Asokan Pillar Edicts

Essay by vicmarcabCollege, UndergraduateB+, November 2014

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Cabrera 1

Victoria Cabrera

Professor Sreenivasan


9 September 2014

Ashokan Pillar Edicts

The edicts on the Delhi Pillars all begin with "Thus spake king Devanampiya Piyadasi." In other words, they begin with introducing what Ashoka had spoken and therefore each of the edicts is a direct quote from him. I have decided to select and synthesize the edicts that I found revealed most about Ashoka during the time in which these edicts were made.

North Side Edicts 1 and 3:

In the first edict, Ashoka begs for pardon of his previous sins. It can be inferred that he is referring to how he was an imperial conqueror and caused much war and destruction. This emphasizes his change of heart after becoming and devoting himself to being a Buddhist. Moreover the second part of this edict highlights his devotion to religion as well when he writes "the sight of religion, and the love of religion, of their own accord increase and will ever increase" and urges his people to follow the same path.

There is no limit to Ashoka's devoutness and he also demonstrates this by spreading his religion and thus "(the only true) pleasure" to his people.

Similarly in the third edict, Ashoka's virtuousness is shown in how he denounces the "nine minor transgressions: mischief, hard-heartedness, anger, pride, envy," to the extent that he does not even want to hear word of them; they are intensely prohibited.

These two edicts from the North Side draw attention to Ashoka's transformation from a war hero to a peaceful Buddhist.

West Side Edict 4:

This introduction to the edict is slightly different from the others in that it says "Thus spake King Piyadasi, beloved of the gods." This change is relevant in that Ashoka's holiness is emphasized in how the gods...