History

The Mauryas

Inscriptions of Ashoka

Pillar Edict (PE) V

Original text by Meena Talim

1. देवानंपिये पियदसि लाज हेवं आहा | सडुवीसतिवस-
2. अभिसितेन मे इमानि जातानि अवधियानी कटानि | से यथा
3. सुके सालिका अलुने चकवाके हंसे नंदीमुखे गेलाटे
4. जतूका अम्बाकपीलिका दुडी अनठिकमछे वेदवेयके
5. गंगापुपुटके संकुजमछे कफटसंयके पंनससे सिमले
6. संडके ओकपिंडे पलसते सेतकपोते गामकपोते
7. सवे चतुपदे ये पटिभोगं नो एति न च खादयति
8. एडका च सकूती चा गाभिनी च पायमीना व अवधिया पोतके
9. पि च कानि आसंमासिके | वधिकुकुटे नो कटविये; तुसे सजीवे
10. नो झापेतविये; दावे अनठाये विहिसाये वा नो झापेतविये
11. जीवेन जीवे नो पुसितविये |  तीसु चातुमासीसु तिसाय पंनमासियं
12. तिंनि दिवसानि चावुदसं पंनडस पटिपदाय धुवाये चा
13. अनुपोसथं मछे अवधिये नो पि विकेतविये | एतानि येव दिवसानि
14. नागवनसि केवटभोगसि यानि अंनानि पि जीविनि-कायानि
15. नो हंतवियानि | अठमीपकखाये चावुदसाये पनंडसाये तिसाये
16. पुनावसुने तीसु चातुमांसीसु सुदिवसाये गोने नो नीलखितविये |
17. अजके एडके सूकले ए वा अंने नीलखियति नो नीलखितविये
18. तिसाये पुनावसुने चातुंमासिये  चातुंमासिपखाये अस्वसा गोनसा
19. लखने नो कटविये | याव सडुवीसतिवस अभिसितेनमे एताये
20. अंतलिकाये पंनवीसति बंधनमोक्खानि कटानि |

English translation by Meena Talim

1. Piyadassi, the beloved of the God, says thus: Twenty-six years
2. after coronation I have prohibited killing of the following living beings:
3. Suko (parrot), salika (myna), aluna (red-breast), chakkavaka (ruddy geese), hamsa (swan), nandimukho (the bird found at the mouth of river Nanda), gelata (?),
4. Jatuka (bat), ants of the mango tree (ambapipilika), dandi (terrapin), anatthikamaccha (boneless fish), vedaveyaka (owl),
5. Gangakukuta (cocks at river Ganges), suvannamaccha (golden fish), kumma (tortoise), sallaka (porcupine), pannasasaka (jungle-rabbits), simala (barasinga stag)
6. White pigeons or village pigeons, a bird that stay in the grove or wander in the space or in the thicket of leaves (samdake palasate okapinde).
7. All four-footed ones which are killed for enjoyment; they are not to be eaten.
8. She-goat, she-pig either pregnant or suckling should not be killed and also their young ones and
9. even of a month old or cock should not be killed. Similarly, the living beings should not be burnt in a husk.
10. Do not burn unnecessarily or for the purpose of violence (killing) which may cause a forest fire; do not make such fire.
11. One’s life should not be nourished on other’s life.
12. In the three months of the monsoon of the four months(catumasa), three full moon days and three days of fourteen, fifteen and first day of fortnight, all these days, regularly;
13. should be fasting days. Do not kill fish nor even sell them. Similarly on these days
14. the living creatures (category of) that live in the deep forest (where elephants dwell) or places of fishermen or from such other places do not hurt
15. their bodies. On the eighth day of both fortnight, fourteenth day and fifteenth day and those days of
16. Punabbasu (constellation) of three (months) of monsoon (four months); do not castrate (beaten down) bull on the festival days (sudivase = good day)
17. she-goats, rams, pigs and any such animals should not be made (target) castrated.
18. On three days, namely, Punabbasu, four fortnights of four months (catumase), a horse or a bull
19. should not be castrated. This is twenty-sixth year of my coronation, and in between this period (span of time)
20. I have released twenty-five times, to those who were imprisoned.

English translation by V A Smith

Thus saith His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King:
When I had been consecrated twenty-six years the following species [or "creatures"] were declared exempt from slaughter,  namely these : parrots,  starlings, adjutants, “Brahmany ducks,” geese, nandimukhas, gelatas, bats, queen-ants, female tortoises, “boneless fish,” vedaveyakas, gangdpuputakas,  skate, river tortoises,  porcupines, tree squirrels, barahsingha stags, “Brahmany bulls,” monkeys, rhinoceros, grey doves, village  pigeons, and all  four-footed animals which are neither utilized nor eaten. She-goats, ewes, and sows, that is  to say, those which are with young or in milk,  are exempt from slaughter, as well as their offspring up to six months of age. The caponing of cocks must not be done. Chaff must not be set on fire along with the living things in it. Forests must not be  set on fire either wantonly or for the destruction of life. The living must not be fed with the living. At each of the three seasonal full moons and at the full moon of Tishya (December-January) for three days in each case, namely, the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the first fortnight and the first day of the second fortnight, as well as on fast-days throughout the year, fish is exempt from slaughter, and  must not be sold. On the .same days in elephant-forests and fish-ponds other classes  of animals whatsoever are not to be destroyed. On the eighth, fourteenth, and fifteenth days of each fortnight, as well as on the Tishya and Punarvasu days, on the full-moon days of the three seasons, and on festivals, the castration of bulls must not be performed, nor  may he-goats, rams,  boars,  or other animals liable to castration be castrated. On the Tishya, Punarvasu, and seasonal full-moon days, and during the fortnights of the seasonal full- moons the  branding of horses and oxen must not be done. During the period that elapsed until I had been consecrated twenty-six years twenty-five jail deliveries have been effected.

English translation by D R Bhandarkar

Thus saith king Priyadarsin, Beloved of the gods : – When I had been consecrated twenty-six years, the following animals were declared unworthy of slaughter, namely parrots, starlings, ruddy geese, swans, Nandimukhas, Gelatas, flying-foxes, queen-ants, female tortoises, bone-less fish, vedaveyakas, Ganga-paputakas, skates, tortoises and porcupines, hare-like squirrels, twelve-antler stags, bulls set free, household vermins, rhinoceros, grey doves, village pigeons, and all quadrupeds which are neither used nor eaten. She-goats, ewes, and sows, which are with young or in milk, are unworthy of slaughter, and some of their young ones up to six months of age. Cocks shall not be caponed. Chaff containing living things shall not be burnt. Forests shall not be set on fire either for mischief or for the destruction of life. The living shall not be fed with the living. About the full moon of each of the three seasons and the full moon of Taisha, fish may neither be killed nor sold during three days (of the fortnight) and the first (of the following fortnight), and certainly not on fast days. On the same days these and other species of life also shall not be killed in the elephant forest and fish preserves. On the eighth of (each) fortnight and on the fourteenth and fifteenth, on the Tishya and Punarvasu days, on the full moon days of the three seasons, – on (such) auspicious days, bulls shall not be castrated : he-goats, rams, boars and such others as are castrated shall not be castrated. On the Tishy and Punarvasu days, on the full-moon days of the seasons, and during the fortnights connected with the full-moons of the seasons, the branding of horses and oxen shall not be done. Twenty-five jail deliveries have been effected by me, who am consecrated twenty-six years, just in that period.

English translation by R K Mookerji

Thus saith His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King : By me consecrated twenty-six years, the following creatures were declared as not be killed, such as – Parrots, mainas, adjutants (?), ruddy geese, wild geese, nandi-mukhas, gelatas (probably cranes), bats, queen ants, terrapins, prawns, vedaveyakas, gangapuputakas (a kind of fish), skates, tortoises and porcupines, tree-squirrels, Barasing stags, bulls set at liberty, okapindas, rhinoceros, white doves, domestic doves, and all quadrupeds which do not come into use, nor are eaten.
Those she-goats, ewes and sows, whether with young or in milk, are not to be killed, as also their offspring which are within six months of age.
The caponing of cocks not permitted. Husks with living things therein must not be burnt.
Forests for nothing or violence (to living creatures) must not be burnt.
The living must not be nourished with the living.
On the three Chaturmasis (i.e. on the full-moon day which falls before (or after) the usual season of four months), and on Tisya (i.e. Pausa month) full moon, fish shall neither be killed, nor sold, for three days, viz., the fourteenth, the fifteenth, of the first, and the first of the second, fortnight, as well as on all fasting days as a rule.
On the same days, again, in the elephant-forests, and in the preserves of the fishermen, other classes of living creatures must not be killed.
On the eighth (tithi) of every fortnight, on the fourteenth, on the fifteenth, on the Tisya, and Punarvasu days, on the full-moon days of the three seasons, and at festivals, bulls shall not be castrated, nor he-goats, rams, and boars, nor other such animals as are usually castrated.
On the Tisya and Punarvasu days, on the full-moon days of the seasons, and during the fortnights connected with the seasonal full-moons, the branding of horses and cows is not permitted.
Until (I had been) anointed twenty-six years, in this period twenty-five jail-deliveries have been effected by me.

English  translation by D C Sircar

Thus saith king Priyadarshi, Beloved of the Gods.
Twenty-six years after my coronation, I have declared the following species of animals exempt from slaughter, viz., parrots, mainas, ruddy geese, wild geese, nandimukhas, gelatas, bats, mango-tree ants, terrapins, boneless fish, vedaveyakas, gangapuputakas, skae-fish, tortoises and porcupines, leaf-hares, twelve-antler stags, bulls set at liberty, household vermin, rhinoceros, white pigeons, village pigeons and all the quadrupeds which are neither useful nor edible.
Those she-goats, ewes and sows, which are either pregnant or milch, are not to be slaughtered, nor their young ones which are less than six months old. Cocks are not be caponed. Husks containing living beings should not be burnt. Forests must not be burnt either uselessly or in order to destroy living beings. The living must not be fed with the living.
At the time three Chaturmasis and the full-moon of the month of Tishya, for three days in each case, viz., the fourteenth and fifteenth of one fortnight and the first of the next, and invariably on every fast days, fis is exempt from slaughter and should not be sold. And on the same days, not only these but also species of beings should not be killed in elephant-forests and in fisher-men’s preserves.
On the eighth of each fortnight and on the fourteenth and fifteenth on the Tishya and Punarvasu days, on the three Chaturmasi days and on every auspicious day, bulls are not be castrated. And he-goats, rams, boars, and such other animals as are usually castrated should not be castrated on those days. Horses and bullocks should not be branded on the Tishya and Punarvasu days, on the Chaturmasis and during the fortnights associated with the Chaturmasis.
Up to the time when I completed twenty-sic years after my coronation, the release of prisoners has been ordered by me twenty-five times during the period in question.

English translation by S Dhammika

Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, speaks thus: Twenty-six years after my coronation various animals were declared to be protected — parrots, mainas, //aruna//, ruddy geese, wild ducks, //nandimukhas, gelatas//, bats, queen ants, terrapins, boneless fish, //vedareyaka//, //gangapuputaka//, //sankiya// fish, tortoises, porcupines, squirrels, deer, bulls, //okapinda//, wild asses, wild pigeons, domestic pigeons and all four-footed creatures that are neither useful nor edible. Those nanny goats, ewes and sows which are with young or giving milk to their young are protected, and so are young ones less than six months old. Cocks are not to be caponized, husks hiding living beings are not to be burnt and forests are not to be burnt either without reason or to kill creatures. One animal is not to be fed to another. On the three Caturmasis, the three days of Tisa and during the fourteenth and fifteenth of the Uposatha, fish are protected and not to be sold. During these days animals are not to be killed in the elephant reserves or the fish reserves either. On the eighth of every fortnight, on the fourteenth and fifteenth, on Tisa, Punarvasu, the three Caturmasis and other auspicious days, bulls are not to be castrated, billy goats, rams, boars and other animals that are usually castrated are not to be. On Tisa, Punarvasu, Caturmasis and the fortnight of Caturmasis, horses and bullocks are not be branded.
In the twenty-six years since my coronation prisoners have been given amnesty on twenty-five occasions.

Observations:

Castration of bulls - Meena Talim mentions that V A Smith was confused as the Hindus of Bengal told him affirmatively that they never castrated a bull before the Mohammedan conquest. However she relates this rituals to the Persians, followers to Mithra cult, who migrated to India during and before the time of Ashoka.

Migrations of Persians is a well known fact which cannot be denied however to which extent they would have settled in India is questionable. Magadha or present Bihar is in far east of India and it is very probable that very few Persians would have reached this far. And in that situation how frequent the bull castration would have been seen by Ashoka is not certain.

Castration of domestic animals would have been an ancient practice in my opinion. The idea was simple, to make them dormant in their sexual desires and making them suitable for domestic usage. However though the practice might be ancient but the procedure was cruel. And this is what made Ashoka ban the practice on few good days. He did not stop it permanently as evident from his edict.

Back to Main Page