History

The Mauryas

Inscriptions of Ashoka

Pillar Edict (PE) IV

Original text by Meena Talim

1. देवानंपिये पियदसि लाज हेवं आहा | सडुवीसतिवस-
2. अभिसितेन मे इयं धंमलिपि लिखापिता | लज़ूका मे |
3. बहुसु पानसतसहसेसु जनसि आयता तेसं ये अभिहाले वा
4. दंडे वा अतपतिये मे कटे; किंति (?) लज़ूका अस्वस्थ अभीता
5. कंमानि पवतयेवु जनस जानपदसा हितसुखं उपदहवू
6. अनुगहिनेवु चा | सुखीयदुखीयनं जानिसंति धंमयुतेन च
7. वियोवदिसंति जनं जानपदं;  किंति (?) हिदतं च पालतं च
8. आलाधवेयु ति |  लज़ूका पि लघंति पटिचलितवे मं पुलिसानि पि मे
9. छंदनानि पटिचलिसंति ते पि च कानि वियोवदिसंति येन मं लज़ूका
10. चघंति आलाधयितवे | अथा हि पजं वियताये धातिये निसिजितु
11. अस्वस्थे होति | वियत धाति चघति म पजं सुखं पलिहटवे
12. हेवं ममा लज़ूका कटा जानपदस हितसुखाये; येन एते अभीता
13. अस्वस्थ संतं अविमना कंमानि पवतयेवु ति एतन मे लज़ूकानं
14. अभिहाले व दंडे वा अतपीतये कटे | इच्छितविये हि एसा, किंति (?)
15. वियोहलसमता च सिय दंडसमता चा | अव इते पि च मे आवुति |
16. बंधनबधनां मुनिस्सानं तीलीतदंडानं  पतवधानं तिनिं दिवसानी मे
17. योते दिनें | नातिका व कानि निझपयिसंति जीविताये तानं
18. नासंतं वा निझपयिता दानं दाहंति पालतिकं उपवासं व कछंति
19. इछा हि मे, हेवं निलुधसि पि कालसि पालतं आलाधयेवु ति जनस च
20. वढति विविधे धंमचलने संयमे दानस विभागे ति |

English translation by Meena Talim

1. Piyadassi, the beloved of the God said thus
2. Twenty-six years after coronation, I have caused this edict to be inscribed. My Rajjukas
3. command hundred thousands men. They reward
4. or punish them with their own discretion just as I do. Why? Rajjukas are comfortable and fearless
5. (and) carry out the work for men and country and furnish it for the happiness and benefit (of them).
6. They confer favor on them, they know their happiness and sorrow, like Dhammayuttas.
7. They know people and country, how? They want them to attain to happiness, in this world and next world.
8. Rajjukas quickly follow me. My men
9. follow (obey) me according to my wishes and they will tell them in various ways. Thus my Rajjukas
10. quickly satisfy me. This is like handing over my people in the hands of efficient (well-known) nurse
11. and make them comfortable. Like and accomplished (learned) nurse who quickly (makes the child happy), similarly they look after my subjects and make them happy.
12. For this purpose I have appointed Rajjukas to look after the benefit and happiness of the subject and here they are fearless
13. comfortable, calm and with undisturbed mind; they carry out their duties. Thus my Rajjukas
14. can confer reward and punishment, with their own discretions; and this is done according to my wishes. How?
15. They follow balance, equality as an officials in court of law affairs and in the matter of implementing punishment. And all these are done according to (fixed on) my orders.
16. Those who are imprisoned, they should be given punishment after examined and accordingly; and those who are sentenced to death should be informed to me (about the arrangements) within three days.
17. In these days, their many relatives and others may want to mediate on punishment of life and protect the life
18. (but) are not able to mediate (for favorable disposition) then let him make a charity, protect himself, keep fasting.
19. My desire is to dispel this (matter) but it should be done in a (prescribed) period and should be satisfying to all. Thus, amongst the people there will be
20. Increase in various ways, such as following the Dhamma and keeping restrain and giving charity, with proper distribution.

English translation by V A Smith

Thus saith His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King:
When I had been consecrated twenty-six years I caused this scripture of the Law of Piety to be written. To my Governors set over many hundred thousands of people I have granted independence in  the award of honours and penalties in order that the Governors confidently and fearlessly may perform their duties, bestow welfare and happiness upon the people of the country, and confer favours upon them. They will ascertain the causes of happiness or unhappiness, and through the subordinate officials of the Law of Piety will  exhort the people of  the country so that they may gain both this  world and the next. My Governors, too, eager to serve me ; my Agents, also, acknowledging my will, shall serve me, and they, too, on occasion, will give exhortations so that the Governors will be eager to win me. For, just as a man, having made over his child to a skilful nurse, feels confident and says to himself, ” The skilful nurse is eager to care for the happiness of my child,” even so my Governors  have been created for the welfare and happiness of the country, with intent that fearlessly, confidently, and quietly they may perform their duties.   For that reason I have granted to my Governors independence  in the award of honours and penalties. Forasmuch as it is desirable that there should be uniformity in judicial procedure and uniformity in penalties, from this time forward my rule is this :
“To condemned men lying in prison under sentence of death a respite of three days is granted by me.”
[During that interval] the relatives in some cases will arrange for a revision in order to save their lives, or in order to obtain a revision will give alms with a view to the next world, or will observe fasting. For my desire is  that even when their time is irrevocably fixed they [the condemned] may gain the next world, while among the people various pious practices may increase,  including self-control  and liberality.

English translation by D R Bhandarkar

Thus saith king Priyadarsin, Beloved of the gods; This Dhammalipi was caused to be written by me when I had been crowned twenty-six years. The Rajjukas have been set by me over people (consisting of) many hundred thousands of souls. I have made them self-dependent in their judicial investigation and punishment, – why? – in order that the Rajjukas may perform their duties with confidence and without fear, cause welfare and happiness to the people of the provinces and confer favours (upon them). They will make themselves acquainted with what gives happiness or pain, and exhort the people of the provinces along with the faithful – how ? – so that they may gain happiness in this world and in the next. The Rajjukas are eager to obey me. And just because the Rajjukas desire to obey me, (subordinate) officers also will obey my wishes and orders, and will also exhort some (people). Certainly, just as (a person) feels confident after making over his offspring to a clever nurse, (saying unto himself) ‘the clever nurse desires to bring up mu offspring,’ even so have I appointed the Rajjukas for the welfare and happiness of the provincials, in order that they may perform theor duties without fear, with confidence, and without perplexity. For this reason I have made Rajjukas self-dependent in respect of judicial investigation and punishment. For this is desirable, – what ? – uniformity of judicial investigation and uniformity of punishment. And even so far goes my order : To men who are bound with fetters, on whom punishment has been passed and who have been condemned to death, have I granted three days as something rightfully and exclusively their own. Either (their) relatives will (in that interval) make some (of the Rajjukas) relent in order to save their live; or, to stay the end, namely, (spiritual) destruction, they will give alms and observe fasts pertaining to the next world. For my desire is that even during the time of imprisonment, they may try to win the bliss of the next world and that manifold pious practices, self-restraint and liberality may grow among the people.

English translation by R K Mookerji

Thus saith His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King : Be me consecrated twenty-six years was this Document of Law caused to be inscribed.
The Rajjukas have been placed by me over many hundred thousand lives. What is their (administration of) Law or Justice has been made by me subject to their own authority, so that the Rajjukas assured, and without being afraid, may set about their tasks, distribute the good and happiness of the people of the country, and also bestow favors. They shall acquaint themselves with what cause happiness or misery, and, with the help of the pious, admonish the people of the provinces that they may gain both here and hereafter.
The Rajjukas, too, are ready to obey me.
They will also obey the Purusas who know (my) wishes; they will also exhort those (people) so that the Rajjukas may be able to please me.
Indeed, just as a man, after having entrusted his child to a skilled nurse, rests assured with the thought :”the skilled nurse will be able to keep my child well”, even so the Rajjukas were created by me for the good and happiness of the country people.
In order that these, being free from fear, misgivings, and distracted mind, might apply themselves to their tasks, independence of the Rajjukas has been ordained by me in the matter of Law and Justice.
Since it is to be desired that there should be uniformity in law as well as uniformity in justice, from this time forward in my injunction: “To persons confined in chains, already judged, and sentenced to death, a grace of three days has been granted by me.”
(During this period of grace) either (their relatives) will, for their lives, persuade those (rajjukas) to reconsider their judgement, or, if there be none who persuades (them), they (i.e. the prisoners) will give alms for the sake of the other world or will perform fasts.
For my desire is that even when the time (of grace) has expired, they may gain the hereafter, and that various kinds of religious practice increase, together with self-restraint and distribution of alms on the part of the people.

English  translation by D C Sircar

Thus saith king Priyadarshi, Beloved of the Gods.
This record relating to Dharma has been caused to be written by me twenty-six years after my coronation.
The Rajjukas have been placed by me over many hundred thousands of souls among the people of my dominions. The award of rewards or the imposition of punishment by them has been placed by me under their sole control. Why? Because the Rajjukas should perform their duties with confidence and without fear and they should bring welfare and happiness to the people of the countryside and bestow favors upon them. They will acquaint themselves with what gives pleasure or pain to the subjects and exhort the inhabitants of the countryside through persons who are devoted to Dharma, so that the people can attain happiness in this world as well as in the next.
Of course, the Rajjukas are eager to serve me. They have also to obey the officers who know my wishes. And these officers will exhort some of the Rajjukas who may not know my wishes, so that the latter can please me.
just as a person feels confident after having entrusted his child to an experienced nurse and thinks: “The expert nurse is able to bring up my child well,” even so have I appointed the Rajjukas for the welfare and happiness of the country people. The award of rewards or the infliction of punishment by the Rajjukas has been placed by me under their sole control in order that they should be free from fear and want of confidence and thus perform their duties with pleasure.
The following indeed is desirable, viz., that there should be impartiality in judicial proceedings and impartiality in punishment. And my order goes even so far that a respite of three days is granted by me to fettered persons in the prisons who have been convicted and condemned to death. During that period, their relatives will plead for their life to some officers. Otherwise, they will console the persons who are going to die and bestow gifts in order to secure for them happiness in the next world and undergo fasts for the same purpose. Verily my desire is this that, even when the time for their living in this world has expired, they may attain happiness in the next world and that various kinds of the practice of Dharma, such as self-control and distribution of gifts are promoted among the people.

English translation by S Dhammika

Beloved-of-the-Gods speaks thus: This Dhamma edict was written twenty-six years after my coronation. My Rajjukas are working among the people, among many hundreds of thousands of people. The hearing of petitions and the administration of justice has been left to them so that they can do their duties confidently and fearlessly and so that they can work for the welfare, happiness and benefit of the people in the country. But they should remember what causes happiness and sorrow, and being themselves devoted to Dhamma, they should encourage the people in the country (to do the same), that they may attain happiness in this world and the next. These Rajjukas are eager to serve me. They also obey other officers who know my desires, who instruct the Rajjukas so that they can please me. Just as a person feels confident having entrusted his child to an expert nurse thinking: “The nurse will keep my child well,” even so, the Rajjukas have been appointed by me for the welfare and happiness of the people in the country.
The hearing of petitions and the administration of justice have been left to the Rajjukas so that they can do their duties unperturbed, fearlessly and confidently. It is my desire that there should be uniformity in law and uniformity in sentencing. I even go this far, to grant a three-day stay for those in prison who have been tried and sentenced to death. During this time their relatives can make appeals to have the prisoners’ lives spared. If there is none to appeal on their behalf, the prisoners can give gifts in order to make merit for the next world, or observe fasts. Indeed, it is my wish that in this way, even if a prisoner’s time is limited, he can prepare for the next world, and that people’s Dhamma practice, self-control and generosity may grow.

Observations:

Rajjukas – This whole edict can be termed as the list of duties for the Rajjuka officers appointed by Ashoka. Ashoka clarified the role of these officers which partly appears to be a parallel law and order authority on top of the regular judicial authorities.

Capital Punishment - It is clear from the edict that Ashoka did not abolish capital punishment. He only provided a respite of three days to the convicts so that within that period their relatives can either try for their deliverance from the officers or the convict can follow the Dhamma path so that he  attains merit in the next world.

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