Ashoka Biography

Ashoka Biography

ASHOKA or better known as the Emperor Ashoka The Great was a Mauryan King. He was the son of the Emperor Bindusara and one of his queens named Dharma. It is believed that Buddha prophesized about the birth of Ashoka, in the story of the ‘Gift of Dust’. He said that a king would be born in Pataliputra who will reign one of the four continents and adorn Jambudweep with my relics and spread Buddhism in the whole world. And Ashoka did exactly same as prophesized by the Buddha.

The name Ashoka means ‘without sorrow’, he has been referred with many other names such as ‘Devanampriya’ meaning ‘the beloved of the Gods’ ,and ‘Priyadarshi’, one who regards everyone amiably.

Ashoka is known in the history of the India as well as world mainly for two things, first one for the battle of Kalinga and the second one for the spread of Buddhism in India and across the world. He ruled India from 273 BC to 232 BC. He made many conquests during his rule and reigned over most parts of India, parts of South Asia and Persia.

During his initial days Ashoka was very cruel, and is believed to have killed his half brothers in order to get the throne. As a result he began to be called as a Chand Ashoka, meaning brutal Ashoka. He did not miss any opportunity to invade the neighboring kingdoms, but the war of kalinga and its subsequent conquest is believed to be the last conquest of King Ashoka. It is believed that in this war around 100,000 people from each side were killed and many more became homeless. After watching such a scene of devastation Ashoka screamed ‘What have I done?’ and he changed his policy. From then onwards he laid more emphasis on the welfare of his state and adopted Buddhism.

He preached Buddhism all over India and abroad. For this he made many Stupas at the places associated with the life of Buddha. Due to all this he earned the epitaph of Dharmaashoka, meaning the Pious Ashoka. He sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sanghmitra to Ceylon to spread Buddhism there.
Ashoka built thousands of Stupas and Viharas for the followers of Buddhism. The pillar of Ashoka at Sarnath is the most famous of all the Stupas, and is the national emblem of India. He ruled for almost thirty-eight years and died in 232 BC. He is remembered in India even today for the service he did to the Buddhism.

Science fiction novelist H.G. Wells was very right when he wrote of Ashoka, “in the history of the world there have been thousands of kings and emperors who called themselves ‘their highness’, 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.”

Facts and Information about Ashoka


Born 304 BCE (close to 7 August)
Reign 268-232 BCE
Father Bindusara
Mother Maharani Dharma or Shubhadrangi
Children Mahinda, Sangamitta, Kunala, Charumati, Jaluka, Tivala
Religious beliefs Buddhism
Birthplace Patliputra, Patna
Coronation 268 BCE
Died 232 BCE (aged 72)
Place of death Patliputra, Patna
Buried He was cremated in 232 BCE within 24 hours of his death. Later on the ashes were immersed in the Ganges River.
Predecessor Bindusara
Successor Dasaratha
Wives Maharani Devi, Rani Padmavati, Tishyaraksha, Karuvaki, Padmavati
Dynasty Maurya
About Ashoka, one of India’s greatest emperors, reigned over many regions in India.
Early life as Emperor Ashoka was a man of short temper. For instance, 500 ministers died during a test of loyalty conducted by Ashoka. He also had a harem of 500 women.
Conquest of Kalinga More than 100,000 soldiers and many civilians were killed in the Kalinga War and over 150,000 had to be deported.
Buddhist conversion The dead bodies strewn on the battleground and the cries of the kins of the dead transformed the acrimonious Emperor Ashoka into a pious man. Thereafter he embraced Buddhism, leading to the spread of the religion in India and beyond.
Ashoka was assissted by his children in this task. His son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitra spread Buddhism in Ceylon which is presently known as Sri Lanka.
Constructions credited to Ashoka Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh
Mahabodhi Temple, Bihar
Barabar Caves, Bihar
Nalanda University, Bihar
Taxila University, Taxila, Pakistan
Bhir Mound, Taxila, Pakistan
Bharhut stupa, Madhya Pradesh
Deorkothar Stupa, Madhya Pradesh
Butkara Stupa, Swat, Pakistan
Sannati Stupa, Karnataka
Mir Rukun Stupa Nawabshah, Pakistan
Art, Film and Literature Ashoka ki Chinta is a poem by Jaishankar Prasad, expressing the emotions of Ashoka after the destruction of Kalinga.
Uttar-Priyadarshi is a verse-play that depicts his redemption. In 1996 it was staged by Ratan Thiyam.
Asoka is portrayed as an idol for administrators in space opera novels by Piers Anthony.
Asoka, a 2001 epic historical drama of Bollywood by Santosh Sivan, is a fictional version of the life of Ashoka starring Shahrukh Khan as Ashoka and Kareena Kapoor as the princess of Kalinga.
In 1973, a graphic novel was released by Amar Chitra Katha on the life of Ashoka.
In 2002, “Emperor Ashoka”, a song, was released by Mason Jennings on his Living in the Moment EP, describing the life of Ashoka.
Lion Capital of Asoka The Lion capital of Ashoka, showing four Indian lions standing back to back, is an important sculpture.
It was originally placed atop the Aśoka pillar at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh.
Pillars of Ashoka The pillars of Ashoka were erected by Ashoka in the third century BCE.
Ashoka Chakra The Ashoka Chakra is a depiction of the Wheel of Dharma having 24 spokes. The spokes stand for the 12 Laws of Dependent Termination and 12 Laws of Dependent Origination.