The Mauryas

Inscriptions of Ashoka

Rock Edict (RE) V

Sanskrit text of the Girnar edict by Meena Talim

  1. देवानांप्रियो पियदसि राजा एवं आह [.] कलाणम दुकरं [.] यो अदिकरो कलाणस सो दुकरं करोति [.]
  2. त मया बहु कलाण कतं [.] नं मम पुता च पोता च परंच तेन य मे अपचं आव संवटकपा अनुवतिसरे तथा
  3. सो सुकंतं कासति [.] यो तु एत देसे पि हापेसति सो दुकत कासति  [.] सुकरं हि पापं [.] अतिकातं अंतरं
  4. न भूतप्रवं धंमहामता नाम [.] त मया त्रेदसवासाभिसितेन धमंमहामता कता [.] ते सवपासंडेसु व्यापता धामधिस्टानाय
  5. …. धमयुतस च योणकंबोजगंधारानं रिस्तिकपेतेणिकानं ये वा पि अंये आपरता [.] भतमयेसु व
  6. …. सुखाय धंमयुतान अपरिगोधाय व्यापता ते [.] बंधनबधस पटिविधानाय
  7. … प्रजा कताभीकारेसु वा थेरसु वा व्यापता ते [.] पाटलिपुते च बाहिरसु च
  8. ….ये वा पि मे अज्जे जातिका सर्वत व्यापता ते [.] यो अयं धंमनिस्त्रीतो ति व
  9. ….. ते धंममहामता [.] एताय अथाय अयं धंमलिपि लिखिता

English translation by Meena Talim of the Girnar text

  1. King Devanamppiya Piyadassi speaks thus: It is difficult to perform a meritorious act. He who first starts performing merit, finds it very difficult to perform.
  2. Now, I have performed many meritorious deeds. Therefore my sons, grandsons and descendants will honor and follow (the acts), which I have performed, till the end of (dissolution of) aeon.
  3. They will perform similar good deeds. But the one who neglects it even a little, he shall perform evil deed. It is easier to commit sin.
  4. In times past, formerly there were no Dhamma Mahamattas. In the thirteenth year of my coronation I have appointed them. They are occupied (with the work of) establishing Dhamma amongst all heretics.
  5. Dhamma-Ayuttas cover Yona, Kamboja, Gandhara, Rathika, Petenika and other on the borderland who have faith in me.
  6. …for the happiness Dhamma-Ayuttas are occupied, unhindered, relieve those who are impressed by advocating statements for them.
  7. They are made for people and taking possession of them, they look after old ones and subject….They are occupied in Pataliputta and outside and…
  8. ..those or other relatives are occupied for all this is the determination of Dhamma.
  9. ….which these Dhamma Mahamattas (perform); for this purpose this scripture has been written.

English translation of the Mansehra text by G Buhler

King Priyadarsin, beloved of the gods, speaks thus :- Good works are difficult of performance. He who is the originator of good works does something difficult of performance. Now much good has been done by me. If then, my sons and grandsons and those among my descendants who may come after them until the end of time, will thus follow my example, they will do what is meritorious. But he who will give up even a portion of these virtuous acts will commit sin, for sin is easily committed.

Now a long periods has passe and the officials called the Overseers of the Sacred Law have formerly not existed. Now, when I had been anointed thirteen years, I appointed Overseers of the Sacred Law. They are busy among all sects with the watching over the scared law, with the growth of the sacred law, and with the welfare and happiness of my loyal subjects, as also among the Yonas, Kamboyas, Gamdharas, Rastikas, Pitinikas, and all other nations which are my enighbors. Among my hired servants, among Brahmans and Vaishyas, among the unprotected and among the aged, they are busy with the welfare and happiness, with the removal of obstacles among my loyal ones. With the prevention of unjust imprisonment and of unjust corporeal punishment, with the removal of obstacles and with loosening bonds, for these purpose they are busy, considering that there is a numerous progeny, or that the person concerned has been overwhelmed by misfortune, or that he is aged. Here, and in all the outlying towns, they are everywhere busy in all the harems of my brothers and sisters, and among my other relatives. These Overseers of Sacred Law are busy with what concerns the Sacred Law, with watching over the Sacred Law, and with what is concerned with pious gifts, in my whole loyal empire.

This religious edict has been written for the following purpose, viz., that it may endure for a long time, and that my subjects may act accordingly.

English translation of the Mansehra text by V A Smith

Thus saith His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King: A good deed is a difficult thing. He who is the author of a good deed does a difficult thing. Now by me many good deeds have been done. Should my sons, grandsons, and my descendants after them until the end of the aeon ["of universal destruction," Girnar text] follow in this path, they will do well; but in this matter he who shall neglect a part of his duty [or "the commandment"] will do ill, because sin easily develops ["is an easy thing," Girnar text].

Now in all the long time past, officers known as Censors [or "High Officers"] of the Law of Piety never had existed, whereas such Censors were created by me when I had been consecrated thirteen years. Among people of all [non-Buddhist] sects they are employed for the establishment of the Law of Piety, for the increase of that Law, and for the welfare and happiness of the subordinates of the Law of Piety Department [or "the faithful of the true religion," Senart], as well as of the Yavanas (probably Greeks), Kambojas, Gandharas, Rashtrikas, Pitinikas, with other nations on my western frontier. Among servants and masters, Brahmans and the wealthy, among the helpless and the aged, they are employed in freeing from worldly cares ["greed," Girnar text] their subordinates [in the department] of the Law of Piety. They are also employed on the revision of [sentences of] imprisonment or execution, in the reduction of penalties, or [the grant of] release, on the grounds Of motive, having  children,  instigation, or  advanced years. Here [in the capital; "at Pataliputra," Girnar text], and in all provincial towns, in the female establishments of my brothers and sisters, as well as of other relatives, they are everywhere employed. These Censors of the Law of Piety are engaged everywhere in my dominions, among the subordinate officials  of that Law. With regard to the concerns of the Law, the establishment of the Law, and the business of alms giving.

For that purpose has this scripture of the Law been written, that it may long endure, and that my subjects may act accordingly.

English translation by D R Bhandarkar

Thus saith king Priyadarshin, Beloved of the gods: Good is difficult to perform. He who initiates good does something difficult to perform. Now by me much good has been done. If my sons, grandsons, and my descendants after them, until the aeon of destruction, follow similarly, they will do what is meritorious, but in this respect he, who abandons even part (of his duty), will do ill. Verily, sin is easy to commit.

Now, for a long time past previously, there were no Dharma-Mahamatras. Dharma-Mahamatras were created by me when I had been consecrated thirteen years. They had been set to work among all sects for the establishment of Dhamma, promotion of Dhamma and for the welfare and happiness of the righteous. In the country of the Yavanas, Kambojas, and the Gandharas and of the hereditary Rashtrikas and others on the western coast, they are occupied with the welfare and happiness of Brahmans and grhapatis who have become hirelings and of the helpless and the aged and (are also occupied) with the removal of shackles from the righteous. They concern themselves with a (money), grant and the removal of shackles or the release, of (any man) who is bound with fetters, according as he is incumbered with progeny, is subjected to oppression, or he is aged. They are everywhere employed in (my) closed female apartments, or among my brothers, sisters, and other relatives, whether in Pataliputra or outlying towns. Everywhere in my dominions they are occupied with the righteous, if he is leaning on Dhamma, is an abode of Dhamma, or is given up to alms-giving.

For this purpose this document of Dhamma has been engraved, namely, that it may long endure and that my progeny my follow (me).

English translation of the Mansehra text by R K Mookerji

Thus saith His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King: The good deed is difficult of performance. He who is the first performer of a good deed achieves something difficult of performance. Now by me many a good deed has been achieved. Therefore should my sons, grandsons, and my descendants after them up to the end of time follow in my footsteps, they will do really meritorious deeds. But he who in this matter will cause even a portion to diminish will perform an evil deed indeed. Sin must be trodden down.

Now in times past the Dharma-Mahamatras were non-existent previously. But now the Dharma-Mahamatras have been created by me consecrated for thirteen years. They had been employed among all sects for the establishment and growth of Dharma and for the good and happiness of those devoted to religion (even) among the Yonas, kambojas, Gandharas, rashtrikas, Pitinikas and whatever other peoples of Aparanta or western borders (of mine there are). They are also employed among the soldiers and their chiefs, Brahmanical ascetics and householders, the destitute, and the infirm by age, for the good and happiness, and freedom from molestation, of those who have applied themselves to Dharma. They are also employed for taking steps against imprisonment, for freedom from molestation, and granting release, on the ground that one has numerous offspring or is overwhelmed by misfortun or afflicted by age. here, and in all the oulying towns, in all the harems, of my brothers and sisters, and whatever other relatives (of mine there are), everywhere are they employed. These Dharma-Mahmatras are employed among those devoted to Dharma in all places within my dominions, whether one is eager for Dharma or established in Dharma or properly devoted to charity.

For this purpose has this religious edict been inscribed that it may be everlasting and that my descendants may follow this path.

English translation of the Mansehra text by D C Sircar

Thus saith king Priyadarshi, Beloved of the Gods. It is difficult to do good to others. He who starts doing good to others accomplishes what is difficult indeed. Many a good deed has, however, been performed by me. And, among my sons and grandsons and the generations coming after them till the destruction of world, those who will follow this course will do an act of merit. But whosoever amongst them will abandon even a part of it will do an act of demerit. It is indeed easy to commit sin.

It the ages gone by, there were no officers called Dharma-Mahamatras. So I created the posts of Dharma-Mahamatras thirteen years after my coronation. These officers are occupied with all the religious sects for the establishment of Dharma and for the promotion of Dharma as well as for the welfare and happiness of Kambojas and Gandharas, the Rashtrika-paitryanikas and other peoples dwelling about the western borders of my dominions. They are occupied not only with the welfare and the happiness of the servile class and the community of traders and agriculturists as well as the Brahmans and the ruling class and likewise of the destitute and the aged, but also with the release of the devotees of Dharma amongst them from the fetters. They are similarily engaged with the fettered persons in the prisons for the distribution of money to those amongst them who are encumbered with progeny, for the unfettering of those who have committed crimes under the instigation of others, and for the release of those who are aged. They are engaged everywhere-here and elsewhere  in all the towns, in the households of my brothers and sisters and other relatives. These Dharma-Mahamatras are engaged everywhere in my dominions among people devoted to Dharma to determine whether a person is only inclined towards Dharma or is fully established in Dharma or is given to Charity.

This record relating to Dharma has been written on stone for the following purpose, viz. , that it my last long for a long time and that my descendants may conform to it.

English translation by S Dhammika

Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, speaks thus: To do good is difficult. One who does good first does something hard to do. I have done many good deeds, and, if my sons, grandsons and their descendants up to the end of the world act in like manner, they too will do much good. But whoever amongst them neglects this, they will do evil. Truly, it is easy to do evil.
In the past there were no Dhamma Mahamatras but such officers were appointed by me thirteen years after my coronation. Now they work among all religions for the establishment of Dhamma, for the promotion of Dhamma, and for the welfare and happiness of all who are devoted to Dhamma. They work among the Greeks, the Kambojas, the Gandharas, the Rastrikas, the Pitinikas and other peoples on the western borders. They work among soldiers, chiefs, Brahmans, householders, the poor, the aged and those devoted to Dhamma — for their welfare and happiness — so that they may be free from harassment. They (Dhamma Mahamatras) work for the proper treatment of prisoners, towards their unfettering, and if the Mahamatras think, “This one has a family to support,” “That one has been bewitched,” “This one is old,” then they work for the release of such prisoners. They work here, in outlying towns, in the women’s quarters belonging to my brothers and sisters, and among my other relatives. They are occupied everywhere. These Dhamma Mahamatras are occupied in my domain among people devoted to Dhamma to determine who is devoted to Dhamma, who is established in Dhamma, and who is generous.
This Dhamma edict has been written on stone so that it might endure long and that my descendants might act in conformity with it.


Ashoka made a very relevant comment in this edict stating that it is very difficult to perform good deeds, and it is easier to commit sin.

Dharma-Mahamatras – G Buhler translates it as ‘Overseer of the Sacred Law’, V A Smith as ‘Censor of the Law of Piety’. D R Bhandarkar, R K Mookerji, D C Sircar, Meena Talim  do not translates but take the word as it is, the main reason behind this is that any translation of this might be misleading in conveying its true meaning.

It is stated that these officers were appointed to take care and watch over all sects however in later part of his edict, it appears, that these officers were mainly appointed to take care of those who are abiding by the laws of Dharma, and that means to Buddhism. The edict again and again says that they are busy in removing obstacles and maintaining welfare for those who are devoted to Dharma.

Does this suggests that though Ashoka maintains that he encourage and allows all religions and sects in his empire however his main concern was about the progress and promotion of Dharma (Buddhism) and for that he has created officers so that those who devote themselves to this Dharma will get some special privileges in his empire.

If it is true, then it would the same machinery which was used by various, but not all, Christian missionaries where the rule was that if you accept Christ as your savior then you will be helped otherwise no help was given. We can discuss this at length, however, the main purpose of these missionaries was the growth and promotion of Christianity and the method they adopted might be the right one, though we may say that it was against humanity.

Dhramayutasa – E Senart translates it as ‘the faithful of the (true) religion’, F W Thomas takes it in the sense of ‘officials of the dharma (or ecclesiastical) department’, V A Smith as ‘Subordinate of the Law of Piety’, as all of them take this word as Dharma-yukta. R K Mookerji, D R Bhandarkar take the word as dharmayukta and  translate as ‘those devoted to religion’.

The reason for taking this as dharmayukta and not as dharma-yukta as there is no supporting evidence that there was in existence a post like that of dharma-yukta in ancient India. And if this is the case, and this post was created by Ashoka, then why did he not mention this explicitly as he did in the case of Dharma-Mahamatras. Another reason that it cannot be taken as dharma-yukta, is why it was made a duty of Dharma-Mahamatra to take care of welfare and maintenance of a king’s official as that should be the duty of the king himself. Hence this term should be taken as dharmayuktas who were the subject of the king and hence of the Dharma-Mahamatras as well.

Ashoka’s descendants – R K Mookerji mentions that the tone and the manner of the statement in the edict about Ashoka’s son and grandsons suggests that he has lived to see his grandsons and no other later descendants.

Yavanas – E Senart differenciates between people of aparantas and the people of antas, as the former were directly associated with the king through his Dharma-Mahamatras while the latter were only associated with few charitable works like supply of medical aids. Yavanas of antas will be the Greek kings mentioned in the rock edict II and XIII while Yavanas of aparantas will be people who were directly under the king.

D R Bhandarkar also goes with this view of Senart and suggest that this Yavana colony, which was under the rule of Ashoka, was situated between the rivers Kophen and Indus. Shahbazgarhi, where an Ashokan edict is found, will become the headquarter of this Yavana colony. R K Mookerji also agrees with Senart’s view. However, E Hultzsch takes this term simply as ‘Greeks’.

Kamboja – E Hultzsch takes its as ‘Kabulis’. D R Bhandarkar suggests that this region should be located near to the above Yavana colony as the Yavanas and the Kambojas are mentioned in Mahabharata together. Mahabharata mentions that Rajapura was the capital of the Kambojas. This Rajapura might be same as Ho-lo-she-pu-lo of Xuanzang and Alexander Cunningham identifies it with Rajaori of Hazara region in present Pakistan. Mansehra, where an Ashokan edict is found, is not very far from this place.

Gandhara – This region does not need any explanation for its identity as it is known since ages. This region was comprised of the Kabul river valley, Peshawar valley and Pothohar plateau. This was a seat of viceroy during the Mauryan rule with its capital as Taxila.

Rashtrikas – E Hultzsch takes it as the Arattas of Punjab region who were mentioned as Arattioi in the Periplus.  Rashtrika or Rathika in literal sense can be taken as a feudatory chieftain as similar terms like Maha-rathis or Maha-bhoja are found in later period inscriptions. D R Bhandarkar combines Rashtrika with Pitinikas and hence translates as ‘hereditary feudatory chieftains’.


Aparanta – Aparanta of the Puranas refers to the western part of India. All the people like Yavanas, Kamboja, Gandhara etc which find mention in this rock edict are also included by the Puranas in Aparanta region. K P Jayaswal takes this word as an antithesis to anta, and interprets the two words as people within and outside the limits of Ashoka’s empire.

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