Ashoka Inscriptions

Significance of Ashokan Inscriptions source of History

Ashokan inscription constitution most important source of information about emperor Ashoka. The information provided by Ashokan inscription also helped in big way in reconstruction of Mauryan history. Inscriptions of king Ashoka contain the Rock Edicts, pillar edicts & the cave inscription. These inscriptions have been found from all over Indian subcontinent. These inscriptions provide information about the language & script of the age.

Prakrut is a common language in Ashokan inscription. Brahmi is the most common script used in Ashokan Inscription. In some inscription Greek, Aramaic & Kharoshti having used. Use of Aramaic, Greek, Kharoshti script indicates that some foreigners were living in most North Western region of empire.

Ashokan inscription also contain dates of various activities. According to sixth pillar edict Ashoka begin to issue major Rock Edict in his 13th regional year. According to 13th major Rock Edict of Ashoka Kallinga war was fought in his 9th year of his region. Full name of emperor Ashoka is found only in inscription.

Only the minor Rock Edict found at Gurjara Maski, Nettur, Udegalon contain the full name of Ashoka as Ashoka Devanampiya Piyadasi. Before the decipherment of Ashokan Inscription. It was believed that king Devanampiya mentioned in “Ceylonese chronicles (Deepvamsha & Mahavamsha – two Buddhist Sri Lankan books) was a Sri Lankan king.

The geographical location of Ashokan Inscription helps in determination of territorial extent of Mauryan Empire. Ashokan Inscription provide valuable information about-

  • Nature and character of state under Ashoka.
  • Names of officers & their fun.
  • Personal history of Ashoka.
  • Welfare measures undertaken by Ashoka.
  • Foreign relations maintained by Ashoka.
  • Content of Ashoka’s Dhamma are also found in Ashoka Inscription.

Ashokan Inscription also helped in understanding material culture of age since stone used for inscription, it clearly indicates that use of stone was common during Mauryan Age. Ashokan Inscription also contains names of neighboring country kingdoms. The 2nd & 13th major Rock Edict of Ashoka contain names of Cholas, Cheras & Pandyas. These tribes were living on borders of Magadha Empire.

Ashoka Inscription also through light on economic life of age. The Lumbini pillar edict of Ashoka informs that Lumbini village free from Bhoga (ceremonial gift) & Bhaga (Land Revenue) was reduced to 1/8 from ¼. The socio-religious cultural lives are also mentioned in Ashoka Inscription. The 1st major Rock Edict of Ashoka informed that animal sacrifices were prohibited by him. Ashoka also pursued policy of non-violence towards animals. Barabar cave inscription informed that these caves were dominated to monk of Ajivika sects by Ashoka.

Determination of Territorial Extent of Magadha Empire

On Basis of 13th major Rock Edict of Ashoka

Geographical location of 13th major Rock Edict of Ashoka indicates that parts of Pakistan were within Mauryan Empire. 13th major Rock Edict of Ashoka has been found at Mansera (Hazara district, Pakistan) & Shahbazghri (Peshawar, Pakistan). These locations indicate that parts of Pakistan were definitely within Magadha Empire. 13th major Rock Edict was also found at Kalsi (located near Dehradun UK). This indicates that Magadha Empire was extended up to Himalayan Mountain at north.

In Western India, 13th Major Rock Edict of Ashoka was found at Junagarh (Gujarat) & Sopara (Thane, Maharashtra). These locations indicate that Magadha Empire extended up to western coast of Gujarat & Maharashtra in western direction. 13th major Rock Edict of Ashoka was found at Yerajudi (Kurnool, AP). This indicates that Magadha Empire was extended up to Andhra in Southern direction.

Major Rock Edicts of Ashoka

Major Rock Edict of Ashoka has been found at Dholi (Puri, Orissa) & Jaugada (Ganjan district, Orissa). These locations confirm that present Orissa was within Magadha Empire. According to 8th Major Rock Edict of Ashoka, he visited the Bodhi tree in 11th regional year. This indicates that Bodh Gaya was within Mauryan Empire.

A minor Rock Edict of Ashoka was found at Sharekuna (Kandhar) & another one found at Laghman (near Jalalabad, Afghanistan). These locations confirmed that Afghanistan was within Magadha Empire. Ashokan minor Rock Edict has also been found at Maski (Raichur Karnataka), Brahmgiri (Chittul Durgh district of Karnataka) & Siddapur (Chittul Durgh district of Karnataka). These locations confirmed that Magadha Empire extended up to Karnataka in South.

Inscription (Ashokan + Others)

From Mahasthan (Bogra district, Bangladesh) a copper plate inscription belonging to region of Chandragupta Maurya was found. This inscription through light on village information about Mauryan period & description of famine relief measure undertaken by state. Location of inscription confirms that modern Bangladesh was within Magadha Empire (Eastern direction).

Junagarh Rock inscription of Shaka king Rudradaman informs that Sudarshana lake build by Pushyagupta the provincial governor of C.M. & this lake was later repaired by Tusaspa the provincial governor of Ashoka. This information confirmed that Magadha Empire extended up to Gujarat coast in western direction. One 14th century inscription found at Mysore which informs that Mysore was part of Mauryan Empire.

All Sources (Inscription + Literature)

According to Indica of Megasthenes, the territories of Hindukush Mountain Kabul, Kandhar, and Herat & Makran coast were given by calculus Nicketor to Chandragupta Mauryan after battle fought between them. This reference confirms that entire Afghanistan & Pakistan were within Mauryan Empire. According to Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, the city of Srinagar was founded by Ashoka.

Ashoka built temple of Ashokeshwar in Srinagar & repaired the temple of Vijayeshwar. After Ashoka his grandson Jalauka ruled over Kashmir. These references confirm that Magadha Empire extended up to Kashmir in Northern parts. According to Hiuan Tisun, Ashoka Stupa was seen by him at Tamralipti, Karna SuVarna, and Samatata & Pundra Vardhana. All of these places were located in Bengal. This reference suggested that Magadha Empire extended up to Bengal in east.

According to Ceylonese chronicles, Deepvamsha & Mahavamsha, Ashoka visited Tamralipti port to see-off his son Mahendra & daughter Sanghamitra when they left for Shri Lanka. According to Parishutha Parvana of Hemchandra emperor Chandra Gupta Maurya abdicated to favor of his son. Bindusar & moved to Shravanabelgol (Karnataka) along with Bhadrabahu. Chandragupta Maurya died as Shravanbelgoan by performing Sallkhana. These references confirm that Magadha Empire was extended up to Karnataka in south.

According to Tamil poet Mamulnar Early Mauryan rulers reached up to Madurai with large army. These dust released by feet of Mauryan cavalry had covered sky like cloud. This reference confirms that most of parts of South India were within Mauryan Empire.

City Administration of Patliputra

The information provided by Arthashastra of Kautilya & Indica of Megasthenes helped in understanding administration of Patliputra city during Mauryan period. According to Arthashastra city of Patliputra was divided into number of blocks & each block was further subdivided into number of wards. A ward comprised 10/20/40 families. Gopa was the head of ward administration. Sthanika was head of block administration & Nagraka was city admin chief. Pradeshtha was the city judge & Rakshin was the policy chief in city.

According to Arthashastra special attention paid to fore safety. Anybody indulging in unsafe activity involving fire was punished severely. This seriousness was perhaps resulting of fact that Mauryan palace & other structures were made up of wood.