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Ashok: A Short Biography of Ashoka the Great of India

Ashoka the Great

Ashoka the Great

A movie made about Ashoka's life (2001)

A movie made about Ashoka's life (2001)

The Life of Ashoka the Great

According to Wikipedia, H.G. Wells wrote:

"In the history of the world there have been thousands of kings and emperors who call themselves 'their highnesses,' 'their majesties,' and 'their exalted majesties' and so on. They shone for a brief moment, and as quickly disappeared. But Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day."

Ashoka was the first ruler to unify all of India. He was also the first Buddhist King who after his conversion to Buddhism attempted to embrace nonviolence and Buddhist principles as part of royal policies Today, he is considered one of India's greatest leaders.

Ashoka the Great ruled India from 273 BC until 232 BC. Despite the acclaim held by H.G. Wells, for many Americans, Ashoka is not well known. This article is an effort to elucidate the achievements of this historical figure. This is targeted to those who are not familiar with Ashok.

Mauryan Coins

Mauryan Coins

A Talented Military Leader

Ashoka was born in 304 BC. He was the son of the Mauryan Emperor Bindusara. He had one younger brother and also older half-brothers. Early on, he showed great promise. When he started showing success as a military leader, his older brothers began to fear that Ashoka would ascend to the throne.

When an uprising occurred in the Takshashila province, Prince Susima suggested to his father that Ashoka would be the best person to deal with it. When news reached the province that Ashoka was coming, the fighting stopped. The militia who had started the revolt welcomed Ashoka's arrival.

With this victory, Susima became more concerned about Ashoka.  He portrayed him as power hungry and ambitious.  Soon, he had convinced his father to exile Ashoka to Kalinga. 


In Kalinga, Ashoka fell in love with Kaurwaki who worked as a fisherwoman.  She would later be one of his many wives.

His exile was soon ended when there was an uprising in Ujjain Province.  Emperor Bindusara now called Ashoka back from exile and sent him to Ujjain.  This time there was a great battle and Ashoka was seriously hurt.

During his recovery, he was overseen by Buddhist monks and nuns.  It was during this time that he first learned about Buddhism.  He fell in love with his nurse Devi.  She too would become one of his wives. 

Statuettes from the Mauryan Era

Statuettes from the Mauryan Era

The Death of the Emperor

The year after the battle at Ujjain, the Emperor Bindusara became very sick. It was clear that he would die. Soon, a war broke out between all of his sons over who would succeed the emperor.

After a series of battles, Ashoka killed many of his brothers. He thus attained the throne in 274 BC. For the first eights years of his rule, he became famous for his brutaiity and his desire to expand the Mauryan Empire.

His nickname at this time was Chandashoka which means "cruel Ashoka".

The site of the Kalinga Battlefield today

The site of the Kalinga Battlefield today

Battle of Kalinga

So, when Ashoka was in his eighth year of rule, his wife Devi gave birth two twins: Prince Mahindra and Princess Sanghamitra.

He also learned that one of his brothers was hiding in Kalinga. Ashoka was outraged that any place would aid his brother. He launched a full invasion of the province. In the fighting, thousands of people were killed and large areas of land were ravaged.

After the battle, Ashoka decided to look over the destruction. The place that he had once been exiled now lay in utter collapse with houses burned down and many bodies still unburied. It was said that this was the first time that Ashoka saw the direct impact of war.

According to legend, upon seeing the utter devastation, he said: "What have I done?"  For the rest of his life, he would not forget the horror that he saw on this day.

Asokan Pillar at Vaishali, the lion faces north, the direction Buddha went on his final journey

Asokan Pillar at Vaishali, the lion faces north, the direction Buddha went on his final journey

Close up of the lion at Vaishali

Close up of the lion at Vaishali

Conversion to Buddhism

It is said that his wife Devi accompanied him at Kalinga. She was so bothered by what she saw that she left his side. She ran away and never returned.

Devi was Buddhist and perhaps this in combination with Ashoka's memory of learning about Buddhist principles led him to change his ways.

From this point on, he embraces Buddhism. He took on the Buddhists Radhaswami and Manjushri as his teachers. He decided that he would base the rest of his rule on Buddhist principles.

Original sandstone that sat atop a pillar at Sarnath

Original sandstone that sat atop a pillar at Sarnath

The base of the original pillar at Sarnath that was broken during Turk invasions of India

The base of the original pillar at Sarnath that was broken during Turk invasions of India

The First Buddhist King

Ashoka now reversed course. He set free all of his prisoners and returned their property.

There is a story that the pregnant wife of one of his brothers escaped the palace before she could be killed. The baby survived and was brought up by Buddhist monks and nuns. When the boy was 13, he was discovered by Ashoka who learned the boy's identity. Ashoka, at this time, felt so much shame that he moved the boy and his mother to live in the palace.

At this time, he got a new name. Instead of Chandashoka, he became known as Dharmashoka which means "pious Ashoka."

Great Stupa at Sanchi, India

Great Stupa at Sanchi, India

Dhamek Stupa, the oldest existing stupa

Dhamek Stupa, the oldest existing stupa

Great Public Works Projects

Ashoka now begins a massive public works project where he orders the creation of thousands of Buddhist buildings. He builds stupas which are mounds that house Buddhist relics and he builds viharas which are Buddhist monasteries. He orders the construction of roadhouses for travelers which are free of charge.

He created edicts which protect wildlife against sport hunting and he promotes the vegetarianism. He initiates the building of universities, irrigation systems, and hospitals.

He signs peace treaties with many of the neighboring kingdom even though with India's resources, he would have little trouble to conquer them outright.

One of Ashoka's Edict: "...And the king abstains from (killing) living beings..."

One of Ashoka's Edict: "...And the king abstains from (killing) living beings..."

Equality for All

Ashoka takes the very innovative position of protecting minority interests in India. He required nonviolence as well as loerance of all other religions and all opinions.

Wikipedia writes:

"Dharmashoka also defined the main principles of dharma as nonviolence, tolerance of all sects and opinions, obedience to parents and other religious teachers and priests, liberality toward friends, humane treatment of servants, and generosity towards all."


The Ashoka Chakra, known as the wheel of Dharma (Chakra means wheel)

The Ashoka Chakra, known as the wheel of Dharma (Chakra means wheel)

National Flag of India

National Flag of India

Death of Ashoka

Ashoka ruled for over 40 years. 50 years after his death, the Mauryan Empire came to an end. He had numerous wives and many heirs but most of their names are lost. Buddhism did not, of course, stay the state religion of India. Still, empowered by Ashoka, Buddhism quickly spread outside of India's borders into Southeast Asia.

Today, the Ashokra Chakra, the Wheel of Dharma, is featured on the national flag of India. Ashoka used this image on many of his constructions. The wheel has 24 spokes which represent:




















Godly knowledge

Godly wisdom

Godly moral

Reverential fear of God

Hope/trust/faith in the goodness of God




Anubhav on December 27, 2019:


Hy on December 11, 2019:


Crusader on September 28, 2019:

We need to revive the legend of Asoka the great from time to time

Diptorshee saha on April 19, 2019:

Just Amasing

imayan on April 10, 2019:

it is very helpful for my studies

Anil Shakya on March 12, 2019:

Very nice of story

Sia on February 06, 2019:

Great history ...But like summary .

Rupa on November 17, 2018:

It was so big

Unknown on November 15, 2018:

So good

Sikha on September 25, 2018:

It is very helpful .......

Very nice history on Ashoka

Shiva baba on May 04, 2018:

Nice about Ashoka

Anshika Vijay on January 18, 2018:

So so helpful and best history about ashoka.....thanks

Ankush on November 16, 2017:

Yes very nice history of the Ashoka

c on November 10, 2017:

thank you

Kushal on October 25, 2017:

Very good history about Ashoka

Nitin shivhare on July 25, 2017:

Thanks a lot

Tahreen fatima on January 16, 2017:

It is very good and very helpful and useful for project

Girish K on August 26, 2016:


But there is no much information about Kawrawki

vanshu on February 06, 2016:

your inforemation is good

sandip on November 02, 2015:

This is so sweet

Kumar Gaurav Maurya on October 12, 2015:

Hello sir ur page is awesome .......i like it

nagesh on September 08, 2015:

Its a good article, My thumps up to the writer.

I also thanks to writer about the healthy discussion over the topic.

But i would like mention that some of the person wrote here about their religion & trapping Ashoka in that unnecessarily with out any logic because they think that their religion is great.

The great religion are those which have equality to all of its followers .Today i see most of religions of world are making division in human kind.

i found Buddha religion great at least they don't tell us about the division,Castes ism,racism,violence etc.

Buddhism told us about Peace,Non violence & Nirvana.

thanks to Larry..

Rohan Alkunte on March 06, 2015:

Larry great Article ..

Rajesh on February 23, 2015:

Historically true facts stated beautifully. Buddhism spread during his time d most. Life of Ashoka has bn eventful. Salute to his transformation n his progressive approach to development.

Kanchan sajwan on February 22, 2015:


yogesh thakur on January 09, 2015:

ashoka is great


this help me very much in my hhw.

robin tapi on November 06, 2014:

Itz vry intrestng story bout ashoka ...thnk you, writer.

Shruti Singh on November 04, 2014:

Good job its helpful for me in my school project .I like this arcticle. Am very happy.

Pravesh chaudhary on October 18, 2014:

Wow!!! intresting.....

Lekha Velamakanni on October 12, 2014:

Studied about Ashoka more than three decades ago! Your article has been a great help for my daughter in her school project today!!

Silvy Gogna on August 30, 2014:

Wow nice work.... It helped me a lot for my school assignment. Keep it up... Well Done!!!!

mubeena on August 07, 2014:

its so amazing

parth jain on July 15, 2014:

Hi it's a great story. It's to help me for my project.

arpit wasnik on June 12, 2014:

Hi I like this

nipun bahri on June 07, 2014:

It makes me proud to be born in a land where ashoka born

siddhesh gedam on May 05, 2014:

I love that biography

Faiqua ahmed on May 02, 2014:

It is very useful and help ful for the children of all the classes from 6th to 12th and for all the exams

Mohini verma on March 28, 2014:

it is help for my school project

kapil maurya on March 23, 2014:

ashoka was not buddhist. he become buddhist after kaling war. he is the great king all indian history .

!!!sadhu!!! !!!sadhu!!! !!!sadhu!!!

Jacob Koock on January 15, 2014:

I love this for my school report...

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on December 01, 2013:

Recently I read a controversial article about Asoka. It says the king never existed. I am not sure about the intention of the writer, but the article forces us to rethink.

Please have a look at:

gautam on December 01, 2013:

I am very happy because i have a project work this is helped to me so i am very very happy thanks you so much

Smruthi on November 11, 2013:

Very nice n useful article which is specially ment for children of high school students.

cndcjdn on November 07, 2013:

asoka is a hindu as his grannd father(chandragupta maurya) is a hindu

after some battels and later he became a follower of jain.

Then his son bindusara ruled and known follow jainism.

After this asoka come into the limelight he ruled over all of india and after kalinga war he become a follower of Buddhism.

So, asoka is originally a hindu..

Durlabh Pathak on November 04, 2013:

Dear Sir,

On the basis of your info you said that Ashoka was born in 304 bc and ruled INDIA from273 BC until 232 BC. So how is it possible that Asoka ruled INDIA before his birth?

akshar on November 01, 2013:

how did you know?

akshay on October 13, 2013:

thanks for sharing

Baby Varghese on September 02, 2013:

This is very useful. The best

-Annmary Varghese

Deeniti on April 21, 2013:

It was very useful specially for school

extra information.

I learned many things about Ashoka.

chaitanya on April 19, 2013:

It's Sarva Dharma Sambhav !

Means all religions are same.

So respect all.

chaitanya on April 19, 2013:

Thanks for this very useful info.

Why B shah and jainismus are you jealous of Buddhism . It's not a big deal if no such famous and great person is not from jain . It doesn't mean you deliberately make one . Stop discrimination on the basis of religion .

You know why India is not super power or will not become because of people like you are here ,who stuck on religion . My religion should be considered above all this mentallity which you both are having create chaos and disturbance in society . Shame on you !

All religions are good at there place .

Sarva Sharma Sambhav!!

torrilynn on March 15, 2013:


thanks for sharing this story with myself and others

I am always willing to learn about different cultures

and aspects of life

Voted up

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on March 15, 2013:

Recently I read an article. It says that Asoka was a myth.. May be true, because there is no mention of the name Asoka in his inscriptions. In fact the inscriptions belong to King Piyadassi, who seems not to be Asoka.

maaya on March 01, 2013:

thanks for helping in doing my assingment

Raghvendra Pratap Singh Maurya on December 17, 2012:

very very thank you for this

uuyvtyd on August 31, 2012:

i had a project on the kings .....this article helped me a lot

k.rishika on August 09, 2012:

it helps me to tell about ashoka on the stage

rajesh khandelwal on July 23, 2012:

i had no much idea about Buddhist but after reading the entire storey of ashoka i can say in few word that the person like ashoka can change him self then it's time for us to think and stop doing any kind of voilence which is agenst GOD

Reny on July 15, 2012:

Hi could anyone please tell who the hell is Jain , I never heard his name and it is stupid to compare him with any other great like Jesus ,Buddha or any other…..

When I asked many of my friend’s they really don’t know who is Jain they just told me he was shameless guy who always be a nude and tell some stupid thing and as it’s common in india to believe such bullshit some idiots belive that one nude guy and he is telling something which is our religion and which can become our future(nude one right??) so next time never wrote anything about him we dnt know him and we don’t want.

If you guy’s really thing that he is good guy never compare him with any other or we can say he teach you guys to going a step head always pull some one back a step (which never works)

rishi on July 07, 2012:

good information

Ashish on May 21, 2012:

very nice n interesting helped me knowing Great Ashoka in a better way...

rishi on May 14, 2012:

very very .....................................................................................................................useful

Robert on May 04, 2012:

Shame the 24 spokes do not apply to the Sikh nation of India, who sacrificed 80% of them selves for country, even though they only make up only 2% of the entire population. Long live the Sikhs the saint warriors

sonali on May 02, 2012:

its awesome!!!!!!!it helped me to understand about ashoka the great......its lovely thanx man.......i really like it.....

rakshita on May 01, 2012:

it helped me in my project thanx..............its awesome yaar lovely....

shubhi on May 01, 2012:


LJ on April 25, 2012:

Hi one question....6. How did Ashoka’s character and beliefs change over the course of his reign?

niraj singh on April 10, 2012:

really he was the great.

keerthi on March 03, 2012:

i loved it but can i have the pictures of this wonderful story

chinmay on February 29, 2012:

very well wrote

sanjana on February 10, 2012:

very informative thankyou

manish on February 06, 2012:

Thanks Sir!!! Now i know abt ASHOKA THA GREAT...

vikram on February 05, 2012:

oh great! i have completed my project work of social science

gayathri on February 05, 2012:

i like this ariticle

snigdha on January 27, 2012:

great job and helps in school projects

sonia on January 27, 2012:

Great job.Usefull for school projects.

vicky on January 23, 2012:

Now i came to now about ashoka

Shivam singh on January 21, 2012:

This article give very help in our school project so thanks yaar...!

sunny london on January 11, 2012:

how much he cover when he dont have mobile laptop and no technology this is strength of bihar. this land produce ashoka and guru govind singh

A commenter on January 08, 2012:

This was really great. I had to write an essay, and this gave me a lot of help. Thanks so much! :)

Muskan Pathai on December 27, 2011:

thanks! it really helped in my project very much !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on December 12, 2011:

We must note that the story of Conversion of emperor Ashok to Buddhism found in few Buddhist texts only, none of his edicts clearly indicate that he was converted to Buddhism.

Further, most of the writers avoid to write from which religion he converted to Buddhism, and others blindly write that he was a Hindu (Vedic?) before converting.

But there are evidences that he was a Jain.....

fizzzzzzzzzz on November 28, 2011:

realy this article help me in my project thanx sir

safi on November 15, 2011:

really usfull got first price cuz of this

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on November 05, 2011:

None of Emperor Ashok's edicts clearly says that he adopt Buddhism. Further, his edicts are nearer to Jain way of life.

I thinks that his conversion to Buddhism was just an 'invention' by later Buddhist texts.

If Emperor Ashok's Grand Father Chandragupt Maurya and father Bindusar were Jains, and if Ashok's son Kunal and Grandson Samprati also were Jains, I doubt that Ashok was a Buddhist.

jahnavi on November 04, 2011:

very useful topic in history

yash on October 29, 2011:

Interesting and useful information

Rhea Sanjay on October 24, 2011:

Good article. Helped me in my school project

Rajat Jain on September 19, 2011:

A great collaboration of Information about a Great king! Indeed a good work by Larry Freeman. Are you a follower of Indian History or a History Prof?

Kindly read more about the two phases of Ashoka's Life... Chandashoka and Dharmashoka and provide your expert insight.


diya on September 05, 2011:

thank you larry free man by same diya who commented before

diya on September 05, 2011:

it is a very nice thing to and kor school asginments and projects

i loved reading this


jitendra satdive on September 02, 2011:

king ashoka is emperor of emperor , great man real hero of

indian people

atman vachhani on August 26, 2011:

thanks it was really usefull in project I did

thank you Larry Freeman

ashok on August 19, 2011:

Ashok Maurya or Ashoka (Devan?gar?: ????, Bangla: ????, IAST: A?oka, IPA: [a??o?k?], ca. 304–232 BC), popularly known as Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from ca. 269 BC to 232 BC.[1] One of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka reigned over most of present-day India after a number of military conquests. His empire stretched from present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan in the west, to the present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam in the east, and as far south as northern Kerala and Andhra

maneesh mishra on July 26, 2011:

THIS article is very benificial for history student and those who intrested in history of india

larryfreeman (author) from Fremont, CA on May 06, 2011:

Hi @loveshistory, I'm sorry that it was not as informative as you would have liked.

In my view, plagiarism is a pretty strong charge. It means copying from a source and claiming it as your own. In this article, no text was copied. All quotes are cited as quotes. All facts in this article are taken primarily from Wikipedia. That is correct, At the same time, Wikipedia is clearly referenced as a source for this article.

If you disagree with my definition of plagiarism, please let me know.

If you see any inaccuracies, please state them. I am very glad to update the article.

For the record, I also love history. I wrote this article as part of my own interest in the life of Ashoka.

loveshistory on May 05, 2011:

article is not informative as i thought it would is plaguraized from wikipedia which is not a good site to get info from.

PRITHA on March 29, 2011:

excellent, pictures help us to learn properly

Chitranshu on March 16, 2011:

its is good experience but they have not metioned the name of buddhist monk who lead him buddhism

saurabh nath on February 17, 2011:

It is a good experience to readabout my fav.

thanks for this.