30 Interesting Samrat Ashoka Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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In this article on Samrat Ashoka facts or Emperor Ashoka facts, we will explore some of the little known facts about one of the most popular and well-known rulers of the Indian subcontinent.

Here is what H.G. Wells – British Historian, has to say about Samrat Ashoka:

“Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history … the name of Asoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star.”

This statement alone proves that Samrat Ashoka was one of the greatest rulers in the history of this entire world and not just India. Let us now look at 30 interesting Samrat Ashoka facts and take a peek into his life. We hope you will like it.

Interesting Samrat Ashoka Facts: 1-5

1. Samrat Ashoka hailed from the ancient Maurya Dynasty of Indian Subcontinent. Historians consider him as one of THE MOST impeccable monarchs to have ever ruled a kingdom.

2. He was the third Mauryan Emperor. Born in 304 BCE, Ashoka became emperor in 273 BCE. However, his actual coronation took place in 269 BCE because of succession disputes that plagued the Mauryan Empire after the death of his father – King Bindusara.

3. He ruled over Indian Subcontinent till 232 BCE. He fought only one war as Emperor and after that he abolished warfare from his kingdom and led a peaceful life, preaching Buddhism. It was during his post-war rule that he received the title, Ashoka the Great.

4. However, prior to receiving this title, he was known as Chanda Ashoka (Cruel Ashoka). The only war he fought as the Emperor – the Kalinga War – is known as one of the bloodiest wars in ancient India.

5. Samrat Ashoka’s succession to throne also has a very interesting history. As we know, he was born in 304 BCE in Patuliputra. He was son of King Bindusara and his mother was Subhadrangi, who was better known as Dharma.

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Interesting Samrat Ashoka Facts: 6-10

6. Dharma was a lowly girl by birth. She was the daughter of a Brahmin and not of a King. She was however, very beautiful and fair. According to legends, Dharma was supposed to become the mother of India’s Chakravartin Samrat.

7. It is because of this, the Brahmin actually brought his daughter to King Bindusara so that the two can get married. The King liked her beauty and took her in and kept her in women’s apartment along with his other queens.

8. Dharma’s beauty made the other queens of jealous and out of a wicked plot, they all made Dharma a barber girl. Dharma was put at King’s service where she did really well as a barber girl. Soon, Bindusara recognized Dharma as his wife and told her to ask for a wish that he could grant.

9. Dharma wished to become the mother of King Bindusara’s son. The King agreed and that’s how Ashoka was born. On birth, he was given the name Ashoka Vardhana Maurya.

10. Ashoka turned out to be a bright child from the beginning. He quickly excelled in weapons and studies alike and soon grew into a warrior general. The Mauryan army liked Ashoka and loved to serve under his command.

Interesting Samrat Ashoka Facts: 11-15

11. The elder brothers of Ashoka weren’t happy about this and they started believing that their father, Emperor or Samrat Bindusara will start favoring Ashoka as the next Emperor of the Mauryan Empire.

12. The Indian TV Series Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat portrays that Emperor Bindusara and Ashoka had a special bonding. This is however not true. As per historical chronicles, Ashoka was actually looked down by his father because he wasn’t a good-looking child. However, the question of Bindusara favoring Ashoka popped in because of Ashoka’s exceptional skills as a warrior and army commander.

13. Bindusara made Ashoka the Viceroy of Ujjain when Ashoka was only 18 years old. Ashoka went there and met Devi – a merchant’s daughter. The two fell in love and married. Ashoka’s first son Mahindra was born two years later and his daughter Sanghamitra was born 3 years after Mahindra was born.

14. Ashoka was soon called back to Patuliputra but Ashoka did not take Devi and their children. It was not really a good option because Devi who was a merchant’s daughter would become the chief queen of Ashoka and this was not acceptable.

15. Fearing that Bindusara would make Ashoka the next emperor of Mauryan Empire, the elder brothers of Ashoka plotted against him and the eldest of them, Prince Susima talked to Emperor Bindusara and convinced the emperor to send Ashoka away to Takshashila so that the militia uprising can be controlled.

Interesting Samrat Ashoka Facts: 16-20

16. Bindusara acted accordingly and Ashoka was sent off to Takshashila. Weirdly enough, the militia responsible for the disturbance actually liked Ashoka and as soon as he arrived there, the uprising ended via mutual talks and without a single drop of blood being spilled.

17. This unusual event made Prince Susima far more insecure and he convinced Bindusara to exile Ashoka. The result was that Ashoka was sent to Kalinga where he met a girl named Kaurwaki. A love affair between the two started and later Ashoka and Kaurwaki were married. Kaurwaki was Ashoka’s 2nd wife.

18. After the Ujjain uprising, Samrat Bindusara became seriously ill and never recovered. That’s when a conflict for throne started. Prince Ashoka was called by a ministers’ group led by Radhagupta to take control of the throne.

19. The other brothers of Ashoka were against this and a battle followed. Ashoka attacked Patuliputra (which has now been named as Patna). In that attack, Ashoka killed his brothers.

20. Ceylonese chronicles state that Ashoka, in the battle of succession, ended up killing 99 out of his 100 brothers and spared only Tishya – the youngest brother of all. However, the authenticity of this claim is often questioned and it is believed that Buddhist writers only falsely exaggerated the facts in an attempt to portray how Chanda Ashoka transitioned into Dharma Ashoka.

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Interesting Samrat Ashoka Facts: 21-25

21. Taranatha – a Tibetan writer however states that Ashoka killed 6 of his elder brothers and then ascended to the throne of Magadh.

22. Ceylonese chronicles are proven wrong by some evidences found in various inscriptions which state that Ashoka actually went on to appoint several of his brothers as viceroys of various provinces like Taxila, Tosali, Suvarnagiri, Ujjaini etc. These brothers were referred to as Kumaras or Aryaputras.

23. The youngest brother Tishya was appointed by Samrat Ashoka as Upraja or Deputy King.

24. Once Ashoka became Samrat or Emperor, he started rapid expansion of kingdom. For 8 years after he became King, Ashoka was engaged in military conflicts all around Indian subcontinent.

25. The Kalinga War was the bloodiest of battles fought by Ashoka. It was the turning point in his life from where he became Dharma Ashoka from Chanda Ashoka.

Interesting Samrat Ashoka Facts: 26-30

26. The enormous bloodshed and immense loss of life filled Ashoka’s heart with grief and remorse and he gave up violence and adopted Buddhism after the Kalinga War that was fought in 261 BCE.

27. After the Kalinga War, Ashoka announced Buddhism to be the state religion. His first son and first daughter – Mahindra and Sanghamitra were sent to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) for spreading and preaching Buddhism.

28. Before Samrat Ashoka converted to Buddhism, he was actually a devotee of Lord Shiva. The Mauryan clan were actually Shaivites.

29. Despite the fact that Ashoka turned into a Buddhist, he still maintained a standing army, which is clearly mentioned in Kalinga edict. According the the edict, the emperor still held the right to crush all rebellion and punish the guilty with death sentence.

30. Ashoka’s rule lasted for 40 years. The first 10 years were that of violence and the next 30 years were of peace. During these 30 years, the Maurya Kingdom did not face any kind of external invasion because Samrat Ashoka maintained very high diplomatic relations with the neighboring kingdoms.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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