Ashoka's Major Rock Edicts

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Ashoka's Rock Edict at Junagadh
3rd-5th Rock Edicts, Girnar
Replica of Ashoka's Major Rock Edict at Girnar, Gujarat, displayed at the entrance to the National Museum, Delhi

Ashoka's Major Rock Edicts refer to 14 separate major Edicts of Ashoka. They are all inscribed on a rock located outside the town of Junagadh on the Saurashtra peninsula in the state of Gujarat, India. The inscription is inscribed high up on a large, domed mass of black granite on Girnar, a collection of hills near the town. The difficulty in accessing this monument allows only the few Jain pilgrims willing to climb the mountain each year to visit the rock edict. Neatly etched on the rock surface is a pin-men[1] inscription of Ashoka Brāhmī script, more impressive than the much smaller replica positioned outside the entrance of the National Museum in Delhi.


Ashoka was the third monarch of the Mauryan dynasty in India, anointed as emperor in 274 BCE.[2] Although he is a major historical figure, little definitive information was known as there were no available records of his reign until the 19th century when a large number of his edicts, inscribed on rocks and pillars, were found in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These many edicts, of which Ashoka's Major Rock Edict was the first and most impressive, were concerned with practical instructions in running a kingdom such as the design of irrigation systems and descriptions of Ashoka's beliefs in peaceful moral behavior. They contain little personal detail about his life.[2]

Ashoka's edicts were the first written inscriptions in India after the ancient city of Harrapa fell to ruin. He did not write the inscriptions in formal Sanskrit but used the vernacular spoken form called Prakrit. Ashoka's first edict is the only impressive edict remaining in its original state since most of his other edicts were either dismantled and transported to places of national importance after their discovery or formalised into a national monument. Another rock edict of Ashoka in its original state is situated at Kalsi, near Vikas Nagar in Dehradun District of Uttranchal, India.[3]


The Major Rock Edict at Girnar includes Ashoka's first rock edict, and reads as follows: "The King, King Piyadasi, has caused this Dhamma edict to be written. Here (in my domain) no living beings are to be slaughtered or offered in sacrifice. Nor should festivals be held, for Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, sees much to object to in such festivals, although there are some festivals that Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, does approve of."

Formerly, in the kitchen of Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, hundreds of thousands of animals were killed every day to make curry. But now with the writing of this Dhamma edict only three creatures, two peacocks and a deer are killed, and the deer not always. And in time, not even these three creatures will be killed."[2]


  1. ^ Keay, John (2000). India, a History. New York, United States: Harper Collins Publishers. pp. 129–131. ISBN 0-00-638784-5. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Edicts of King Ashoka". Archived from the original on 14 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  3. ^ "The Life Of Ashoka Mauryan - His legacy". Archived from the original on 5 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 

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