The Mauryas

Inscriptions of Ashoka

Rock Edict (RE) IX

Original text of the Girnar edict supplied by Hiranand Sastri

1. देवानं प्रियदसि राजा एवं आह [.] अस्ति जनो उच्चावचं मंगल करोते आबाधेसु वा
2. आवाहवीवाहेसु वा पुत्रलाभेसु वा प्रवासंम्हि वा एतिम्हच अञम्हि च जनो उचावचं मंगलं करोते [.]
3. एत  तु महिडायो बहुकं च बहुविधं च छुडम च निरथं  च मंगंला करोते [.] त कतव्यमेव तु मगलं [.] अपफलं तु खो
4. एतरसि मंगलं [.] अयं तु महाफले मंगले य धंममंगले [.] ततेव दासभतकम्हि सम्यप्रतिपती गुरुनं अपचिति साधु
5. पाणेसु सयमो साधु बाह्मणसमणानं साधुं  दानं एत च अञ च एतरिसं धंम मंगलं नाम [.] त वतव्यं पिता व
6. पुतेन वा भात्रा वा स्वामिकेन वा इदं साधु कतव्यं मंगलं आव तस अथस निस्टानाय [.] अस्ति च पि वुतं
7. साधु दन इति [.] न तु एतरसि अस्ता दानं व अनगहो व यारिसं धंमदानं व धमनुगहो व [.] त तु खो मित्रेन व सुहदयेन वा
8. जातिकेन व सहायन व ओवादितव्यं तम्हि पकरणे इदं कचं इदं साध
9. इति इमिना सक स्वगं आराधेंतु इति [.] कि च इमिना कतव्यतरं यथा स्वगारधी [.]

English translation by Meena Talim

1. King Devanamppiya Piyadassi speaks thus:
Men are practicing high and loud ceremonies during illness, marriage of a son or a
2. Daughter, or at birth of son, or when setting out on journey and many such high and loud ceremonies are done.
3. Here, women perform many and various such festivals and ceremonies, which are useless. They should be performed, but such ceremonies will bear a small fruit.
4. Now, these are ceremonies which bear great fruit such as Dhamma-ceremonies; such (ceremonies) are good treatment to slaves and servants and reverence to teachers.
5. It is good to restrain killing (creatures), to give charity to Brahmans and Sramanas and such other things are called Dhamma ceremonies.
6. Similarly, father, son, brother, or master are ought to be told that this is good, this auspicious (ceremony) should be performed. Therefore, this practice ought to be practiced faithfully to one’s benefit. Such and other good things should be told.
7. Charity is good (in this world). There is no charity as Dhamma-charity and there is no benefit as Dhamma-benefit. Therefore, a friend, a good-hearted person
8. A relative or an acquaintance should be admonished, on such subjects that this should be done, this is good, for such and such occasions. This is good.
9. By this way of practice one can oneself attain heaven. What can be more desirable (duty) than an attainment of heaven?

English translation of the Shahbazgarhi text by G Buhler

King Priyadarsin, beloved of the gods, speaks thus:- the people performs various auspicious rites in misfortune, at marriages of sons and daughters, on the birth of sons, at the time of starting a journey. On these and similar occasions the people perform many auspicious rites. But at such times the women perform many and various despicable and useless rites. Now, auspicious rites ought indeed to be performed. But rites of this description produce no results. But the following, the auspicious rite, which consists in the fulfillment of the Sacred Law, produce, indeed, great results. That includes kindness towards slaves and servants, reverence towards venerable persons, self-control with respect to living creatures, liberality towards ascetics and Brahmans. These and other similar virtuous actions are called the auspicious rites of the Sacred Law. Now a father, or a son, or a brother, or a master, ought to speak as follows :- “This is meritorious; this auspicious rite must be practiced until the desired aim is attained.” To the success of which auspicious rite does this refer? For every worldly auspicious rite is doubtful. It may be that it accomplishes the desired object; but it may be that it remains even in this world. But the auspicious rites of the Sacred Law acts without reference to time. If it does not secure here the desired object, it yet produces endless merit in the next world. But, if it secures the desired object both are gained; here that desired object, and endless merit is produced in the next world through that auspicious rite of the Sacred Law.

English translation of the Kalasi  text by V A Smith

Thus saith His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King :
People perform various ceremonies.  In sickness, at the weddings of sons, the weddings of daughters, the birth of children, departure on journeys on those and other similar occasions people perform many ceremonies.  Nay, the womankind perform many, manifold, trivial, and worthless ceremonies. Ceremonies, however, have to be performed, although that kind bears little fruit.   This sort, on the other hand, to wit, the ceremonial of piety, bears great fruit.   In it are included proper treatment of slaves and “servants, honor to teachers, gentleness towards living creatures, and liberality towards ascetics and Brahmans.  These things and others of the same kind are called the Ceremonial of Piety. Therefore ought a father, son, brother, master, friend, or comrade, or even a neighbor to say :
“This is excellent, this is the ceremonial to be performed until the attainment of the desired end.” This I will perform, for the ceremonial of this world is of doubtful efficacy ; perchance it may accomplish
the desired end, perchance it may not, and it remains a thing of this world.  This Ceremonial of Piety, on the contrary, is not temporal ; because, even if it fails to attain the desired end in this world, it certainly produces endless merit in the world beyond. If it happens to attain the desired end here, then both gains are assured, namely, in this world the desired end, and in the world beyond endless merit is produced by that Ceremonial of Piety.

English translation by D R Bhandarkar

Thus saith king Priyadarsin, Beloved of the gods: People perform various (lucky) rites in sickness, at marriages, on the birth of sons, and on journey. On these and other similar occasions people perform various rites. In this matter, however, womankind performs much manifold, (but) trivial, useless rite. Rites should undoubtedly be performed. But rite of this king bears little fruit. That rite, however, bears great fruit which is Dhamma-mangala. There seemly behavior towards the servile and menial classes and (reverence) towards preceptors (is considered) meritorious, self-control in regard to animals (is considered) meritorious. These and other similar (items) are indeed the Dhamma-mangala. Therefore, a father, a son, a brother, a master, (a friend or acquaintance, nay, even a neighbor) ought to say; “This is meritorious, this rite ought to be performed till that object is obtained. And after it is performed, I shall do it again.”

English translation of the Kalsi text by R K Mookerji

Thus saith His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King: People perform various ceremonies. In troubles, marriages of sons and daughters, birth of children, departures from home – on these and other (occasions) people perform many different ceremonies. But in such (cases) mothers and wives perform numerous and diverse, petty and worthless ceremonies.
Now ceremonies should certainly be performed. But these bear little fruit. That, however, is productive of great fruit which is connected with Dharma. Herein are these: Proper treatment of slaves and employees, reverence to teachers, restraint of violence towards living creatures and liberality of Brahman and Sramana ascetics. These and such others are called Dharma-mamgalas.
Therefore should it be said by a father, or a son, or a brother, or a master, or a friend, a companion, and even a neighbor: “This is commendable; this is the ceremony to be performed until the purpose thereof is fulfilled; this shall I perform.” For those ceremonies that are other than these – they are all of doubtful effect. It may achieve that purpose or may not. And it is only for this world. But this ceremonial of Dharma is not of time. Even if one does not achieve that object in this world, in the world beyond is produced endless merit. But if one achieves that purpose in this world, the gain of both results from it – that object in this world, and endless merit is produced in the other world by Dharma-mamgala.

Instead of the last paragraph Girnar, Dhauli & Jaugada edict read as follows:
And this, too, is stated that liberality is commendable. But there is no such liberality or favor as the gift of religion (dharman-danam), or the favor of religion. Therefore should a friend, lover (suhridayena), relative, or a patron, exhort, on such and such occasions, thus: “This should be done; this is laudable; by this one is able to attain heaven.” And what is more worth doing than the attainment of heaven?

English  translation of the Mansehra text by D C Sircar

Thus saith king Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods.
People perform various auspicious ceremonies on the occasions of illness, the weddings of sons, the weddings of daughters, the births of children and the setting out on a journeys. On these and similar other occasions, people perform many auspicious ceremonies. And on such occasions, the womenfolk in particular perform many and diverse ceremonies which are trivial and meaningless.
Auspicious rites, however, should certainly be performed. But the said kind of rites in fact produce meagre results. On the other hand, such ceremonies as are associated with Dharma produce great results. These comprise the following: proper courtesy to slaves and servants, reverence to elders, restraint one’s dealings with living beings and liberality to Brahmans and Sramanas. These and similar other virtues are indeed the ceremonies of Dharma.
Therefore, whether one is a person’s father, or son, or brother, or master, or friend, or acquaintance, or even a mere neighbor, one ought to declare to him: “This kind of rite is good, one should observe this practice until one’s desired object is attained and resolve that the practice will be observed again and again even after the object is attained.”
The other kinds of auspicious ceremonies, referred to above, are indeed of dubious value. Perchance a person may attain his object by performing those ceremonies, perchance he may not. Moreover, performance of those ceremonies may produce results in this world only. But the said rites of Dharma are not restricted to time. If a person performs them but does not attain his object in this world, even then the endless merit for him is produced by them in the next world. And, if a person attains his object in this world, both the results are obtained by him, viz., the desired object is attained in this world as also endless merit is produced for him in the next world by those ceremonies of Dharma.

Concluding part in Girnar edict
Further, it has also been said: “Gifts are meritorious.” But there is no such gift or favor as the gift of Dharma or favor relating to Dharma. Therefore, whether one is a person’s father, or well-wisher, or relative, or companion, one should advise him on different occasions: “This ought to be done. This is meritorious. By this practice alone is it possible to attain heaven.” And what is a greater achievement than this, viz., the attainment of heaven?

English translation by S Dhammika

Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, speaks thus: In times of sickness, for the marriage of sons and daughters, at the birth of children, before embarking on a journey, on these and other occasions, people perform various ceremonies. Women in particular perform many vulgar and worthless ceremonies. These types of ceremonies can be performed by all means, but they bear little fruit. What does bear great fruit, however, is the ceremony of the Dhamma. This involves proper behavior towards servants and employees, respect for teachers, restraint towards living beings, and generosity towards ascetics and Brahmans. These and other things constitute the ceremony of the Dhamma. Therefore a father, a son, a brother, a master, a friend, a companion, and even a neighbor should say: “This is good, this is the ceremony that should be performed until its purpose is fulfilled, this I shall do.” Other ceremonies are of doubtful fruit, for they may achieve their purpose, or they may not, and even if they do, it is only in this world. But the ceremony of the Dhamma is timeless. Even if it does not achieve its purpose in this world, it produces great merit in the next, whereas if it does achieve its purpose in this world, one gets great merit both here and there through the ceremony of the Dhamma.


Religious Ceremonies or rites – In this inscription, Ashoka is at his best falsifying the rites and ceremonies conducted by people on various occasions. He disapproves all such ceremonies. Now, at his time, which is true for our time as well, there was a fashion for a great number of various ceremonies to be performed on many occasions. This was most common to the Hindu or Brahmana religion. Ashoka’s disapproval of these rites points towards two directions: either he is very much disturbed about growing superstitions nature of the society due to such increased in the number of rites, or as he turned to Buddhism so it was natural to look such ceremonies with disgust. Whichever be the case, but he maintained his secular outlook as in this inscription he asked his subjects to respect Brahmans and Sramans equally. He was not against the people, i.e. Brahmans, but to the rites.

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