The Major Rock Edicts of Indian Emperor Ashoka refer to 14 separate major Edicts of Ashoka which are significantly detailed and represent some of the earliest dated rock inscriptions of any Indian monarch. For a full English translation of the Edicts: . These edicts are preceded chronologically by the Minor Rock Edicts.
Ashoka was the third monarch of the Maurya Empire in India, reigning from around 269 BCE. Ashoka famously converted to Buddhism and renounced violence soon after being victorious in a gruesome Kalinga War, yet filled with deep remorse for the bloodshed of the war. Although he was a major historical figure, little definitive information was known as there were few 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. In India, Places where rock edicts were found are – Kalsi, Uttarakhand; Sopara, Maharashtra; Mount Girnar, Gujarat; Yerragudi, Andhra Pradesh; Dhauli, Odisha; Jaugada, Odisha. These many edicts, of which Ashoka's Major Rock Edicts were 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.
Prohibits animal slaughter. Bans festive gatherings and killings of animals. Only two peacocks and one deer were killed in Asoka’s kitchen. He wished to discontinue this practice of killing two peacocks and one deer as well.
Major Rock Edict II
Provides for care for man and animals, describes recipients as the Chola, Pandyas, Satyapura and Keralputra Kingdoms of South India, and the Greek king Antiochus II and his neighbours.
Major Rock Edict III
Generosity to Brahmans. Issued after 12 years of Asoka’s coronation. It says that the Yuktas (subordinate officers and Pradesikas (district Heads) along with Rajukas (Rural officers ) shall go to the all areas of kingdom every five years and spread the Dhamma Policy of Asoka.
Major Rock Edict IV
Dhammaghosa is ideal to the mankind and not the Bherighosa. Impact of Dhamma on society.
Major Rock Edict V
Concerns about the policy towards slaves. He mentions in this rock edict "Every Human is my child". Appointment of Dhammamahamatras is mentioned in this edict.
Major Rock Edict VI
Describes King’s desire to get informed about the conditions of the people constantly. Talks about welfare measures.
Major Rock Edict VII
Requests tolerance for all religions - "To foster one’s own sect, depreciating the others out of affection for one’s own, to exalt its merit, is to do the worst harm to one’s own sect."
It is the largest inscription from the edict. It talks about the Ashoka's victory over Kalinga and also mentions about the high number of casualties in that war. King considered the victory by "Dhamma" to be the foremost victory; mentions the victory of "Dhamma" where the Greek being named Amtiyoga or Amtiyaka (𑀅𑀁𑀢𑀺𑀬𑀓), identified with Antiochus II Theos of the Seleucid Empire, rules; it also mentions the victory of Dhamma where rule the following Greek kings beyond Antiochus:
Three languages were used, Prakrit, Greek and Aramaic. Four scripts were used. The edicts are composed in non-standardized and archaic forms of Prakrit. Prakrit inscriptions were written in Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts, which even a commoner could read and understand. The inscriptions found in the area of Pakistan are in the Kharoshthi script.
The Major Rock Edicts of Ashoka are inscribed on large rocks, except for the Kandahar version in Greek (Kandahar Greek Edict of Ashoka), written on a stone plaque belonging to a building. The Major Edicts are not located in the heartland of Mauryan territory, traditionally centered on Bihar, but on the frontiers of the territory controlled by Ashoka.
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."
This rescript on morality has been caused to be written by Devanampriya Priyadarsin.
Here no living being must be killed and sacrificed.
And also no festival meeting must be held.
For king Devanampriya Priyadarsin sees much evil in festival meetings.
And there are also some festival meetings which are considered meritorious by king Devanampriya Priyadarsin.
Formerly in the kitchen of king Devanampriya Priyadarsin many hundred thousands of animals were killed daily for the sake of curry. But now, when this rescript on morality is caused to be written, then only three animals are being killed (daily), (viz.) two peacocks (and) one deer, but even this deer not regularly.
But even these three animals shall not be killed (in future).
Everywhere in the dominions of king Devanampriya Priyadarsin and (of those) who (are his) borderers, such as the Chodas, the Pandyas, the Satiyaputa, the Kelalaputa,Tamraparni, the Yona (Greek) king named Antiyoga (Antiochus), and the other kings who are the neighbours of this Antiyoga, everywhere two (kinds of) medical men were established by king Devanampriya Priyadarsin, (viz.) medical treatment for men and medical treatment for cattle.
Wherever there were no herbs beneficial to men and beneficial to cattle, everywhere they were caused to be imported and to be planted. Likewise, wherever there were no roots and fruits, everywhere they were caused to be imported and to be planted.
On the roads trees were planted, and wells were caused to be dug for the use of cattle and men.
King Devanampriya Priyadarsin speaks thus.
(When I had been) anointed twelve years, the following was ordered by me.
Everywhere in my dominions the Yuktas, the Lajuka, (and) the Pradesika shall set out on a complete tour (throughout their charges) every five years for this very purpose, (viz.) for the following instruction in morality as well as for other business.
Meritorious is obedience to mother and father. Liberality to friends, acquaintances, and relatives, and to Brahmanas and Sramanas is meritorious. Abstention from killing animals is meritorious. Moderation in expenditure (and) moderation in possessions are meritorious.
And the councils (of Mahamatras) also shall order the Yuktas to register (these rules) both with (the addition of) reasons and according to the letter.
In times past, for many hundreds of years, there had ever been promoted the killing of animals and the hurting of living beings, discourtesy to relatives, (and) discourtesy to Sramanas and Brahmanas.
But now, in consequence of the practice of morality on the part of king Devanampriya Priyadarsin, the sound of drums has become the sound of morality, showing the people representations of aerial chariots, elephants, masses of fire, and other divine figures.
Such as they had not existed before for many hundreds of years, thus there are now promoted, through the instruction in morality on the part of king Devanampriya Priyadarsin, abstention from killing animals, abstention from hurting living beings, courtesy to relatives, courtesy to Brahmanas and Sramanas, (and) obedience to mother and father.
Both in this and in many other ways is the practice of morality promoted. And king Devanampriya Priyadarsin will ever promote this practice of
And the sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons of king Devanampriya Priyadarsin will ever promote this practice of morality until the aeon (of destruction of the world), (and) will instruct (people) in morality, abiding by morality and by good conduct
For this is the best work, viz. instruction in morality. And the practice of morality also is not (possible) for (a person) devoid of good conduct. Therefore promotion and not neglect of this object is meritorious.
For the following purpose has this been written, (viz. in order that) they should devote themselves to the promotion of this practice, and that they should not approve the neglect (of it).
(This rescript) was caused to be written by king Devanampriya Priyadarsin (when he had been) anointed twelve years.
It is difficult to perform virtuous deeds. He who starts performing virtuous deeds accomplishes something difficult.
Now, by me many virtuous deeds have been performed. Therefore (among) my sons and grandsons, and (among) my descendants (who
shall come) after them until the aeon (of destruction of the world), those who will conform to this (duty) will perform good deeds.
But he who will neglect even a portion of this (duty) will perform evil deeds. For sin indeed steps fast.
Now, in times past (officers) called Mahamatras of morality did not exist before. Mahdmatras of morality were appointed by me (when I had been) anointed thirteen years. These are occupied with all sects in establishing morality, in promoting morality, and for the welfare and happiness of those who are devoted to morality (even) among the Yona, Kambojas, and Gandharas, and whatever other western
borderers (of mine there are).
They are occupied with servants and masters, with Brahmanas and Ibhiyas, with the destitute; (and) with the aged, for the welfare and happiness of those who are devoted to morality, (and) in releasing (them) from the fetters (of worldly life). They are occupied in supporting prisoners (with money), in causing (their) fetters to be taken off, and in setting (them) free, if one has children, or is bewitched, or aged, respectively. They are occupied everywhere, here and in all the outlying towns, in the harems of our brothers, of (our) sisters, and (of) whatever other relatives (of ours there are). These Mahamatras of morality are occupied everywhere in my dominions with those who are devoted to morality, (in order to ascertain) whether one is eager for morality or properly devoted to charity.
For the following purpose has this rescript on morality been caused to be written, (viz. that) it may be of long duration, and (that) my descendants may conform to it.
In times past neither the disposal of affairs nor the submission of reports at any time did exist before. But I have made the following (arrangement).
Reporters have to report to me the affairs of the people at any time (and) anywhere, while I am eating, in the harem, in the inner apartment, at the cowpen, in the palanquin, (and) in the park. And everywhere I shall dispose of the affairs of the people.
And also, if in the council (of Mahamatras) a dispute arises, or an amendment is moved, in connexion with any donation or proclamation which I am ordering verbally, or (in connexion with) an emergent matter which has been delegated to the Mahamatras, it must be reported to me immediately, anywhere, (and) at any time.
Thus I have ordered. For I am never content in exerting myself and in dispatching business. For I consider it my duty (to promote) the welfare of all men. But the root of that (is) this, (viz,) exertion and the dispatch of business. For no duty is more important than (promoting) the welfare of all men. And whatever effort I am making, (is made) in order that I may discharge the debt (which I owe) to living beings, (that) I may make them happy in this (world), and (that) they may attain heaven in the other (world).
Now, for the following purpose has this rescript on morality been caused to be written, (viz, that) it may be of long duration, and (that) my sons and wives may display the same zeal for the welfare of all men.
But it is difficult to accomplish this without great zeal.
King Devanampriya Priyadarsin desires (that) all sects may reside everywhere.
For all these desire self-control and purity of mind.
But men possess various desires (and) various passions. They will fulfil (either) the whole (or) only a portion (of their duties). But even one who (practises) great liberality, (but) does not possess self-control, purity of mind, gratitude, and firm devotion, is very mean.
In times past the Devanampriyas (Kings) used to set out on so-called pleasure-tours.
On these (tours) hunting and other such pleasures were (enjoyed).
When king Devanampriya Priyadardin had been anointed ten years, he went out to Sambodhi.
Therefore tours of morality (were undertaken) here.
On these (tours) the following takes place, (viz.) visiting Sramanas and Brahmanas and making gifts (to them), visiting the aged and supporting (them) with gold, visiting the people of the country, instructing (them) in morality, and questioning (them) about morality, as suitable for this (occasion).
This second period (of the reign) of king Devanampriya Priyadarsin becomes a pleasure in a higher degree.
Men are practising various ceremonies during illness, at the marriage of a son or a daughter, at the birth of a child, (and) when setting out on a journey; on these and other such (occasions) men are practising many ceremonies.
But in such (cases) mothers and wives are practising many and various vulgar and useless ceremonies.
Now, ceremonies should certainly be practised. But these (ceremonies) bear little fruit indeed. But the following bears much fruit indeed, viz. the practice of morality.
Herein the following (are comprised), (viz.) proper courtesy to slaves and servants, reverence to elders, gentleness to animals, (and) liberality to Sramanas and Brahmanas; these and other such (virtues) are called the practice of morality.
Therefore a father, or a son, or a brother, or a master, (or) a friend or an acquaintance, or even a (mere) neighbour ought to say : "This is meritorious. This practice should be observed until the (desired) object is attained, (thinking): "I shall observe this".
For other a ceremonies are of doubtful (effect). One may attain his object (by them), but he may not (do so). And they (bear fruit) in this world only.
But that practice of morality is not restricted to time. Even if one does not attain (by it) his object in this (world), then endless
merit is produced in the other (world).
But if one attains (by it) his object in this (world), the gain of both (results) arises from it; (viz.) the (desired) object (is attained) in this (world), and endless merit is produced in the other (world) by that practice of morality.
King Devanampriya Priyadarsin does not think that either glory or fame conveys much advantage, except whatever glory or fame he desires (on account of his aim) that in the present time, and in the future, men may (be induced) by him to practise obedience to morality, or that they may conform to the duties of morality.
On this (account) king Devanampriya Priyadarsin is desiring glory and fame.
And whatever effort king Devanampriya Priyadarsin is making, all that (is) only for the sake of (merit) in the other (world), (and) in order that all (men) may run little danger.
But the danger is this, viz. demerit. But it is indeed difficult either for a lowly person or for a high one to accomplish this without great zeal (and without) laying aside every (other aim). But among these (two) it is indeed (more) difficult to accomplish just for
a high (person).
There is no such gift as the gift of morality, the distribution of morality, (and) kinship through morality.
Herein the following (are comprised), (viz.) proper courtesy to slaves and servants, obedience to mother and father, liberality to friends, acquaintances, and relatives, to Sramanas and Brahmanas, (and) abstention from killing animals.
Concerning this a father, or a son, or a brother, or a master, (or) a friend or an acquaintance, (or) even a (mere) neighbour, ought to say "This is meritorious. This ought to be done".
If one is acting thus, (happiness) in this world is attained, and endless merit is produced in the other (world) by that gift of morality.
King Devanampriya Priyadarsin is honouring all sects: ascetics or house holders, with gifts and with honours of various kinds.
But Devanampriya does not value either gifts or honours so (highly) as (this), (viz.) that a promotion of the essentials of all sects should take place. This promotion of the essentials (is possible) in many ways. But its root is this, viz. guarding (one's) speech, (i.e.) that neither praising one's own sect nor blaming other sects should take place on improper occasions, or (that) it should be moderate in every case. But other sects ought to be honoured in every way.
If one is acting thus, he is promoting his own sect considerably and is benefiting other sects as well.
If one is acting otherwise than thus, he is both hurting his own sect and wronging other sects as well.
For whosoever praises his own sect or blames other sects, — all (this) out of pure devotion to his own sect, (i.e.) with the view of glorifying his own sect, — if he is acting thus, he rather injures his own sect very severely.
But concord is meritorious, (i.e.) that they should both hear and obey each other's morals.
For this is the desire of Devanampriya, (viz.) that all sects should be both full of learning and pure in doctrine.
And those who are attached to their respective (sects), ought to be spoken to (as follows). Devanampriya does not value either gifts or honours so (highly) as (this), (viz.) that a promotion of the essentials of all sects should take place.
And many (officers) are occupied for this purpose, (viz.) the Mahamatras of morality, the Mahamatras controlling women, the inspectors of cowpens, or other classes (of officials).
And this is the fruit of it, (viz,) that both the promotion of one's own sect takes place, and the glorification of morality.
Ashoka conquered Kalinga in the 8th year of his reign.
When king Devanampriya Priyadarsin had been anointed eight years, (the country of) the Kalingas was conquered by (him).
One hundred and fifty thousand in number were the men who were deported thence, one hundred thousand in number were those who were slain there, and many times as many those who died.
After that, now that (the country of) the Kalingyas has been taken, Devanampriya (is devoted) to a zealous study of morality, to the love of morality, and to the instruction (of people) in morality. This is the repentance of Devanampriya on account of his conquest of
(the country of) the Kalingyas. For, this is considered very painful and deplorable by Devanampriya, that, while one is conquering an unconquered (country), slaughter, death, and deportation of people (are taking place) there,
But the following is considered even more deplorable than this by Devanampriya. (To) the Brahmanas or Sramanas, or other sects or householders/ who are living there, (and) among whom the following are practised: obedience to those who receive high pay, obedience to mother and father, obedience to elders, proper courtesy to friends, acquaintances, companions, and relatives, to slaves and servants, (and) firm devotion, to these then happen injury or slaughter or deportation of (their) beloved ones. Or if there are then incurring misfortune the friends, acquaintances, companions, and relatives of those whose affection (for the latter) is undiminished, although they are (themselves) well provided for, this (misfortune) as well becomes an injury to those (persons) themselves.
This is shared by all men and is considered deplorable by Devanampriya.
There is no country where these (two) classes, (viz.) the Brahmanas and the Sramanas, do not exist, except among the Yona; and there is no (place) in any country where men are not indeed attached to some sect.
Therefore even the hundredth part or the thousandth part of all those people who were slain, who died, and who were deported at that time when (the country of) the Kalingas was taken, (would) now be considered very deplorable by Devanampriya.
.......desires towards all beings ..... self-control, impartiality, (and) kindness.
But this by Devanampriya, viz, the conquest by morality.
And this (conquest) has been won repeatedly by Devanampriya both [here] and among all (his) borderers, even as far as at (the distance of) six hundred yojanas where the Yona king named Antiyoga (is ruling), and beyond this Antiyoga, (where) four kings (are ruling), (viz, the king) named Tulamaya, (the king) named Antekina, (the king) named Maka, (and the king) named Alikyashudala, (and) likewise towards the south, (where) the Chodas and Pandyas (are ruling), as far as Tamraparni.
Even those to whom the envoys of Devanampriya do not go, having heard of the duties of morality, the ordinances, (and) the instruction in morality of Devanampriya, are conforming to morality and will conform to (it).
This conquest, which has been won by this everywhere; causes the feeling of satisfaction. Firm becomes this satisfaction, (viz.) the satisfaction at the conquest by morality.
But this satisfaction is indeed of little (consequence). Devanampriya thinks that only the fruits in the other (world) are of great
And for the following purpose has this rescript on morality been written, (viz,) in order that the sons (and) great-grandsons (who) may be (born) to me, should not think that a fresh conquest ought to be made; (that), if a conquest does please them, they should take pleasure in mercy and light punishments; and (that) they should regard the conquest by morality as the only (true) conquest.
This (conquest bears fruit) in this world (and) in the other world.
And let all (their) pleasure be the pleasure in exertion.
For this (bears fruit) in this world (and) in the other world.
In Dhauli and Jaugada, on the east coast of India, in the recently conquered territory of Kalinga, Major Rock Edicts 11 to 13 were ommitted from the normal complement of Edicts from 1 to 14, but two separate Edicts were put in their place. The First Separate Major Rock Edicts mainly adresses local officials (from Tosali in the Dhauli Separate Edicts and from Somāpā in the Jaugada versions) referring to the requirements of a fair judicial system, and the system of control established by Ashoka through the Mahamatras, sent from Pataliputra, Ujjain and Taxila.
Chronologically, it seems that the First Separate Rock Edict was actually engraved after the Second Separate Rock Edict.
Whatever I recognize (to be right), that I strive to carry out by deeds, and to accomplish by (various) means. And this is considered by me the principal means for this object, viz. (to give) instruction to you. For you are occupied with many thousands of men, with the object of gaining
the affection of men.
All men are my children. As on behalf of (my own) children I desire that they may be provided with complete welfare and happiness in this world and in the other world, the same I desire also on behalf of [all] men.And you do not learn ? how far this (my) object reaches. Some single person only learns this, (and) even he (only) a portion, (but) not the whole. Now you must pay attention to this, although you are well provided for.
It happens in the administration (of justice) that a single person suffers either imprisonment or harsh treatment. In this case (an order) cancelling the imprisonment is (obtained) by him accidentally, while [many] other people continue to suffer. In this case you must strive to deal (with all of them) impartially. But one fails to act (thus) on account of the following dispositions: envy, anger, cruelty, hurry, want of practice, laziness, (and) fatigue. (You) must strive for this, that these dispositions may not arise to you. And the root of all this is the absence of anger and the avoidance of hurry. He who is fatigued in the administration (of justice), will not rise; but one ought to move, to walk, and to advance. He who will pay attention to this, must tell you: "See that (you) discharge the debt (which you owe to the king); such and such is the instruction of Devanampriya".
The observance of this produces great fruit, (but its) non-observance (becomes) a great evil. For if one fails to observe this, there will be neither attainment of heaven nor satisfaction of the king. For how (could) my mind be pleased if one badly fulfils this duty? But if (you) observe this, you will attain heaven, and you will discharge the debt (which you owe) to me.
And this edict must be listened to (by all) on (every day of) the constellation. And it may be listened to even by a single (person) also on frequent (other) occasions between (the days of) Tishya. And if (you) act thus, you will be able to fulfil (this duty). For the following purpose has this rescript been written here, (viz.) in order that the judicial officers of the city may strive at all times (for this), [that] neither undeserved fettering nor undeserved harsh treatment are happening to [men]. And for the following purpose I shall send out every five years a Mahamatra who will be neither harsh nor fierce, (but) of gentle actions, (viz. in order to ascertain) whether (the judicial officers), paying attention to this object, are acting thus, as my instruction (implies).
But from Ujjayini also the prince (governor) will send out for the same purpose a person of the same description, and he will not allow (more than) three years to pass (without such a deputation). In the same way (an officer will be deputed) from Takshasila also. When these Mahamatras will set out on tour, then, without neglecting their own duties, they will ascertain this as well, (viz.) whether (the judicial officers) are carrying out this also thus, as the instruction of the king (implies).
In Dhauli and Jaugada, on the east coast of India, in the recently conquered territory of Kalinga, Major Rock Edicts 11 to 13 were ommitted, but another seperate Edict was put in their place, the Second Separate Major Rock Edict, adressed to the officials of Tosali in the Dhauli Separate Edicts and of Somāpā in the Jaugada versions. The Second Separate Edict asks the local officials to try to convince "unconquered bordering tribes" that the intentions of Ashoka towards them are benevolent.
Whatever I recognize (to be right), that, and to accomplish by (various) means .......... my
As on behalf of (my own) children I desire that they may be provided with complete welfare and happiness in this world and in the other world, thus . . It might occur to (my) unconquered borderers (to ask): What does the king desire with reference to us? [This] alone is my wish with reference to the borderers, that they may learn that Devanampriya . . . . . f ... , that they may not be afraid of me, but may have confidence (in me); that they may obtain only happiness from me/ not misery; that they may [learn] this, that Devanampriya -will forgive them what can be forgiven; that they may (be induced) by me (to) practise morality; (and) that they may attain (happiness in) this world and (in) the other world. ...
For the following purpose I am instructing you, (viz. that) I may discharge the debt (which I owe to them) by this, that I instruct (you) and inform (you) of (my) will, my unshakable resolution and vow. Therefore, acting thus, (you) must fulfil (your) duty and must inspire confidence to them, in order that they may learn that Devanampriya is to them like a father, that Devanampriya loves them like himself, and that they are to Devanampriya like (his own) children. Therefore, having instructed (you), and having informed you of (my) will, I shall have (i. e, entertain) officers in (all) provinces for this object. For you are able to inspire confidence to those (borderers) and (to secure
their) welfare and happiness in this world and in the other world. And if (you) act thus, you will attain heaven, and will discharge the debt
(which you owe) to me.
And for the following purpose has this rescript been written here, (viz,) in order that the Mahamdtras may strive at all times to inspire confidence to those borderers (of mine) and (to induce them) to practise morality,
And this rescript must be listened to (by all) every four months on (the day of) the constellation Tishya. But if desired, it may be listened to even by a single (person) also on frequent (other) occasions between (the days of) Tishya. If (you) act thus, you will be able to carry out (my orders).