The Mauryas

Inscriptions of Ashoka

Rock Edict (RE) XIII

१. सतसहस्त्रमंत दत हतं बहुतावतकं मता तता पछा अधुना लंघेसु कलिंगस्तु तीवो धंम ….
२. …. वधो व मरणं व अपवहो व जनस त बाढ वेदनामत च गरुमत च देवानं …..
३. …. मातपितरि सुसुसां गुरु सुसुसा मितस व त सहायञतिकेसु दासभ …..
४. ……. य ञतिका व्यसना पुरे बहु प्रापुणांति तत सो पि तेसं उपघातो होति | पथिभागो चे सा म ….
५. ….. य ञतिका पि न पूरे बहु दता सो पि लेसं उपघातो परिभागो चेस कम …. स्ति इभे निकाया अञत्र  योने (सु) …. यत्र ता नास्ति मनुसानं एकतरम्हि पासंडम्हि च नाम … पि ता यावतको मे ….. जन तद …..
६. न थ सक छमितवे या च पि अटवियो देवानंपिय पिजिते ….
७. …. सवभूतानम अछति चा सयम … समचैर च मादव….
८. ….पिय राजा परं च तेनं हि सा राजानो तुरमयो च अतंकिय …. च मगा च
९. …. धपारिदेसु सवत देवानंपिय धमानुसस्टिं अनुवतरे | वत पि च …
१०. …. विजयो सवथ पुन विजयो पितिरसो लधा सा पिति होति धंमविजयम्हि
११. …. विजयं मा विजेतव्यं मया सरसके एव विजये छत …
१२. …लोकिकं च पार….. लोकिकं च …

English translation by Meena Talim

1. … at that time hundred thousands have been restrained (controlled) slained and on that account many died. After that, recently there has been change over Kalinga, Acute Dhamma …..
2. …. slaughter, death and deportation of people is very paonful and censurable, Devanam ………
3. …… Looking after mother and father, taking care of elders (teachers), friends, helpers, relatives, slaves ……
4. ….. Those who have formerly caused misfortune to relatives have caused injury to themselves and this shall be shared …..
5. …. formerly relatives who were not giving charity and that was injurious to them. This act was shared …. there are no different classes amongst Yonas … where there is not a single sect and as far as men (are concerned)
6. …. they are pardoned (by me) and also … the forest land of Devanamppiya …. has been conquered ….
7. …. for all living beings, let there be self-restrain, equality to all and kindness ….
8. …. King Piya (admonishes) to others and kings of Turamaya, Antekiya, Maga ….
9. …. Adhras and Parindas …. everywhere let there be teaching of Dhamma of Devanamppiya … and ….
10. …. let conquest be every where again by conquest one can obtain an essence of love and that love (for all beings)
11. …. do not be victorious about the conquest, know that victory lies in exposition of (Dhamma), thsi will be victory of people ….
12. … for this world and next world too ….

English translation of the Shahbazgarhi  text by V A Smith

Kalinga was (or “the Kalingas were”) conquered by His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King when he had been consecrated eight years. One hundred and fifty thousand persons were thence carried  away captive, one hundred thousand were there slain, and many times that number died. Directly after the Kalinga had been annexed began His Sacred Majesty’s zealous protection of the Law of Piety, his love of that Law, and his inculcation of that Law.  Thence arises  the remorse  of  His  Sacred Majesty for having conquered the Kalingas, because the conquest of a country previously unconquered involves  the slaughter,  death,  and carrying away captive of the people. That is a matter of profound sorrow and regret to His Sacred Majesty. There is, however, another reason for His Sacred Majesty feeling still more regret, inasmuch as the Brahmans and ascetics, or men of other denominations, or householders who dwell there, and among whom these duties are practised, [to wit], hearkening to superiors, hearkening to father and mother, hearkening to teachers (or ” elders”), and proper treatment (or “courtesy to”) of friends, acquaintances, comrades, relatives, slaves, and servants, with  steadfastness of devotion  to these befalls violence (or “injury”), or slaughter, or separation from their loved ones.   Or violence happens to the friends, acquaintances, comrades, and relatives of those who are themselves well protected, while their affection [for those injured] continues undiminished. Thus for them also that is a mode of violence, and the share of this distributed among all men is a matter of regret to His Sacred Majesty, because it never is the case that faith in some one denomination or another does not exist. So that of all the people who were then slain, done to death, or carried away captive in Kalinga, if the hundredth part or the thousandth part were now to suffer the same fate, it would be matter of regret to His Sacred Majesty. Moreover, should anyone do him wrong, that too must be borne with by His Sacred Majesty, so far as it can possibly be borne with.  Even upon the forest folk in his dominions, His Sacred Majesty looks kindly, and he seeks to make them think, [aright], for [otherwise]  repentance would come upon His Sacred Majesty.  They are bidden to turn from their [evil] ways that they be not chastised.   Because His Sacred Majesty desires for all animate beings security, self-control, peace of mind, and joyousness. And this the chiefest conquest in the opinion of His Sacred Majesty, that conquest of the Law of Piety, which, again, has been won by  is Sacred Majesty both here [in his own dominions]  and among all his neighbours  as far as six hundred leagues, where the king  of the Greeks named Antiochos dwells, and to the north of that Antiochos [where dwell] the four (4) kings named severally Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas, and Alexander [likewise] in the south, the Cholas and Pandyas as far as the Tamraparni [river] and here, too, in  the King’s dominions  among the Greeks, Kambojas, the Nabhapantis of Nabhaka; among the Bhojas, Pitinikas;- ndhras, and Pulindas everywhere they follow the instruction of His Sacred Majesty in  the Law of Piety. Even where the envoysof His Sacred Majesty  do not penetrate,  these people, too, hearing  His Sacred Majesty’s ordinance based upon the Law of  Piety and his instruction in that Law, practice and will practice the Law. And, again,  the conquest thereby won  everywhere is everywhere  a conquest  full of delight.  Delight is  won in the  conquests of the Law. A small matter, however, is that delight. His Sacred Majesty regards as bearing  much fruit only that which concerns the  other world. And for this  purpose  has this scripture of the* Law been recorded, in order that my sons and  grandsons, who may be, may not think it their duty  to conquer a new conquest.  If, perchance, a  conquest should please  them (?) they should take heed  only of patience and gentleness, and regard as a  conquest only that which is effected by the Law of  Piety. That avails for both this world and the next.  Let all  their joy be that which lies  in  effort ;  that avails for both this world and the next.
(Only in Girnar Tex) the white elephant bringing indeed happiness to the whole world.

English translation by D R Bhandarkar

(The country of) Kalinga was conquered when king Priyadarsin, Beloved of the gods, had been anointed eight years. One hundred and fifty thousand were therefore captured, one hundred thousand were there slain, and many times as many died. Thereafter, now, in that acquired (country) of Kalinga are found Beloved of the gods’s zealous protection of Dhamma, longing for Dhamma, and teaching of Dhamma. That is the remorse of the Beloved of the gods on having conquered Kalinga. Verily the slaughter, death and captivity of the people, that occurs when an unconquered (country) is being conquered, is looked upon as extremely painful and regrettable by the Beloved of the gods. But this is to be looked upon as more regrettable than that, namely, that there dwell Brahmanic, Sramanic, and other sects and householders, among whom are established this hearkening to the elders, hearkening to the parents, hearkening to the preceptors, seemly behavior and steadfast devotion to friends, acquaintances, companions and relatives, and to slaves and servants. There (in the war) to such (pious) people befall personal violence, death, or banishment from the loved ones. And in case they are settled in life and possess undiminished affection, their friends acquaintances, companions, and relatives (thereby) meet with a calamity, (and) there that (calamity) becomes their personal violence. This is the lot of all men and is considered regrettable by the Beloved of the gods. And there is no country except that of the Yavanas where there are not these congregations, namely, the Brahmans, and the Sramanas, and there is no place in any country where men have no faith in one sect or another. Even one-hundredth or one-thousandth part of those who were slain, died, or were captured in Kalinga, is today considered regrettable by the Beloved of the gods. Nay if any one does (him) wrong, the Beloved of the gods must bear all that can be borne. And to (the people of) the forests which are in the dominions of the Beloved of the gods he shows conciliatoriness and seeks their cessation (from evil ways). The Beloved of the gods is mighty though repentant. Unto them (therefore) it is said, – what? – “they should express sense of shame, and they shall not be killed.” The Beloved of gods desires for all beings non-injury, self-control, impartiality and gentleness.
But this conquest is considered to be the chiefest by the Beloved of the gods, which is conquest through Dhamma. And that again has been achieved by the Beloved of the gods here and in the bordering dominions, even as far as six hundred yojanas, where dwells the Yavana king called Amtiyoka, and beyond this Amtiyoka to where (dwell) the four kings called Turmaya, Amtekina, Maga and Alikasundara, – (likewise) down below, where are the Cholas, the Pandyas, as far as the Tamraparniyas, – likewise here in the king’s dominions among the Yavanas and Kambojas, the Nabhapamtis in Nabhaka, the hereditary Bhojas, Andhras and Pulindas, – everywhere they follow the teaching of the Beloved of the gods in the respect of Dhamma. Even where the envoys of the Beloved of the gods do not do, they, hearing the ordinances uttered according to Dhamma and the teaching of Dhamma by the Beloved of the gods, practice Dhamma and will so practice. And the conquest which is thereby achieved is everywhere a conquest flavored with love. That love is attained in the conquest through Dhamma. A petty thing, however, is that love. The Beloved of the gods esteems, as bearing great fruit, only that which concerns the next world. And this edict of Dhamma has been recorded for this purpose, – why? – in order that my sons and grandsons, whoever they may be, may not think of a new conquest as worth achieving, that in regard to a conquest, possible only through (the use) of arrow, they may observe forbearance and lightness of punishment, and that they may regard that to be the (real) conquest which is a conquest through Dhamma. That is (good) for this world and the next. May all (their) strong attachment be attachment to exertion. That is (good) for this world and the next.

English translation of Shahbazgarhi text by R K Mookerji

By His Sacred and Gracious Majesty consecrated eight years was Kalinga conquered. One hundred and fifty thousand in number were those carried off from there, a hundred thousand in number were those who were slain there, and many times as many those who were dead. Thereafter, now, the Kalingas being annexed, became intense His Sacred Majesty’s observance of Dharma, love of Dharma, and his preaching of the Dharma. There was the remorse of His Sacred Majesty having conquered the Kalingas. For where an independent country is forcibly reduced, that there are slaughter, death, and deportation of people has been considered very painful and deplorable by His Sacred Majesty. But this is considered even more grievous by His Sacred Majesty in as much as there dwell Brahmana and Sramana ascetics, or followers of other sects, or householders, among whom are established (the following virtues), viz., obedience to elders, to parents, and preceptors, proper conduct towards friends, companions, supporters and relatives, servants and dependents and steadfastness of devotion, whom befalls there injury or slaughter or removal of their loved ones. Or, if there are then incurring misfortune the friends, acquaintances, helpmates, and relations of those whose affection (for them) is unabated, this becomes the affliction of them, too, though they are (themselves) well provided for. Thus these (ills) are of all men in equal shares but felt most by His Sacred Majesty.  There is, again, no country where do not exist these classes, viz., Brahmana and Sramana ascetics, except among the Yonas. There is no (place) in any country where there is not a faith of people in one or other of the sects. Therefore, even a hundredth or the thousandth part of all those people who were wounded, slain, or carried off captives, in Kalinga, would now be considered grievous by His Sacred Majesty. Nay, even if any one does mischief, what can be forgiven is considered as fit to be forgiven by His Sacred Majesty. Even those forest peoples who have come under the dominions of His Sacred Majesty even these he seeks to win over to his way of life and thought. And it is said unto them how even in his repentance is the might of His Sacred Majesty, so that they may be ashamed (of their crimes) and may not be killed. Indeed, His Sacred Majesty desires towards all living beings freedom from harm, restraint of passions, impartiality and cheerfulness. And what is Dharma-vijaya, moral conquest, is consideredby His Sacred Majesty the principal conquest. And this has been repeatedly won by His Sacred Majesty both here (in his dominions) and among all the frontier peoples even to the extent of six hundred yojanas where (are) the Yona king, Antiochos by name, and, beyond that Antiochos, the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander; below, the Cholas, Pandyas, as far as Tamraparni. Likewise, here in the king’s dominion, among theYonas and Kambojas, among the Nabhakas and Nabhitis, (Nabhapamtis in K.), among Pitinikas, among the Andhrasand Palidas, everywhere are (people) following the religious injunction of His Sacred Majesty. Even those to whom the envoys of His Sacred Majesty do not go, having heard of His Sacred Majesty’s practice, ordinances, and injunctions of Dharma, themselves follow, and will follow, the Dharma. The conquest that by this is won everywhere, that conquest, again, everywhere is productive of a feeling of Love. Love is won in moral conquests. That love may be, indeed, slight, but His Sacred Majesty considers it productive of great fruit, indeed, in the world beyond. For this purpose has this religious edict been indited that my sons and great-grandsons that may be, should not think that a new conquest ought to be made ; but that if a conquest is theirs (or pleases them), they should relishforbearance and mildness of punishment, and that they should consider that only as conquest which is moral conquest. That is of both this world and the next. And be their pleasure in the renunciation of all (other aims),  which is pleasure in morality. That is of both this world and the next.

English translation by S Dhammika

Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dhamma, a love for the Dhamma and for instruction in Dhamma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas.
Indeed, Beloved-of-the-Gods is deeply pained by the killing, dying and deportation that take place when an unconquered country is conquered. But Beloved-of-the-Gods is pained even more by this — that Brahmans, ascetics, and householders of different religions who live in those countries, and who are respectful to superiors, to mother and father, to elders, and who behave properly and have strong loyalty towards friends, acquaintances, companions, relatives, servants and employees — that they are injured, killed or separated from their loved ones. Even those who are not affected (by all this) suffer when they see friends, acquaintances, companions and relatives affected. These misfortunes befall all (as a result of war), and this pains Beloved-of-the-Gods.
There is no country, except among the Greeks, where these two groups, Brahmans and ascetics, are not found, and there is no country where people are not devoted to one or another religion. Therefore the killing, death or deportation of a hundredth, or even a thousandth part of those who died during the conquest of Kalinga now pains Beloved-of-the-Gods. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods thinks that even those who do wrong should be forgiven where forgiveness is possible.
Even the forest people, who live in Beloved-of-the-Gods’ domain, are entreated and reasoned with to act properly. They are told that despite his remorse Beloved-of-the-Gods has the power to punish them if necessary, so that they should be ashamed of their wrong and not be killed. Truly, Beloved-of-the-Gods desires non-injury, restraint and impartiality to all beings, even where wrong has been done.
Now it is conquest by Dhamma that Beloved-of-the-Gods considers to be the best conquest. And it (conquest by Dhamma) has been won here, on the borders, even six hundred yojanas away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni. Here in the king’s domain among the Greeks, the Kambojas, the Nabhakas, the Nabhapamkits, the Bhojas, the Pitinikas, the Andhras and the Palidas, everywhere people are following Beloved-of-the-Gods’ instructions in Dhamma. Even where Beloved-of-the-Gods’ envoys have not been, these people too, having heard of the practice of Dhamma and the ordinances and instructions in Dhamma given by Beloved-of-the-Gods, are following it and will continue to do so. This conquest has been won everywhere, and it gives great joy — the joy which only conquest by Dhamma can give. But even this joy is of little consequence. Beloved-of-the-Gods considers the great fruit to be experienced in the next world to be more important.
I have had this Dhamma edict written so that my sons and great-grandsons may not consider making new conquests, or that if military conquests are made, that they be done with forbearance and light punishment, or better still, that they consider making conquest by Dhamma only, for that bears fruit in this world and the next. May all their intense devotion be given to this which has a result in this world and the next.


Impact of Kalinga War – The common understanding among scholars is that Ashoka got converted to Buddhism after the Kalinga war under remorse. However there are few who do not adhere to this understanding. Lets see who all agree on conversion after the war:

  • After war – D R Bhandarkar, J M Macphail
  • Not after war – D N Jha, R K Mookerji

Ashoka, the missionary – In this edict, Ashoka mentions that he had achieved Dhamma-vijaya across his dominions by sending envoys to those countries. Is there a veiled reference to the envoys mentioned in the Third Buddhist Council here?

Mahavamsa mentions that the Third Buddhist Council was held in the seventeenth year of reign. Many scholars state that this edict can be dated to the eighth regnal year of Ashoka as it appears to have been written just after the war with Kalinga.

However, the edict also talks about Dhamma-vijaya achieved by the king. Now this Dhamma-vijaya would have taken some time after the war. We need to provide periods first to conversion of Ashoka, if he was not already a Buddhist at the time of Kalinga war, and then some period for his Dhamma-vijayas. Can it be a period of 9 years so that it coincides with the Third Buddhist Council?

If we want this to coincide with the Third Buddhist Council then a legitimate question would be that why there is no mention of the envoys sent after the council was over? After the completion of the Third Buddhist Council, Ashoka’s son was sent as an envoy, and it would be matter of worth mentioning.

We are trying to reconcile legends with the actual and such problems will happen in this situation. It can be said the sending envoys was not dedicated to a certain period of time, but it was an on going running practice. Envoys were sent at many times to different countries. Therefore Ashoka mentioned his Dhamma-vijaya and sending of envoys in this edict. This edict would have been written before the Third Buddhist Council otherwise he must have mentioned his son as the recent envoy.

Contemporaneity with Greek-Egyptian kings – There are mentioned four Greek-Egyptian kings in this edict. This helps us to put Ashoka in the right space and time. In fact, this is the only worthy fact which can be utilized in identifying the time period of Ashoka and therefore of the Mauryas. Various scholars have agreed upon the time period of these four kings, with minute differences of 1 or 2 years here and there.

Amtiyoka of thsi edict is also mentioned in RE II and he has been discussed there. He is identified with Antiochus II Theos of Syria. Turmaya can be identified with Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt, Amtekina with Antigonus Gonatus of Macedonia, Maga with Magas of Cyrene. Identification of Alikasundara is disputed as some scholars identify him with Alexander of Corinth and some with Alexander of Epirus.

Scholars do not much vary for the dates of these contemporary kings, various proposed dates is listed in the below table.

King P L Bhargava/E Hultzsch D R Bhandarkar R K Mookerji D C Sircar Wikipedia
Antiochus II Theos of Syria 261-246 260-247 261-246 261-246 261-246
Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt 285-247 285-247 285-247 285-247 283-246
Antigonus Gonatus of Macedonia 276-239 278-242 278-239 285-239 319-239
Magas of Cyrene 300-250 Died 258 300-258 282-258 276-250
Alexander of Corinth 252-244 Died between 262 & 258 272-255 253-247
Alexander of Epirus 272?-258 272-255 272-242

Date of Ashoka -Before starting with dates, we need to fix which Alexander Ashoka is talking about, whether it is Alexander of Corinth or Alexander of Epirus. Alexander of Corinth was a Macedonian governor. He was the nephew of Antigonus II Gonatas with whom he later resulted in the war of independence kingdom. He was assisted by the Egyptian king  Ptolemy II Philadelphus in this war.

Alexander of Epirus was also involved in war with the Macedonian king Antigonus II Gonatas, which in fact was started by his father. Wikipedia mentions that he was mentioned in Ashokan edict, reference provided of S Dhammika.

If we have to chose between Alexander of Corinth or Epirus, I would prefer to go for the former. The reason being his connections Antigonus II Gonatas &  Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the two kings mentioned by Ashoka in the same edict.

For the dates of these various kings, we can take Wikipedia as a reliable source. From the able table, it is derived that all the kings were alive by 250 BCE. Therefore it can be said that this edict can latest be proclaimed by 250-249 BCE and not before 253-254 BCE. But then which regnal year it was of Ashoka at that time? This is not very clear from the edict except it was some year later than eighth.

It should also be taken as a fact that these fourteen rock edicts were engraved at the same time. The latest date mentioned in these rock edicts is the thirteenth year of Ashoka, therefore his fourteenth year should be the latest year in which these can be engraved or procailmed.

This suggests that the fourteenth regnal year of Ashoka fell on or before 246 BCE. R K Mookerji takes 257 BCE as the thirteenth year of Ashoka, on assumption that his rock edicts were issued in his thirteenth year and all his contemporary rulers were alive latest by 258 BCE. Thus the year of Ashoka’s coronation was dated to 270 BCE and his accession to 274 BCE by him.

Romila Thapar takes Aliksundara as Alexander of Epirus, therefore comes to conclusion that 256-255 BCE was the time when everyone was alive. She takes this edict to be proclaimed in his fourteenth regnal year, thus the year of his coronation comes to 270-269 BCE.

From the above table, 14th year of Ashoka = 249 BCE or 253 BCE, thus the year of his coronation = 263 BCE or 267 BCE. We will later see that the theory of 4 years gap in his accession and coronation is not true, therefore he ascended the throne in 263 BCE. Bindusara ruled for 28 years, his accession would be in 291 BCE or 295 BCE. And Chandragupta ruled for 24 years therefore he would have ascended the throne in 315 BCE or 319 BCE.

Indian Kingdoms – Cholaa, Pandyas & Tamraparnis, mentioned in this edict, were also mentioned in RE II and were discussed there. Apart from these, we found mention of Kamboja, Nabhakas (Nabhas), Nabhapamtis (Nabhitis), Andhras, Pulindas, Pitinika and Bhojas. We should discuss these in details here.

Kambojas – They have been discussed in RE V.

Nabhakas/Nabhas – G Buhler cites a passage from the Vaivartta Purana which mentions a city Nabhikapura as belonging to the Uttara-Kurus, so that the Nabhapamtis might be a Himalayan people towards the north-west, neighbors of Kambojas.

Bhoja – G Buhler places Bhoja country in Vidarbha while E Hultzsch somewhere in the western India.

Pitinika – R G Bhandarkar & R K Mookerji take the meaning of this word as ‘people outside Ashoka’s direct authority’. D C Sircar takes Pitinika as ‘hereditary chiefs’ and adds along with Bhojas to translate as Bhoja-paitryainkas meaning hereditary Bhoja chiefs.

Pulindas – Aitareya Brahmana mentionas Pulindas with Andhras. Panini mentions Pulinda-gana, suggesting a republic of Pulindas during his time. Vayu Purana mentions Pulindas with Vindhyamuliyas, people living at the foot of Vindya mountain. Sabha Parva of Mahabharata has a reference to Pulindas that they were neighbors of the Chedis.

E Hultzsch assigns them with Andras and suggests that they could be an eastern tribe.

Andhras – The matter with Andhras is more or less settled as they are identified with the dynasty bearing same name at later time. Andhra country was ruled by the Satavahanas after the Mauryas.

Back to Main Page