also to ponder is the difference in the character of proclamations of Darius and Ashoka. The former boasted his victories over his neighbors, however the latter issued his preaching about the morality in common.

 

Period of Ashoka’s exertion before this edict – E Hultzsch translates the text as, ‘More than two years and a half ( have passed ) since I ( am ) a lay-worshipper (upasaka). But indeed I had not been very zealous for one year. But indeed a year and somewhat more (has passed ) since I have visited the Samgha and have been very zealous’. He suggests that in these two and a half years Ashoka was a lay worshipper for first one year and became zealous for rest of the one and a half years.

However, B M Barua, R K Mookerji and M Senart takes the stand that 2.5 years of the mentioned period are separate than the one year in which Ashoka was very zealous. Hence as per them, he was involved with Buddhism for about 4 years when this edict was proclaimed.

D R Bhandarkar, however, goes with E Hultzsch and suggests that the scholars who have proposed the period of 4 years are influenced by the proposition that Ashoka was converted after the Kalinga war and that war happened in his eighth regnal year. Hence this MRE was proclaimed in his twelfth regnal year. However the language of the inscription does not warrant that there was a period of four years but of two and a half year only. Hence, Bhandarkar suggests that Kalinga war was no way connected to the conversion of Ashoka.

बुधशके (Budha Sake) – E Hultzsch translates it as Buddha-Shakya, however Bhandarkar mentions that why attach Buddha with Shakya when both meant the same. Bhandarkar proposed that there were two religions, one by Buddha and one by Devadatta and as both were Shakya so there needed a differentiator, or otherwise, the actual word is Budha-savake, Fa-Hien and Yuan Chwang both told that the followers of these two religiosn existed in India when they visited.

अयपुतस (Ayaputa) – Smith, Murthi and Aiyangar translates it as the prince of Suvarnagiri. Meena Talim however differs and states that this phrase refers to Ashoka but not to any prince. She tells that the king will never say anything on behalf of the prince as it must be in the reverse order. As the edict is engraved in southern India so the king must speak to his people directly.

Dr D R Bhandarkar mentions that G Buhler in the Vienna Oriental Journal vol XII, has proved on the strength of Khandahala Jataka that ayyaputta means ‘a prince’. But why this phrase was used specifically here? Was there a sense to differentiate Ashoka or his race from that of the people of southern India, if we take Arya as a race (Aryan) but not a salutation.

मया संघे उपयीते (maya samghe upayite) – Senart translates it as Ashoka entered the Buddhist Samgha (Order). He further suggests that by this phrase Ashoka meant that he visited the Samgha, in midst of which he took his seat and made a public profession of his Buddhist faith as mentioned in Mahavamsa.

But Kern and Buhler do not agree with Senart and their point of contention is that Mahavamsa does not talk about the period of two and a half years when Ashoka was just a lay disciple. In this case the inscription and the legend are both contradictory. As per Kern and Buhler, by entering into the Order, Ashoka meant that he became a monk.

V A Smith agrees that Ashoka joined the Samgha however he puts forward a question on how Ashoka was able to manage the affairs of his empire being a monk and a king at the same time. Being a monk in the Buddhist faith means that you need to renounce the world. V A Smith points to a later period example of a Chinese king who was a monk and a monarch at the same time. However Dr D R Bhandarkar says that this example is of a foreign king and of much later time when, probably, the rules were not that strict as were in the initial period if the Buddhism.

Dr D R Bhandarkar makes a suggestion that Ashoka became a Bhikshu-gatika, the phrase is mentioned in Mahavagga of the Vinaya-patika. Bhikshu-gatika, as per Buddhaghosha, is a person that dwells in the same vihara with the bhikshus but is not a pure bhikshu. Being a Bhikshu-gatika, Ashoka can serve both purposes, lead a life of a Bhikshu at the same being serve the duty of a monarch.

Yijing (I-tsing) mentions seeing an image of emperor Ashoka wearing the garb of a Buddhist monk which proves that Ashoka was once living in the Samgha as a monk.

Dr R K Mookerji tells that Ashoka joined the Samgha for one year and then came back to his monarchical role. But was this possible for a monarch to leave his empire or role of a monarch for a year without any fear of attack from outside or internal feud? If he would have left his capital for one year to join Samgha, he would have installed someone of his choice to take care of his empire. However, there is no reference of any such event in any legend.

Meena Talim tells that the proper meaning of the word ‘Upayite’ should be taken as ‘to serve/attend’. ‘Upayite’ is a synonym of ‘Upasito’ in Pali and the latter means ‘to serve/attend’. Hence Ashoka meant that he served the Samgha personally which does mean that he renounced his role of a king for a brief period of time.

मिसा देवेहि (missam devehi) – Dr T W Rhys Davids translates it as Brahman. V A Smith translates it as Gods which is also the translation of Dr R K Mokkerji and Dr D R Bhandarkar. Meena Talim translates it as ‘godly men’. Roabahadur V K Rajawade translates deva as ‘Aryan’.

F W thomas tells that by Misa Devehi, Ashoka made known the Brahman gods to the wild tribes. E Hultzsch tells that Ashoka is adverting to those gods who were exhibited in effigies before the people in the religious shows. D C Sircar suggests that Ashoka meant that he facilitate that mixing of the godly men with common men in Jambudvipa. Now who were these godly men?

Gavimath text provides reading as अमिसा देवा समणा (amisa deva samana) where Meenal Talim provides the translation of ‘samana’ as Sramana or Buddhist ascetics. However she does not explain the context of that. Does it mean that by the exertion of Ashoka, the Hindu community started mingling with the Buddhist community and as Ashoka was a Buddhist believer hence he called Buddhist ascetics as godly men?

V A Smith suggests that by this term, Ashoka meant that by his exertion, common people were able to achieve heaven after death and hence they were able to mingle with gods up in the heaven. D R Bhandarkar mentions that the commingling of gods and men must therefore be so explained as to show that it was tantamount to the achievement of heaven.

This is possible only when we say that by following Ashoka’s Dhamma, men become so virtuous that they attained to heaven and were associated with gods. But Ashoka meant that the living men were mingled with gods. D R Bhandarkar points to two instances from Thera-Theri-Gatha, one of Sunita and other of Sariputta who attained sainthood and were worshiped as gods as soon as their spiritual exaltation was completed.

200506 – This numerical number is found in many versions of the Minor Rock Edict I. D R Bhandarkar translates it as ‘And this proclamation was caused to be proclaimed when there had elapsed 256 (years)’. This was also held by G Buhler, B M Barua and J F Fleet who took these years as years after the death of Buddha.

Bhandarkar proposes a theory, that Ashoka dates this MRE from the nirvana of Buddha. Nirvana and Parinirvana of Buddha were two different event and were 21 years apart. Nirvana of Buddha happened in 508 BCE. 508+256 = 264 = 262+12 = 264, Ashoka crowned in 262 BCE and his twelfth regnal year was in 264 BCE when he issued this edict.

Meena Talim points to Mahavamsa which mentions that Ashoka was consecrated 260 years after the death of Buddha and after four years he consecrated himself at Pataliputra. Hence his Pataliputra consecration happened in 256 years after the death of Buddha which tallies with Barua’s proposition. Talim suggests that Ashoka engraved this edict soon after his consecration at Pataliputra.

The edict also talks about a period of about four years, two and a half year as a lay disciple and more than a year as a server of Samgha. This period of four years tallies with the four year difference between his two consecrations. Talim tells that Ashoka met Devi during his tenure as a viceroy of Taxila and at that time he might been influenced by Buddhism as Devi was a Buddhist. All these calculations pretty well match in numbers, isn’t it?

Talim takes reference of Mahavamsa in doing calculations of 260 and 256, but the same Mahavamsa tells that Ashoka was ordained by Nigrodha when the latter was seven years old. And Nigrodha was born when Ashoka was on his killing spree which suggests that it was Ashoka’s seventh regnal year when Nigrodha converted him into a Buddhist. Isn’t it contradictory to Talim and Barua’s theory which suggests that Ashoka was already inclined to Buddhism in his initial years?

And what about the claims that Ashoka was converted after the war of Kalinga which happened in his eight regnal year as evident from his own inscriptions? Does this mean that Kalinga war has no such impact on Ashoka and he was already a Buddhist as Barua and Talim suggest?

Dr R K Mookerji and DR D R Bhandarkar are of the opinion that Ashoka became a Buddhist after the Kalinga war. This makes Bhandarkar to suggest that this edict would have been engraved after the elapsed of the eleventh regnal year of Ashoka. As the Kalinga war happened in his eighth regnal year and he was involved in the religion for about four years, this makes that this edict would have been engraved during his twelfth year regnal year.

But, Bhandarkar changed his opinion in a later article of his in the Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, where he tells that there was no connection between the Kalinga war and Ashoka’s conversion.

E Hultzsch translates it as, ‘And this proclamation was issued by (me) on tour. 256 (nights have thus been spent on tour)’. Hultzsch refers to word ‘lati’ which was mentioned by J W Thomas however D R Bhandarkar tells that there is no such word in the Sasaram edict. Later E Hultzsch changed his translation to ‘having spent the nights (in prayer)’.

Meena Talim tells that in Ahraura edict, the figure of 200 is found instead of 200506. However in the translation of D C Sircar, the figure is 200506 but not 200.

व्युत्थेन (vyuthena) – Dr B M Barua gives two suggestions, 1) 256 years after demise of Buddha, 2) 256 missioners or copies of the message that were dispatched. Meena Talim tells that the word ‘vyuthena’ needs explanation as its etymology is not clear. It may have been derived from the ‘vivuttha’ which is made after joining vi = meaning separation with vuttha = having dwelt. Hence she translates it as dwelling away from home.

G Buhler also suggests that ‘vivuttha’ is used with reference to Tathagata hence it means 256 years after the demise of Buddha.

बुधस सलिले/Budhasa salile (बुद्धस्स सरीरं/Buddhassa sarire) – The first phrase is in Sanskrit while the phrase in parenthesis is in Pali. Dr S Sankarnarayana takes this phrase as a stone image of Buddha. But Meena Talim takes it as the relics of Buddha hence she suggests that Ashoka tells that he came to this place where the relics of Buddha were kept in a stupa. Talim’s argument is that the bodily form of Buddha was not known at the time of Ashoka, which also is the position of majority of scholars. We have not discovered any image of Buddha in stone or other material prior to Kushana period.

दीयंठियं (diyaddham) – This phrase has been translated by all scholars as ‘to one and half times’ however Meena Talim suggests that it is incorrect to measure the progress of Dharma in such an abstract way. Hence she suggests that it was पटिदिनं (patidinam) which means ‘day by day’ as it suits to the context.

Introductory part (lines 1-5) of Panguraria Text – D C Sircar translates as ‘The king Priyasarshin speaks to Kumara Samva from his march of pilgrimage to the U(O)punitha vihara in Manema desa’. However Meena Talim translates it that the king was living with the prince where the latter was a young man and sent to Majjhima desa on pilgrimage.

Talim argues that Sircar’s translation was based upon the Sanskrit translation of the Pali edict which created the difference in interpretation. Sircar’s geographical regions, Manema-desa and Opunitha vihara, did not find any reference in any Buddhist text as per Talim.

सुवंणगिरी (Suvarnagiri) – R K Mookerji suggests that from its literal meaning, ‘gold mount’, the place might be an ancient gold-mining area near Maski which shows numerous traces of gold workings. E Hultzsch identifies it was Kanakagiri located south of Maski. D R Bhandarkar identifies it was Jonnagiri.

D K Chakrabarty mentions that all previous identifications were based upon the similarity in names, however all those places do not show any sign of antiquity. The nearest site which goes back to antiquity of the Buddhist time is Sannati where a huge stupa is excavated. Hence Sannati should be the Suvarnagiri of Ashoka’s period.

 

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