History

The Mauryas

Inscriptions of Ashoka

Rock Edict (RE) VIII

Original text of the Girnar edict as per estampage by Meena Talim

1. अतिकातं अंतर राजानो विहारयातां ञयासु [.] एत  मिगम्या अंयानी च एतारिसनि
2. अभीरभकानि अहुंसु [.] सो देवानं पियो पियदसि राजा दसवसाभिसिता सतो अथाय संबोधि [.]
3. तेनेसा धंमयाता [.] एतथं होति ब्राम्हणंसमणानं दसणा च दाने च थैरानं दसणाच
4. हिरणंपटिविधानो च जानपदस च जनस दसनं धमानुसस्टी च धमपटिपुछा [.]
5. तदोपया एसा निय रति भवति देवानं पियस पियदसिनो राजो भागे अंनेपि

English translation of the Girnar text by Meena Talim

1. In the past, the king used to set out on pleasure tours. On these tours hunting and other similar (such as this) pleasures were enjoyed.
2. King Devanamppiya Piyadassi, in the tenth year of the coronation, visited the place of Lord’s Enlightenment.
3. This religious tour was then comprised of visiting Brahmans and Sramanas, offering charity (to them), visiting monks (theras)
4. And assignment of (offering) gold and gifts (to them). Visiting people of the country, admonishing them in Dhamma and discussing (asking questions) Dhamma with them.
5. In this way, this has become aroutine, everyday life; king Devanamppiya Piyadassi will pass his later days of life (in this manner) in future.

English translation of the Shahbazgarhi text by G Buhler

A long period has elapsed, during which the beloved of the gods used to go forth on so-called pleasure-tours. On such occasions the chase and other similar amusements used to be pursued. Now, when King Priyadarsin , beloved of the gods, had been anointed ten years, he went forth in search after true knowledge. Owing to this event, religious tours have become a regular institution here in my empire. On that occasion the following happens, viz. the reception of, and almsgiving to, Brahmans and ascetics, the reception of the aged, the distribution of gold, the reception of the people of the provinces, the preaching of the Sacred Law and inquiries concerning the Sacred Law. It is thus that, in exchange for past pleasures, King Priyadarsin, beloved of the gods, since then enjoys the pleasures which these virtuous actions procure.

English translation of the Shahbazgarhi  text by V A Smith

In times past Their Sacred Majesties used to go out on so-called “tours of pleasure.” In those tours hunting and other similar amusements used to be practiced. His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the
present King, after he had been consecrated ten years went out to Bodh Gaya  or  “towards supreme  knowledge”). Thence arose: tours of piety.” In them this is the practice  visiting ascetics and
Brahmans, with liberality to them ; visiting elders, with largess of gold ; visiting the people of the country, with instruction in the Law of Piety, and discussion of that Law. Consequently, since that time a different portion constitutes the pleasuring of His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King.

English translation by D R Bhandarkar

A (long) period has elapsed during which kings used to go out on tours of pleasure. Here there were chase and other similar diversions. Now, king Priyadarsin, Beloved of the gods, repaired to Sambodhi (Bodhi Tree), when he had been consecrated ten years. Thus (originated) this touring of Dhamma. Here this happens, namely, visits and gifts to the Brahman and Sramana, ascetics, visits, instructions in Dhamma and enquiries about Dhamma, of the provincials. Since then king Priyadarsin, Beloved of the gods, has been enjoying great delight of this (nature) in another sphere.

English translation of the Girnar text by R K Mookerji

In past periods, Their Sacred Majesties used to go out on so-called Viharayatras (exertions for enjoyment). In these were hunting and other similar diversions. But His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the present king, when he had been consecrated ten years, went out to the place of Sambodhi, whence these Dharmayatras in which are the following : visits and gifts to Brahmans and Sramanas; visits and gifts of gold to the elders; visits to the people of the country, instructing them in morality, and discussions with them on same as suitable hitherto. This becomes a great delight, an additional portion, of His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the king.

English  translation of the Girnar text by D C Sircar

In ages gone by, kings used to go out on tours of pleasure. During such tours, hunting and other past times used to be enjoyed by them. Now, king Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods, visited Sambodhi ten years after his coronation. Thence started these pilgrimages for Dharma. During these pilgrimages, the following take place, viz., visiting the Brahmanas and Sramanas and making gifts to them, meeting the aged and making provisions of money for them, and contacting the people of the countryside, instructing them in Dharma and discussing with them the principles of Dharma, all this being conducive to the promotion of Dharma. This is the supreme delight of king Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods. All his other pleasures are inferior to this.

English translation by S Dhammika

In the past kings used to go out on pleasure tours during which there was hunting and other entertainment. But ten years after Beloved-of-the-Gods had been coronated, he went on a tour to Sambodhi and thus instituted Dhamma tours. During these tours, the following things took place: visits and gifts to Brahmans and ascetics, visits and gifts of gold to the aged, visits to people in the countryside, instructing them in Dhamma, and discussing Dhamma with them as is suitable. It is this that delights Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, and is, as it were, another type of revenue.

Observations:

Sambodhi – Ashoka mentioned that he visited Sambodhi in his tenth year after coronation. Many scholars have identified it with the place where Buddha got enlightenment, Bodh-gaya. Buhler takes it as his journey in search of truth instead of visit to Bodh-gaya. D R Bhandarkar takes it as Ashoka paid a homage to the Bodhi tree. There is reference in Ashokavadana that Ashoka with his preceptor, Upgupta, went on to visit all the places related to Lord Buddha. With the mention of the visit to Sambodhi seconds the statement mentioned in the legends. There can be no doubt that Sambodhi refers to the place where Lord received enlightenment under a tree, i.e. Bodh-gaya.

Ashoka: The Secular King – The secular image of Ashoka, which he built in his RE VII, is continued and further extended. In the present edict he mention that he extols all the religions and mentions that he offered gifts to Brahmans and Sramanas equally. On top of it, he brings in old and aged people in the ambit of his alms-giving.

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