The edicts are devoted mainly to the exposition, inculcation, and enforcement of a scheme of practical ethics, or rule of conduct, which Asoka called Dhamma. No English word or phrase is exactly equivalent to the Prakrit dhamma (Sanskrit dharma), but the expression Law of Piety, or simply Piety, comes tolerably close to the meaning of the Indian term. The validity of this Law of Piety is assumed in the edicts, and no attempt is made to found it upon any theological or metaphysical basis. Theological ideas are simply ignored by Asoka, as they were by his master Gautama, and the current Hindu philosophy of rebirth, inaccurately called metempsychosis, is taken for granted, and forms the background of the ethical teaching.
The leading tenet of Asoka’s Buddhism, as of the cognate Jain system, and some varieties of Brahmanical Hinduism, was a passionate, uncompromising belief in the sanctity of animal life. The doctrine of the absolute, unconditional right of the meanest animal to retain the breath of life until the latest moment permitted by nature,
is that of the edicts, and was based upon the belief that all living creatures, including men, animals, gods, and demons, form links in an endless chain of existence, or rather of “becoming.”
The being that is now a god in heaven may be reborn in the course of eons as an insect, and the insect,
From the Bharahat Sculpture. (After Cunningham.)
in its turn, may work up to the rank of a god. This belief, associated with the faith that the mode of rebirth is conditioned by the karma, the net ethical result; or balance of good or evil of the life of each creature at the moment of its termination, lies deep down at the roots of Indian thought, and is inseparably bound up with almost every form of Indian religion. Sometimes it is combined with theories which recognize the existence of a personal soul, but it is also firmly held
by persons who utterly deny all forms of the soul theory.
It is easy to understand that believers in ideas of this kind may be led logically to regard the life of an insect as entitled to no less respect than that of a man. In practice, indeed, the sanctity of animal was placed above that of human life, and the absurd spectacle was sometimes witnessed of a man being put to death for killing an animal, or even for eating meat. The most pious Buddhist and Jain kings had no hesitation about inflicting capital punishment upon their subjects, and Asoka himself continued to sanction the death penalty throughout his reign. He was content to satisfy his humanitarian feelings by a slight mitigation of the sanguinary penal code inherited from his stern grandfather in conceding to condemned prisoners three days’ grace to prepare for death.
In early life Asoka is believed to have been a Brahmanical Hindu, specially devoted to Siva, a god who delights in bloody sacrifices, and he had consequently no scruple about the shedding of blood. Thousands of living creatures used to be slain on the occasion of a banquet (samaja) to supply the kitchens of the overgrown royal household with curries for a single day. . As he became gradually imbued with the spirit of Buddhist teaching, this wholesale daily slaughter became abominable in his eyes and was stopped, only three living creatures at the most, namely, two peacocks and one deer, being killed each day, and in 257 B.C. even this limited butchery was prohibited.
Two years earlier, in 259 B.C., Asoka had abolished the royal hunt, which formed such an important element in the amusements of his grandfather’s court. “In times past,” he observes, “their Majesties were wont to go out on pleasure tours, during which hunting and other similar amusements used to be practised.” But his Sacred and Gracious Majesty no longer cared for such frivolous outings, and had substituted for them solemn progresses devoted to inspection of the country and people, visits and largess to holy men, and preaching and discussion of the Law of Piety.
As time went on, Asoka’s passionate devotion to the doctrine of the sanctity of animal life grew in intensity and, in 243 B.C., resulted in the production of a stringent code of regulations applicable to all classes of the population throughout the empire, without distinction of creed. Many kinds of animals were absolutely protected from slaughter in any circumstances, and the slaying of animals commonly used for food by the flesh-eating population, although not totally prohibited, was hedged round by severe restrictions. On fifty-six specified days in the year, killing under any pretext was categorically forbidden, and in many ways the liberty of the subject was very seriously contracted. While Asoka lived, these regulations were, no doubt, strictly enforced by the special officers appointed for the purpose, and it is not unlikely that deliberate breach of the more important regulations was visited with the capital penalty.
The second cardinal doctrine inculcated and insisted
on by Asoka was that of the obligation of reverence to parents, elders, and preceptors. Conversely, superiors, while receiving their due of reverence, were required to treat their inferiors, including servants, slaves, and all living creatures, with kindness and consideration. As a corollary to these obligations, men were taught that the spirit which inspires reverence on the one side, and kindness on the other, should further induce them to behave with courteous decorum to relatives, ascetics, and Brahmans, and likewise to practise liberality to the same classes, as well as to friends and acquaintances.
The third primary duty laid upon men was that of truthfulness. These three guiding principles are most concisely formulated in the Second Minor Rock Edict, which may be quoted in full:–
“Thus saith his Majesty:
“ ‘Father and mother must be obeyed; similarly, respect for living creatures must be enforced; truth must be spoken. These are the virtues of the Law of Piety which must be practised. Similarly, the teacher must be reverenced by the pupil, and proper courtesy must be shown to relatives.
“This is the ancient standard of piety; this leads to length of days, and according to this men must act.’ ” Among secondary duties, a high place was given to that of showing toleration for and sympathy with the beliefs and practices of others, and a special edict, No. 12 of the Rock series, was devoted to the exposition of this topic. The subjects of the imperial moralist were
solemnly warned to abstain from speaking evil of their neighbours’ faith, remembering that all forms of religion alike aim at the attainment of self-control and purity of mind, and are thus in agreement about essentials, however much they may differ in externals. In connection with these instructions, men were admonished that all “extravagance and violence of language” should be carefully avoided.
Asoka openly avowed his readiness to act upon these latitudinarian principles by doing reverence to men of all sects, whether ascetics or householders, by means of donations and in other ways. The Cave Inscriptions, which record costly gifts bestowed upon the Ajivikas, a sect of self-mortifying ascetics, more nearly allied to the Jains than the Buddhists, testify that Asoka, like many other ancient Kings of India, really adopted the policy of universal toleration and concurrent endowment.
But his toleration, although perfectly genuine, must be understood with two limitations. In the first place, all Indian religions, with which alone Asoka was concerned, had much in common, and were all alike merely variant expressions of Hindu modes of thought and feeling. There was no such gap dividing them as that which yawns between Islam and Puranic Brahmanism. In the second place, the royal toleration, although per-feet as regarding beliefs, did not necessarily extend to all overt practices. Sacrifices involving the death of a victim, which are absolutely indispensable for the correct worship of some of the gods, were categorically
The Cave Temples of India are of the highest importance because of their antiquity and historic significance. The most famous are in Western India at Ajanta, Ellora, Karli, Kanhari, and Elephanta. These stupendous monuments, hewn out of the solid rock, impress the beholder by their grandeur and by the beauty of the decorations on pillar and wall. The marvellous frescoes painted on the walls of the Ajanta caves date back to the Buddhist ages; the paintings arc of great value for the history of art and as illustrations of the life of the Hindus during the centuries to which they belong.
prohibited, at least at the capital, from an early period in the reign, and were further restricted, in all parts of the empire, by the code promulgated later in the Pillar Edicts. The conscientious objector was not permitted to allege his conscience as a justification for acts disapproved on principle by the government. Men might believe what they liked, but must do as they were told.
While almsgiving was commended, the higher doctrine was taught that “there is no such charity as the charitable gift of the Law of Piety, no such distribution as the distribution of piety.” The sentiment recurs in curiously similar language in Cromwell’s earliest extant letter. He wrote from St. Ives: “Building of hospitals provides for men’s bodies, to build material temples is judged a work of piety; but they that procure spiritual food, they that build up spiritual temples, they are the men truly charitable, truly pious.”
Asoka cared little for ritual, and was inclined to look with some scorn upon ordinary ceremonies, which are, as he observes, “of doubtful efficacy.” Just as true charity consists in a man’s efforts to diffuse a knowledge of the Law of Piety among his fellow creatures, so true ceremonial consists in the fulfilment of that law, which “bears great fruit,” and includes kind treatment of slaves and servants, honour to teachers, respect for life, and liberality to ascetics and Brahmans. These things, with others of the same kind, are called “the ceremonial of piety.”
The preacher looked to men’s hearts rather than to
their outward acts, and besought his congregation, the inhabitants of a vast empire, to cultivate the virtues of “compassion, liberality, truth, purity, gentleness, and saintliness.” He hoped that the growth of piety would be promoted by the imperial regulations devised for that purpose; but, while enforcing those regulations with all the power of an autocrat, he relied more upon the meditations of individuals, stimulated by his teaching. “Of these two means,” he says, “pious regulations are of small account, whereas meditation is of greater value.”
Notwithstanding his avowal of the comparative powerlessness of regulations, the emperor did not neglect to provide official machinery for the promulgation of his doctrine and the enforcement of his orders. All the officers of state, whom, in modern phraseology, we may call lieutenant-governors, commissioners, and district magistrates, were commanded to make use of opportunities during their periodical tours for convoking assemblies of the lieges and instructing them in the whole duty of man. Certain days in the year were particularly set apart for this duty, and the officials were directed to perform it in addition to their ordinary work.
A special agency of censor’s was also organized for the purpose of enforcing the regulations concerning the sanctity of animal life and the observance of filial piety, in the most extended sense. These officers were expressly enjoined to concern themselves with all sects, and with every class of society, not excluding the royal
family, while separate officials were charged with the delicate duty of supervising female morals. In practice, this system must have led to much espionage and tyranny, and, if we may judge from the proceedings of kings in later ages, who undertook a similar task, the punishments inflicted for breach of the imperial regulations must have been terribly severe.
It is recorded by contemporary testimony that in the seventh century King Harsha, who obviously aimed at copying closely the institutions of Asoka, did not shrink from inflicting capital punishment, without hope of pardon, on any person who dared to infringe his commands by slaying any living thing or using flesh as food in any part of his dominions.
In the twelfth century, Kumarapala, King of Gujarat in Western India, after his conversion to Jainism in 1159 A.D., took up the doctrine of the sanctity of
animal life with the most inordinate zeal, and imposed savage penalties upon violators of his rules. An unlucky merchant, who had committed the atrocious crime of cracking a louse, was brought before the special court at Anhilwara, and punished by the confiscation of his whole property, the proceeds of which were devoted to the building of a temple. Another wretch, who had outraged the sanctity of the capital by bringing in a dish of raw meat, was put to death. The special court constituted by Kumarapala had functions similar to those of Asoka’s censors, and the working of the later institution sheds much light upon the unrecorded proceedings of the earlier one.
More modern parallels to Asoka’s censors are not lacking. In 1876, when a pious Maharaja was in power in Kashmir, breaches of the commandments of the Hindu scriptures were treated by the state as offences, and investigated by a special court composed of five eminent pandits, belonging to families in which the office was hereditary, who determined appropriate penalties.
Up to the middle of the nineteenth century, and possibly until a later date, similar hereditary Brahman officers exercised jurisdiction over offenders charged with breaches of caste rules in Khandesh, the Deccan, and some parts of the Konkan, and imposed suitable expiation in the shape of fine, penance, or excommunication.
These cases, ancient and modern, are sufficient to prove that when Asoka made an innovation by appointing
censors, officers who “had never been appointed in all the long ages past,” the new departure was in accordance with Hindu notions, and was consequently readily imitated in later times by rulers of various religions.
The practical piety of Asoka was exhibited in many works of benevolence, on which he dwells with evident pleasure and satisfaction. His theory of true charity did not hinder him from bestowing liberal alms. The distribution of the charitable grants made by the sovereign and members of the royal family was carefully supervised both by the censors and other officials, who seem to have been organized in a royal almoner’s department.
Special attention was devoted to the needs of travellers, which have at all times evoked the sympathy of pious Indians. The provision made for wayfarers, including the dumb animals, who were never forgotten by Asoka, is best described in the monarch’s own words: “On the roads,” he says, “I have had banyan-trees planted to give shade to man and beast; I have had groves of mango-trees planted, and at every half kos I have had wells dug; rest-houses have been erected, and numerous watering-places have been prepared here and there for the enjoyment of man and beast.” Distances were carefully marked by pillars erected at convenient intervals, ever since Chandragupta’s time.
The lively sympathy of Asoka with his suffering fellow creatures, human and animal, also found expression
in the extensive provision of relief for the sick. Arrangements for the healing of man and beast were provided, not only throughout all provinces of the empire, but also in the friendly independent kingdoms of Southern India and Hellenistic Asia, medicinal herbs and drugs, wherever lacking, being planted, imported, and supplied as needed.
The animal hospitals which existed recently, and may still exist, at Bombay and Surat, may be regarded as either survivals or copies of the institutions founded by the Maurya monarch. The following account of the Surat hospital, as it was maintained late in the eighteenth century, would probably have been applicable with little change to the prototype at Pataliputra.
“The most remarkable institution in Surat is the Banyan Hospital, of which we have no description more recent than 1780. It then consisted of a large piece of ground enclosed by high walls and subdivided into several courts or wards for the accommodation of animals. In sickness they were attended with the greatest care, and here found a peaceful asylum for the infirmities of old age.
“When an animal broke a limb, or was otherwise disabled, his owner brought him to the hospital, where he was received without regard to the caste or nation of his master. In 1772, this hospital contained horses, mules, oxen, sheep, goats, monkeys, poultry, pigeons, and a variety of birds; also an aged tortoise, which was known to have been there seventy-five years. The most extraordinary ward was that appropriated for
rats, mice, bugs, and other noxious vermin, for whom suitable food was provided.”
The active official propaganda carried on by various agencies throughout the empire and protected states did not satisfy the zeal of Asoka, who burned with a desire to diffuse the blessings of both his ethical system and distinctive Buddhist teaching in all the independent kingdoms with which he was in touch.
For this purpose he organized an efficient system of foreign missions under his personal supervision, the results of which are visible to this day. His conception of the idea of foreign missions on a grand scale was absolutely original, and produced a well-considered and successful scheme, carried out with method and thoroughness in
conjunction and harmony with his measures of domestic propaganda.
Before the year 256 B.C., when the Rock Edicts were published collectively, the royal missionaries had been despatched to all the protected states and tribes on the frontiers of the empire, to the independent kingdoms of Southern India, to Ceylon, and to the Hellenistic monarchies of Syria, Egypt, Cyrene, Macedonia, and Epirus, then governed respectively by Antiochos Theos, Ptolemy Philadelphos, Magas, Antigonos Gonatas, and Alexander. The missionary organization thus embraced three continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe.
The protected states and tribes brought in this way within the circle of Buddhist influence included the Kambojas of Tibet, with other Himalayan nations; the Gandharas and Yavanas of the Kabul valley and regions still farther west; the Bhojas, Pulindas, and Pitenikas dwelling among the hills of the Vindhya range and Western Ghats; and the Andhra kingdom between the Krishna and Godavari Rivers.
The Dravidian peoples of the extreme south, below the thirteenth degree of latitude, being protected by their remoteness, had escaped annexation to the northern empire. In Asoka’s time their territories formed four independent kingdoms, the Chola, Pandya, Keralaputra, and Satiyaputra. The capital of the Chola kingdom was probably Uraiyur, or Old Trichinopoly, and that of the Pandya realm was doubtless Korkai in the Tinnevelli District. The Keralaputra State comprised the Malabar coast south of the Chandragiri River, and
the Satiyaputra country may be identified with the region where the Tulu language is spoken, of which Mangalore is the centre. With all these kingdoms Asoka was on such friendly terms that he was at liberty to send his missionaries to preach to the people, and even to found monasteries in several places. One such institution was established by his younger brother Mahendra in the Tanjore District, where its ruins were still visible nine hundred years later.
An ancient Chinese writer assures us that “according to the laws of India, when a king dies, he is succeeded by his eldest son (Kumararaja); the other sons leave the family and enter a religious life, and they are no longer allowed to reside in their native kingdom.” This compulsory withdrawal from secular affairs did not necessarily imply the disappearance of the younger brother into obscurity. The Church in India, especially in Buddhist India, as in Roman Catholic Europe, offered a career to younger sons, and the able ecclesiastic sometimes attained higher fame than his royal relative. Mahendra’s assumption of the yellow robe, in accordance with the rule above stated, was, in the first instance, probably due to political necessity rather than to free choice; but, whatever motive may have led him to adopt the monastic life, he became a devout and zealous monk and a most successful missionary.
When Asoka determined to extend his propaganda to Ceylon, he selected as head of the mission his monk brother, who probably was already settled at his monastery
in Southern India and then crossed over to Ceylon with his four colleagues. The teaching of the preachers, backed as it was by the influence of a monarch so powerful as Asoka, was speedily accepted by King Tissa of Ceylon and the members of his court, and the new religion soon gained a hold on the affections of the people at large. Mahendra spent the rest of his life in Ceylon, and devoted himself to the establishment and organization of the Buddhist Church in the island, where he is revered as a saint. His ashes rest under a great cupola or stupa at Mihintale, one of the most remarkable among the many notable Buddhist monuments which are the glory of Ceylon.
The Mahavamsa chronicle, which gives a list of Asoka’s missionaries and the countries to which they were deputed, makes no mention of the missions to the Tamil kingdoms of Southern India. This reticence is probably to be explained by the fierce hostility between the Sinhalese and the Tamils of the mainland, which lasted for centuries. If I am right in believing that Mahendra migrated from his monastery near Tanjore to the island, this fact would have been most distasteful to the monks of the Great Vihara, who could not bear to think that they were indebted to a resident among the hated Tamils for instruction in the rudiments of the faith, and much preferred that people should believe their religion to have come direct from the Holy Land of Buddhism. Some motive of this kind seems to have originated the Sinhalese legend of Mahendra, who is represented as an illegitimate son of Asoka, and
is said to have been followed by a sister named Sanghamitra (“Friend of the Order”), who did for the nuns of Ceylon all that her brother did for the monks.
This legend, which is overlaid by many marvellous inventions, is fiction. The true version, representing Mahendra as the younger brother of Asoka, was well remembered at the imperial capital, Pataliputra, where Fa-hien, at the beginning of the fifth century, was shown the hermitage of Asoka’s saintly brother; and it was still the only version known to Hiuen Tsang in the seventh century. Even when the latter pilgrim took down the Sinhalese legends from the lips of the island monks whom he met at Kanchi, he applied the stories to the brother, not to the son of Asoka.
The Mahavamsa seems also to err in attributing to Asoka the despatch of missionaries to Pegu (Sovanabhumi). No such mission is mentioned in the inscriptions, and it is very improbable that Asoka had any dealings with the countries to the east of the Bay of Bengal. His face was turned westwards toward the Hellenistic kingdoms. The Ceylon form of Buddhism appears to have been introduced into Burma and Pegu at a very much later date, and there is reason to believe that the earliest Burmese Buddhism was of the Tantric Mahayana type, imported direct from Northern India many centuries after Asoka’s time.
Unfortunately, no definite record has been preserved of the fortunes of the Buddhist missions in the Hellenistic kingdoms of Asia, Africa, and Europe, nor are the names of the missionaries known. The influence
of Buddhist doctrine on the heretical Gnostic sects appears to be undoubted, and many writers have suspected that the more orthodox forms of Christian teaching owe some debt to the lessons of Gautama; but the subject is too obscure for discussion in these pages.
It is, however, certain that Asoka, by his comprehensive and well-planned measures of evangelization, succeeded in transforming the doctrine of a local Indian sect into one of the great religions of the world. The personal ministry of Gautama Buddha was confined to a comparatively small area, comprising about four degrees of latitude and as many of longitude, between Gaya, Allahabad, and the Himalaya. Within these limits he was born, lived, and died. When he died, about 487 B.C., Buddhism was merely a sect of Hinduism, unknown beyond very restricted limits, and with no better apparent chance of survival than that enjoyed by many other contemporary sects now long forgotten.
The effective organization of the monastic system by the Buddhists was probably the means of keeping their system alive and in possession of considerable influence in the Ganges valley for the two centuries and a quarter which elapsed between the death of Gautama and the conversion of Asoka. His imperial patronage, gradually increasing as his faith grew in intensity, made the fortune of Buddhism, and raised it to the position which enables it still to dispute with Christianity the first place among the religions of the world, so far as the number of believers is concerned.
Asoka did not attempt to destroy either Brahmanical
Hinduism or Jainism, but his prohibition of bloody sacrifices, the preference which he openly avowed for Buddhism, and his active propaganda undoubtedly brought his favourite doctrine to the front, and established it as the dominant religion both in India and Ceylon. It still retains that position in the southern island, but has vanished from the land of its birth, and has failed to retain its grasp upon many of its distant conquests.
Still, notwithstanding many failures, fluctuations, developments, and corruptions, Buddhism now commands, and will command for countless centuries to come, the devotion of hundreds of millions of men. This great result is the work of Asoka alone, and entitles him to rank for all time with that small body of men who may be said to have changed the faith of the world.
The obvious comparison of Asoka with Constantine has become a commonplace, but, like most historical parallels, it is far from exact. Christianity, when the emperor adopted it as the state creed, was already a power throughout the Roman Empire, and Constantine’s adherence was rather an act Jf submission to an irresistible force than one of patronage to an obscure sect. Buddhism, on the contrary, when Asoka accorded to it his invaluable support, was but one of many sects struggling for existence and survival, and without any pretension to dictate imperial policy. His personal action, probably prompted and directed by his teacher, Upagupta, was the direct cause of the spread of the
doctrine beyond the limits of India; and, if a Christian parallel must be sought, his work is comparable with that of Saint Paul, rather than with that of Constantine.
Upagupta, to whom the conversion of Asoka is ascribed, is said to have been the son of Gupta, a perfumer, and to have been born either at Benares or Mathura. Probably he was a native of the latter city, where the monastery built by him still existed in the seventh century. Tradition also associated his name with Sind, in which country he is said to have made frequent missionary journeys.
The vigorous and effective action taken by Asoka to propagate his creed and system of morals is conclusive proof of his absolute honesty of purpose, and justifies the modern reader in giving full credence to the devout professions made by him in the edicts. “Work I must,” he observed, “for the public benefit;” and work he did. The world still enjoys the fruit of his labours, and his words, long lost, but now restored to utterance, ring with the sound of sincerity and truth.
Asoka was a hard-working king, as unwearied in business as Philip II of Spain, ready to receive reports
at any hour and any place,” and yet dissatisfied with the outcome of his industry. “I am never,” he laments, “fully satisfied with my exertions and despatch of business.” Probably he worked too hard, and would have effected still more if he had done less. But his ideal of duty was high, and, like the Stoic philosopher,
he felt bound to obey the law of his nature, and to toil on, be the result success or failure.
The character of Asoka must be deduced from his
words. The edicts are written in a style far too peculiar and distinctive to be the work of a secretary of state, and are alive with personal feeling. No secretary would have dared to put into his master’s mouth the passionate expressions of remorse for the misery caused by the Kalinga war, leading up to the resolve to eschew aggressive warfare for the rest of his life, and the declaration that “although a man do him an injury, his Majesty holds that it must be patiently borne, as far as it possibly can be borne.”
The edicts reveal Asoka as a man who sought to combine the piety of the monk with the wisdom of the king, and to make India the kingdom of righteousness as he conceived it, a theocracy without a God, in which the government should act the part of Providence, and guide the people in the right way. Every man, he maintained, must work out his own salvation, and eat the fruit of his deeds. “The fruit of exertion is not to be obtained by the great man only, because even the small man by exertion can win for himself much heavenly bliss; and for this purpose was given the precept – ‘Let small and great exert themselves.’ ” There could be no progress without individual effort; the government could point out the road, but each man must travel it for himself.
Reverence, compassion, truthfulness, and sympathy were the virtues which he inculcated; irreverence, cruelty, falsehood, and intolerance were the vices which he condemned. The preacher was no mere sermon-writer. He was a man of affairs, versed in the arts of
peace and war, the capable ruler of an immense empire, a great man, and a great king.
Asoka, like all Oriental monarchs, was a polygamist, and had at least two consorts, who ranked as queens. The name of the second of these ladies, Karuvaki, is preserved in a brief edict signifying the royal pleasure that her charitable donations should be regarded by all officials concerned as her act and deed, redounding to her accumulation of merit. She is described as the mother of Tivara, who may be considered as a favourite child of the aged emperor at the time the edict was issued, late in his reign.
Tradition avers that his faithful chief queen for many years .was named Asandhimitra, and that when she died, and Asoka was old, he married a dissolute young woman named Tishyarakshita, concerning whom and her stepson Kunala, the old folk-lore tale, known to the Greeks as that of Phaedra and Hippolytus, is related with much imaginative embellishment. But folk-lore is not history, and the pathetic story of the blinded Kunala must not be read or criticized as matter-of-fact narrative. The legend appears in diverse forms with various names.
Another son of Asoka, named Jalauka, who plays a large part in Kashmir tradition, although rather a shadowy personage, has more appearance of reality than Kunala. He was reputed to have been an active and vigorous King of Kashmir, who expelled certain intrusive foreigners, and conquered the plains as far as Kanauj. He was hostile to Buddhism and devoted
to the worship of Siva and the Divine Mothers, in whose honour he and his queen, Isanadevi, erected many temples at places which can be identified. But the story of Jalauka, notwithstanding the topographical details, is essentially legendary, and no independent corroboration of the Kashmir tradition has been discovered.
Tivara, the son mentioned in the Queen’s Edict, is not heard of again, and may have died before his father. Dasaratha, the grandson of Asoka, who is described in the Vishnu Purana as the son of Suyasas, or Suparsva, was certainly a reality, being known from brief dedicatory inscriptions on the walls of cave-dwellings at the Nagarjuni hills, which he bestowed upon the Ajivikas, as his grandfather had done in the neighbouring Barabar hills. The script, language, and style of Dasaratha’s records prove that his date was very close to that of Asoka, whom probably he directly succeeded. Assuming this to be the fact, the accession of Dasaratha may be dated in 231 B.C. His reign appears to have been short, and is allotted (under other names) eight years in two of the Puranas.
The whole duration of the Maurya dynasty according to Puranic authority was 137 years, and if this period be accepted and reckoned from the accession of Chandragupta in 321 B.C., the dynasty must have come to an end in 184 B.C., which date is certainly approximately correct. Four princes who succeeded Dasaratha, each of whom reigned for a few years, are mere names. The empire seems to have broken up very soon after Asoka’s death, his descendants, whose names
are recorded in the Puranic lists, retaining only Magadha and the neighbouring home provinces. The Andhra protected state between the Krishna and Godavari Rivers was among the earliest defections, and rapidly grew into a powerful. kingdom, stretching right across India, as will be narrated in the next chapter. The last king of the imperial Maurya line, a weak prince named Brihadratha, was treacherously assassinated by his commander-in-chief, Pushyamitra.
But descendants of the great Asoka continued as local rajas in Magadha for many centuries, the last of them being Purna-varman, who was nearly contemporary with the Chinese pilgrim, Hiuen Tsang, in the seventh century. Petty Maurya dynasties, probably connected in some way with the imperial line, ruled in the Konkan, between the Western Ghats and the sea, and some other parts of Western India, during the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries, and are frequently mentioned in inscriptions.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage