Edicts of Ashoka – Kalinga Edict I

Inscriptions of Ashoka

Kalinga Edict I

English translation by Meena Talim
1. In the name of Beloved of God, these words are said Mahamattas of Tosali, mayor of the city (or higher officers).
2. Whatever I see, I desire, what? I shall say it by my action.
3. I have started this for the second time. This is important hence the second time I shall instruct you the meaning.
4. You are giving order to many thousands (living beings) but now you go to good men.
5. All men are my children. Now (therefore) I desire what? All should live here happily and be benefited.
6. They should engage (join) doing good work for this world and the next world. Similarly, I also desire for all men that they should obtain it (happiness). Those who set out for journey should know the meaning (purpose).
7. Perhaps someone may obtain it but may be very less and he does not get (see) it fully. You have to drive him.
8. But along with the law. Here we notice (certain) man obtains imprisonment and suffers thereby. This happens.
9. Why does he undergo such imprisonment? For he has given sorrow to many (men). Therefore, the wish (that makes him suffer).
10. What should you then do? Be impartial. Follow the middle path (know that). Those who are born here.
11. Enter upon an envy, anger, devilishness; do not return and keep on with impatience, sloth and fatigue. They desire accordingly. Why is it so? Here
12. The one who is born craves as ‘mine’ (or shows affection for oneself). This is the (cause) root; the want of forbearance and examination (weighing). It is better one should make a rule that.
13. Let it not rise again. You should get moving. This should be done (proper for you to know). In this way, you should see this and tell them, to others also.
14. It should be taken as a command. You should instruct them that these and these are the teachings (instructions) of the beloved of God. These instructions bear great fruit. These should be followed.
15. If you do not follow, then it would be dangerous. Those who do not follow, they are not entitled to heaven nor do they please the king.
16. I have done this (act) for the second time. It is rather too much. But by following this, one is entitled to heaven and it’s a gain to him.
17. For this purpose I have commanded this (come along). This script should be heard on Tissanakkhata constellation.
18. It can be heard on (between), Tissanakkhata constellation, moment to moment, or by single person, by doing this.
19. (Thus) you will wander (tour) and reach the goal. For this purpose this inscription has been written here.
20. Mayors of the city should perpetually join with them, at times and awaken the truth (in the minds of) citizens.
21. It should not be sudden (occasional) passion to them. For this purpose, I shall set out on for the tour every five years.
22. Those who are not harsh, not cruel, friendly and can easily take support (of friendship) they will know the purpose and do accordingly.
23. Thus I have instructed. The prince from Ujjeni will also set out for tour for the purpose.
24. This section (group) of mine will not be transgressed. Similarly, every three years (prince will go to) Taxila.
25. When Mahamattas set out on tour for giving instructions then they too are successful (in this matter). They know their duties.
26. They also do according to the instructions given by the king.

English translation of the Dhauli text by V A Smith

In the words of His Sacred Majesty the High Officers administering the town are to be addressed as follows :
Whatsoever my views are I desire them to be acted on in practice and carried into effect by certain means. And in my opinion the chief means for this purpose are my instructions to you, because you have been set over many thousands of living beings that you may gain the affection of good men. ” All men are my children; ” and, just as I desire for my children that they may enjoy every kind of prosperity and happiness both in this world and in the next, so also I desire the same for all men. You, however, do not grasp this truth to its full extent.  Some individual, perchance, pays heed, but to a part only, not the whole.  See then to this, for the principle of government is well established. Again, it happens that some individual incurs imprisonment or torture, and when the result is his imprisonment without due cause, many other people are deeply grieved. In such a case you must desire to do justice. However, with certain natural dispositions success is impossible, to wit, envy, lack of perseverance, harshness, impatience, want of application,  laziness,  indolence. You must desire that such dispositions be not yours. The root of the whole matter lies in perseverance and patience in applying this principle of government. The indolent man cannot rouse himself to move, yet one must needs move, advance, go on. In the same way you must see to your duty, and be told to remember : “See to my commands ; such and such are the instructions of His Sacred Majesty.” Fulfillment of these bears great fruit,  non-fulfillment brings great calamity.  By those who fail  neither heaven nor the royal favor can be won. Ill performance of this duty can never gain my regard, whereas in fulfilling my instructions you will gain heaven and also pay your debt to me. This scripture must be recited every constellation of Tishya day, and in the intervals between the Tishya days, on fit occasions it may be recited even to a single hearer. By such action you must endeavor to fulfill my intentions. For this purpose has this scripture been  here inscribed in order that the administrators of the town may strive without ceasing [lit. ” all the time “] that the restraint or torture of the townsmen may not take place without due cause. And for this purpose, in accordance with the Law of Piety, I shall send forth in rotation every five years such persons [lit. ” a person “] as are of mild and temperate disposition, and regardful of the sanctity of life, who knowing this my purpose  will comply with my instructions. From Ujjain, however, the Prince for this  purpose will send out a similar body [of officials], and will not over-pass three years. In the same way  from Taxila. When the High Officers aforesaid .   .   . proceed on transfer in rotation,[then without neglecting their own [ordinary] business,  hey will attend to this matter also, and thus will carry out the King’s instructions.

English translation by D R Bhandarkar

English translation by R K Mookerji

English translation by D C Sircar

The Mahamatras of Toshali who are the judicial officers of the city have to be addressed in the following words of the Beloved of the Gods.

As regards whatever good I notice, I desire that I may carry out by deeds and accomplish it by proper means. And I consider the following to be the principal means to this end, viz., to impart instructions to you. For you are placed by me over many thousands of beings with the object that I may gain the affection of all men.

All men are my children. Just as, in regard to my own children, I desire that they may be provided with all kinds of welfare and happiness in this world and in the next, the same I desire also in regard to all men. But you do not understand how far my intention goes in this respect. A few amongst you perchance understand it; but even such of you understand it partly or not fully. However well-placed you may be, you have to pay attention to this matter.

In the administration of justice, it sometimes happens that some persons suffer imprisonment or harsh treatment. In such cases, a person may accidentally obtain an order cancelling his imprisonment, while many other persons in the same condition continue to suffer for a long time. In such a circumstance, you should so desire as to deal with all of them impartially.

But an officer fails to act impartially owing to the following dispositions, viz., jealousy, anger, cruelty, hastiness, want of perseverance, laziness and fatigue. Therefore, you should desire that these dispositions may not be yours. And the root of the complete success of an officer lies in the absence of anger and avoidance of hastiness. In the matter of administration of justice, an officer does not get up for work if he is fatigued; but he has to move, to walk and to advance. Whoever among you pays attention to this should tell other officers : “Pay attention to nothing except the duties assigned to you by the king. Such and such are the instructions of the Beloved of the Gods.” The observance of this duty will produce great results for you; but its non-observance will produce great harm.

For, if you fail to observe this, there will be for you neither the attainment of heaven nor the attainment of the King’s favor. Because indifferent observance of this duty on your part cannot make me excessively energetic in favoring you. If, however, you observe this duty, you will attain heaven and also discharge the debt you owe to me, your master.

And all of you should listen to this record read out on the day of the Tishya constellation. Some of you may listen to it also on the other suitable occasions on any day between two days of Tishya. In case you do this, you will be able to accomplish your duty.

This record has been written here for the following purpose, viz., that the judicial officers of the city may strive to do their duty at all times and that the people within their charges suffer neither from unnecessary  imprisonment nor from unnecessary harassment.

Hence I shall cause my Mahamatras, who will be neither harsh nor fierce in temperament but will be gentle in action, to set out on tours on inspection, every five years, for the following purpose, viz., to ascertain if the judicial officers have realised this object of mine and are acting according to my instructions.

Similarly, from Ujjayini also, the Prince Viceroy will send officers of the same class every year for the same purpose and will not allow three years to pass without such a mission being sent out on a tour. In the same way, officers will be deputed from Takshshila also. When these Mahamatras will set out on tours of inspection every year, then without neglecting their normal duties, they will have to ascertain the following, viz., if the local judicial officers are acting according to the King’s instructions.

English translation by S Dhammika

Beloved-of-the-Gods says that the Mahamatras of Tosali who are judicial officers in the city are to be told this: I wish to see that everything I consider to be proper is carried out in the right way. And I consider instructing you to be the best way of accomplishing this. I have placed you over many thousands of people that you may win the people’s affection.
All men are my children. What I desire for my own children, and I desire their welfare and happiness both in this world and the next, that I desire for all men. You do not understand to what extent I desire this, and if some of you do understand, you do not understand the full extent of my desire.
You must attend to this matter. While being completely law-abiding, some people are imprisoned, treated harshly and even killed without cause so that many people suffer. Therefore your aim should be to act with impartiality. It is because of these things — envy, anger, cruelty, hate, indifference, laziness or tiredness — that such a thing does not happen. Therefore your aim should be: “May these things not be in me.” And the root of this is non-anger and patience. Those who are bored with the administration of justice will not be promoted; (those who are not) will move upwards and be promoted. Whoever among you understands this should say to his colleagues: “See that you do your duty properly. Such and such are Beloved-of-the-Gods’ instructions.” Great fruit will result from doing your duty, while failing in it will result in gaining neither heaven nor the king’s pleasure. Failure in duty on your part will not please me. But done properly, it will win you heaven and you will be discharging your debts to me.
This edict is to be listened to on Tisa day, between Tisa days, and on other suitable occasions, it should be listened to even by a single person. Acting thus, you will be doing your duty.
This edict has been written for the following purpose: that the judicial officers of the city may strive to do their duty and that the people under them might not suffer unjust imprisonment or harsh treatment. To achieve this, I will send out Mahamatras every five years who are not harsh or cruel, but who are merciful and who can ascertain if the judicial officers have understood my purpose and are acting according to my instructions. Similarly, from Ujjayini, the prince will send similar persons with the same purpose without allowing three years to elapse. Likewise from Takhasila also. When these Mahamatras go on tours of inspection each year, then without neglecting their normal duties, they will ascertain if judicial officers are acting according to the king’s instructions.


Vice-royalties – Three vice-royalties are mentioned in this edict, Tosali, Ujjain and Taxila. Prince was posted at Ujjain and probably as Taxila as well. This approves the legend that when Ashoka was a prince then he was posted at Ujjain. This also approves the legend that Ashoka was sent to quell revolt at Taxila, though we are not very sure if there was a revolt but Ashoka would certainly visited Taxila.

Ashoka, the Benevolent – In this edict, Ashoka tells that all men are his children. This statement has special meaning with the newly conquered region, of which Tosali would be the capital of, as Ashoka needs to connect with new people more strongly. And what better way he would chose by calling them his children.

He further checks imprisonment carried out in the newly conquered territory. It is assumed that some tortures were inflicted on the newly conquered domain and sometimes innocent people are also put behind bars in the process. Ashoka specifically asked his officers to check such imprisonments, if there is any as he does not want his image to be portrayed like and other conqueror. His aim was to embrace this new territory with its people like his children.

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