King Ashoka is commonly known as the greatest Indian emperor and a reformer by almost every known Historian. We have seen multiple television soaps and Bollywood movies, which have only added further to make this larger than life image of King Ashoka. However, the truth is certainly not what has been consumed by all of us, this entire brouhaha around King Ashoka is based on very little or no credible evidence. A little bit of probing can reveal the real story behind this so called Greatest Indian King.
Actually, it’s not our fault per se, since our independence from the clutches of Britishers, our successive governments have been indulged in pushing some agendas and propaganda down to out throats. Under the first PM Jawaharlal Nehru, there have been systematic attempts to make Buddhism an unofficial religion of India, by adopting the “lion pillar” of the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka as a state symbol and putting the 24-spoked ‘Chakravarti Wheel’ in our Tricolor.
We don’t know if you agree with us, but the truth is that glorification of Ashoka in our school education, where he is portrayed as one of India’s two greatest Emperors, along with Mughal ruler Akbar, is a part of the widest possible propaganda to impact the psyche of Indians.
If we analyze the history in an unbiased manner, then we will realize that India’s traditional historiography never considered Ashoka as a successful ruler, forget about being the greatest one. In fact, his memory was largely condemned by several independent historians and archaeologists in the last two centuries.
Ashoka orchestrated a bloody takeover of Kingdom
Well, today we know Ashoka as a harbinger of peace and harmony, courtesy of systematic propaganda. However, the truth is, Ashoka was a merciless King, who did everything to get his hold over the reign of the Kingdom.
In 274BC, the then king Bindusara suddenly fell ill and died. The crown prince Sushima was away fending off incursions on the north-western frontiers and rushed back to the royal capital Pataliputra. However, to his shock, by the time he returned, Ashoka (his half-brothers) had taken control of the city with the help of his Greek mercenaries. Ashoka had killed Sushima and after that, a 4 years long bloody infighting was started, where Ashoka killed all-male rivals in his family.
As per Buddhist texts, he had killed ninety-nine half-brothers and only spared his full brother Tissa. He also mercilessly killed hundreds of other officials who were close to his father and brothers. Once he consolidated his power, he decided to become a crowned emperor in 270BC.
Ashoka was a Brutal King?
Well, this could be an unpopular opinion, but Ashoka was a brutal and highly unpopular king. Most of the independent historians agreed that Ashoka’s early rule was highly unpopular and brutal. He was called “Chandashoka”, which means ‘Ashoka the Cruel’ by his citizens looking at his sadistic streak of cruelty. People used to fear him a lot, that his mere presence forced rebels to put down their weapons.
It was said that Ashoka had a certain kind of skin disorder. One day he heard that a woman in his harem was talking about his skin condition. Angered by this hearsay, the enraged Ashoka ordered to kill more than 500 women, including his wives and concubines as well.
Ashoka was known for giving cruel punishments to his citizens for simple matters or no matters at all. He executed millions of people during his rule. He built a huge jail in Pataliputra near his palace. This was not a jail, it was a cruel torture chamber, where his close friend Chandagirika was the chief executioner. Ashoka’s other close confidante Girika was also an extremely cruel person, who killed his own parents as they did not want him to work for Ashoka.
A famous book ‘Ashokavadhana’ has covered all those cruelties with evidence. The kind of tortures mentioned in books is enough to send a chill down any hard-hearted dreaded person too. Ashoka’s executioners used to pour liquid hot metal down the throat of people, even innocent children. The book suggests that Ashoka used to sit and enjoy these tortures in his leisure time. The references of these torture chambers are mentioned by few Chinese travelers in the 5th and 7th centuries as well.
It is also said that Ashoka once ordered the execution of most of his ministers in court because he felt that they are not loyal to him.
Ashoka even ordered the killing of thousands of Brahmin, Saints, Vaishnava, and Jain monks. Indeed Ashoka’s only brother Vitashoka was executed thinking he was a Nigrantha (Jain monk).
Ashoka was a bad Administrator
Our historians have projected Ashoka as the greatest administrator, however, the truth is, that he was just an average administrator, forget about being a great administrator. Due to his cruel policies and brutal rule, a civil unrest was started. Few north western regions given by Seluecus initiated a rebellion against Mauryan empire and became independent. If we talk about the suthern India, the Satvahanas took over southern india and Kalinga after his death. Here we can say that, Ashoka ruined what had painstakingly built by his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya, because of his lack of administration and utterly bad policies..
Ashoka’s brutal capture of Kalinga
It is said that the Kalinga war was the watershed moment in Ashoka’s life. This was fought in his early 40s, a few years after becoming emperor. The Mauryan empire used to flourish from Mysore to Afghanistan in the north to Mysore in the south. Ashoka had an army consisted of more than half a million men along with thousands of chariots, horses, and elephants apart from his strong and sizeable cavalry.
Kalinga was one of the few kingdoms that were out of bound of the Mauryan Empire and Ashoka wanted to annex it at all cost. Ashoka made this a matter of his repute and ego. Whereas, the Kalinga army which was a fraction of Ashoka’s cruel army, gave a brave fightback but they were brutally defeated.
Ashoka initiated a merciless massacre of the army and civilians of Kalinga. As per Ashoka’s own estimate, more than 1.5 lakh people were massacred the day Kalinga was defeated. The Kalinga war was fought 262 B.C. and it is said that Kalinga’s infamous Daya river was overflowing with blood and turned red for many days because of the brutal massacre carried out by Ashoka’s army. More than 1.5 lakh Kalinga’s citizens were deported as slaves by Ashoka after the Kalinga war.
Was Ashoka converted to Buddhism after Kalinga War?
This has been told to us that when Ashoka invaded the Kalinga kingdom and then shocked by massive destruction and death, he converted to Buddhism and become a pacifist. However, this narrative is also false propaganda. Per historic facts, Ashoka invaded Kalinga in 262 BC, whereas several minor rock edicts that Asoka had converted to Buddhism more than two years earlier. Famous eulogists Charles Allen stated that Ashoka’s conversion happened a couple of years before the Kalinga war. Moreover, Ashoka had links with Buddhists for a decade before his conversion, further evidence suggests that his conversion to Buddhism was because of Mauryan succession politics, instead of the so-called enlightenment after the Kalinga war.
Ashoka laid the foundation of the infamous ‘Hindu Inferiority Complex’
The propaganda of self-enlightenment after seeing the suffering of people of Kalinga and change of heart was used by the successive governments to create a ‘Hindu Inferiority Complex’. It was propagated to influence the minds of Hindus, that our ‘greatest’ was a torchbearer of Ahimsa, he laid down his weapons and accepted the Buddhism.
We have been told that the main principle of Ashoka’s dhamma was Principle of Ahimsa, which says that People should live in peace and harmony. Per Ashoka, every Hindu should practice the Ahimsa, which means non-violence and non-injury to all living beings. People, read ‘Hindu’ should love each another and display respect and tolerance towards other religious faiths. This theory has actually made Hindus extremely inferior, and that can be seen in several centuries thereafter.
Even these concepts of fake secularism and fake humanity had their origin in Ashoka’s teachings, which has been used to demoralize Hindus for several decades, specially after independence.
Contrary to the famous opinion, Ashoka was certainly not the greatest and was not a good administrator at all, forget about being the Greatest King of India. He was the most brutal King we ever saw, he killed millions of people, he slaughtered the people of Kalinga for his ego. He preached some principles, which were completely out of sink and half-baked, and those were imposed over Hindus and we were made inferior to other religions.
All we need is a fair study of Ashoka’s influence on our psyche and mindset. We have to ensure that our generations read about Ashoka in the right perspective, and understand his brutalities and fake principles, which are actually harming us.