Major Rock Edicts

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Major Rock Edicts of Ashoka
Ashoka Rock Edict at Junagadh.jpg
Ashoka's Rock Edict at Junagadh.
Material Rocks
Created 3rd century BCE
Present location India, Pakistan, Afghanistan

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.[1] For a full English translation of the Edicts: [1]. These edicts are preceded chronologically by the Minor Rock Edicts.

History[edit]

Ashoka was the third monarch of the Maurya Empire in India, reigning from around 269 BCE.[2] 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.[2]

List of Major Rock edicts[edit]

The Dhauli Major Rock Inscription of Ashoka. The front is shaped as an elephant. Dhauli, Puri District, India.

The major rock edits of Ashoka include:[3]

Rock Edict I
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.[4]
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."
The Kandahar Greek Edict of Ashoka is a portion of a Major Rock Edict in Greek recovered in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1963.
Major Rock Edict VIII
Describes Asoka’s first Dhamma Yatra to Bodhgaya & Bodhi Tree.
Major Rock Edict IX
Condemns popular ceremonies. Stress in ceremonies of Dhamma.
Major Rock Edict X
Condemns the desire for fame and glory. Stresses on popularity of Dhamma.
Major Rock Edict XI
Elaborates Dhamma Major
Rock Edict XII
Directed and determined request for tolerance among different religious sects.
Also written in Greek in the Kandahar Greek Edict of Ashoka (last portion)
Major Rock Edict XIII
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[5]. 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:[6]
It also mentions the victory of Dhamma in south India among the Cholas and Pandyas, as far as Ceylon.
This edict was also written in Greek (probably together with all the other Major Rock Edicts I-XIV originally) in the Kandahar Greek Edict of Ashoka (first portion recovered).
Major Rock Edict XIV
Describes engraving of inscriptions in different parts of country.

Language of Inscriptions[edit]

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.

Other Edicts are written in Greek or Aramaic. The Kandahar Rock Inscription is bilingual Greek-Aramaic (but more often categorized as a Minor Rock Edict). The Kandahar Greek Edict of Ashoka is in Greek only, and originally probably contained all the Major Rock Edicts 1-14.

Ashoka's edicts were the first written inscriptions in India after the ancient city of Harrapa fell to ruin.[7]

Description of the Major Rock Edicts[edit]

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.[8]

Major Rock Edicts of Ashoka
Name Location and content Map Overview Rock Rubbing / Close-up
Kandahar Old Kandahar, Afghanistan.
End of Major Rock Edict 13 and beginning of Major Rock Edict 14
(in Greek).[9]
31°36′09″N 65°39′32″E / 31.602447°N 65.658843°E / 31.602447; 65.658843
Old Kandahar ruins.jpg Kandahar Greek inscription.jpg
Yerragudi Gooty, near Guntakal, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.
Major Rock Edicts 1-14.[9]
Minor Rock Edicts n°1 and n°2 are also present here .[9]
15°12′35″N 77°34′37″E / 15.209722°N 77.576944°E / 15.209722; 77.576944
Yerragudi Asoka Inscription.jpg Yerragudi Major Rock Edict.jpg అశోకుని ఎర్రగుడి శాసనం క్రీ పూ ౨౫౭.png
Girnar Girnar, Gujarat
Major Rock Edicts 1-14.[9] Navigable 3D view
21°31′30″N 70°28′46″E / 21.525075°N 70.479543°E / 21.525075; 70.479543
Ashok Shilalekh.jpg Ashoka Rock Edict at Junagadh.jpg Ashoka Edict Girnaar1.pngAshoka Edict Girnaar2.pngAshoka Edict Girnaar3.png
Dhauli The front is shaped as an elephant. Dhauli, Puri District, India.
Major Rock Edicts 1-10, 14, Separate Edict 1 & Separate Edict 2.[9] Navigable 3D view
20°11′21″N 85°50′33″E / 20.1891573°N 85.8425935°E / 20.1891573; 85.8425935
Dhauli ei02-61.jpg Dhauli ei02-63.jpg Ashoka edict dhauli2.pngAshoka edict dhauli1.pngAshoka edict dhauli3.png
Jaugada Jaugada, Odisha

Major Rock Edicts 1-10, 14, Separate Edicts 1&2.[9] Navigable 3D view
19°31′21″N 84°49′51″E / 19.522602°N 84.830885°E / 19.522602; 84.830885
Jaugada rock with Ashoka Major Rock Edict.jpg Jaugada rock inscription.jpg Ashoka edict jaugada1.pngAshoka edict jaugada2.pngAshoka edict jaugada3.png
Khalsi Khalsi, Dehradun District, Uttarakhand.
Major Rock Edicts 1 to 14.[9] Navigable 3D view
30°31′05″N 77°50′54″E / 30.5180°N 77.8482°E / 30.5180; 77.8482
Kalsi04.jpg Kalsi01.jpg Ashoka edict khalsi1.pngKhalsi rock edict of Ashoka.jpg
Sopara Nala Sopara, Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Palghar district, Maharashtra
Fragments of the 8th and 9th major rock edicts.[9] Inscribed on a free-standing stone.[10] 3D view
19°24′51″N 72°47′42″E / 19.4141529°N 72.7950626°E / 19.4141529; 72.7950626
Nalla sopara Stupa.jpg Soppara Ashoka Major Rock inscription.jpg Sopara Edict Grafix.jpg
Shahbazgarhi Shahbazgarhi, Mardan, Pakistan
Major Rock Edicts 1 to 14 (in the Kharoshthi script).[9]
34°13′25″N 72°09′56″E / 34.223676°N 72.165541°E / 34.223676; 72.165541
Rock is protected by shades.jpg A closer view of the rock.JPG Ashoka edict shahbaz-garhi1.pngAshoka edict shahbaz-garhi2.png
Mansehra Mansehra, Hazara, Pakistan
Major Rock Edicts 1 to 14 (in the Kharoshthi script).[9]
34°20′16″N 73°11′36″E / 34.337804°N 73.193420°E / 34.337804; 73.193420
Upper Boulder with Inscriptions.JPG The giant rocks of Ashoka.jpg Details of the Kharoshthi inscriptions on the lower rock.JPG
Sannati Sannati, Gulbarga, Karnataka
Major Rock Edicts 12, 14, separate edict replacing No.13.[9] Originally set on a standing stone, inscribed front and back.[11] Found (as building material) in Chandrala Parameswari Temple in Sannati.[12] Now relocated 3km away, near Kanaganahalli Stupa, where reliefs depicting Ashoka were found.
16°50′06″N 76°55′58″E / 16.835024°N 76.9328908°E / 16.835024; 76.9328908
Ashoka with his Queens at Sannati-Kanaganahalli Stupa.jpg An image

Content of the Edicts[edit]

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]

Major Rock Edict 1[edit]

Asoka’s prohition of festivals and respect of animal life.

Major Rock Edict 1
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

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).

— 1st Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.27. Public Domain.
Major Rocks Edict 1 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 2[edit]

Asoka’s providing of medical services, for human and animals, as well as herbs and fruit plants, to kings on his borders, including Hellenistic kings.

Major Rock Edict 2
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script
Aṃtiyoga Yona Rājā" ("The Greek king Antiochos"), namely Antiochus II, ruler of the Seleucid Empire, is mentioned in Major Rock Edict No.2, as a recipient of Ashoka's medical services. [13][4]

Everywhere in the dominions of king Devanampriya Priyadarsin and (of those) who (are his) borderers, such as the Chodas, the Pandyas, the Satiyaputa,[14] the Kelalaputa,[15] 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.

— 2nd Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.28. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict 2 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 3[edit]

Rules of morality and their implementation through Civil Servants.

Major Rock Edict 3
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

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.

— 3rd Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.29. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict 3 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 4[edit]

Rules of morality.

Major Rock Edict 4
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

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 morality.

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.

— 4th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.30. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict 4 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 5[edit]

Establishment and role of the Mahamatras.

Major Rock Edict 5
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

King Devanampriya Priyadarsin speaks (thus).

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.

— 5th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.32. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict No5 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 6[edit]

Ashoka' management of government affairs.

Major Rock Edict 6
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

King Devanampriya Priyadarsin speaks thus.

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.

— 6th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.34. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict No6 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 7[edit]

The importance of self-control, purity of mind, gratitude, and firm devotion.

Major Rock Edict 7
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

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.

— 7th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.34. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict No7 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 8[edit]

Morality tours by Ashoka.

Major Rock Edict 8
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script
Ashoka went to Bodh Gaya ("Sambodhi") in the 11th year of his reign.[16] Sanchi relief of the Bodhi tree.

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.

— 8th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.34. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict No8 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 9[edit]

Morality rather than ceremonies.

Major Rock Edict 9
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

King Devanampriya Priyadarsin speaks (thus).

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.

— 9th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.34. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict No9 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 10[edit]

Strive for merit.

Major Rock Edict 10
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

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).

— 10th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.34. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict No10 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 11[edit]

Morality, courtesy, meritorius deeds.

Major Rock Edict 11
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

King Devanampriya Priyadarsin speaks thus,

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.

— 11th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.34. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict No11 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 12[edit]

Respect other sects and not take pride in one's own.

Major Rock Edict 12
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

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.

— 12th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.34. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict No12 (Girnar)

Major Rock Edict 13[edit]

A Greek translation of Edicts 13 and 14, the Kandahar Greek Edict of Ashoka, was also discovered in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Content: Asoka’s victory in the Kalinga war followed by remorse. Victory of morality in India and among the Greeks (Yonas), as far as where the Greek kings Antiochus, Ptolemy, Antigonus, Magas and Alexander rule.[4]

The kings mentioned in Edict 13 as following the Dharma have been identified with the major Hellenistic rulers of the period:[6][4]

Major Rock Edict 13
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script
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.

According to Ashoka in Edict 13, the Dharma now triumphs from south India to the Hellenistic Mediterranean.[17][18]

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.

Likewise here in the king's territory, among the Yonas and Kambojas, among the Nabhakas and Nabhapanktis, among the Bhojas and Pitinikyas, among the Andhras and Paladas, everywhere (people) are conforming to Devanampriya's instruction in morality.

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 (value).

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.

— 13th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.43. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict 13 at Khalsi, with highlighted names of the Greek kings Antiochus, Ptolemy, Antigonus, Magas and Alexander.

Major Rock Edict 14[edit]

Objectives and modalities of inscriptions.

Major Rock Edict 14
English translation (Kalsi version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

These rescripts on morality have been caused to be written by king Devanampriya Priyadarsin either in an abridged (form), or of middle (size), or at full length,

For the whole was not suitable everywhere.

For (my) dominions are wide, and much has been written, and I shall constantly cause still (more) to be written.

And (some) of this has been stated again and again because of the charm of certain topics, (and) in order that men should act accordingly.

But some of this may have been written incompletely, either on account of the locality, or because (my) motive was not liked, or by the fault of the writer.

— 14th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.49. Public Domain.
Major Rock Edict No14 (Girnar).

First Separate Major Rock Edict[edit]

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.[19]

First Separate Major Rock Edict
English translation (Dhauli version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

At the word of Devanampriya, the Mahamatras at Tosali, (who are) the judicial officers of the city, have to be told (thus).

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).

— First Separate Rock Edict (Dhauli version). Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.95. Public Domain.
First Separate Rock Edict (Dhauli version).

Second Separate Major Rock Edict[edit]

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.

Second Separate Major Rock Edict
English translation (Dhauli version) Prakrit in Brahmi script

At the word of Devanampriya, the prince (governor) and the Mahamatras at Tosali have to be told (thus).

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).

— Second Separate Rock Edict (Dhauli version). Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857-1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.99. Public Domain.
Second Separate Rock Edict (Dhauli version).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "This excerpt from a new book demolishes Emperor Ashoka's reputation as a pacifist". 
  2. ^ a b c "The Edicts of King Ashoka". Archived from the original on 14 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  3. ^ Ashoka and the decline of the Mauryas
  4. ^ a b c d Kosmin, Paul J. (2014). The Land of the Elephant Kings. Harvard University Press. p. 57. ISBN 9780674728820. 
  5. ^ https://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/ashoka.html
  6. ^ a b Romila Thapar (1990). A History of India. Penguin Books Limited. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-14-194976-5. 
  7. ^ "The Life Of Ashoka Mauryan - His legacy". Archived from the original on 5 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  8. ^ "Fourteen Major Rock Edicts have been discovered at seven places along the borders of the territory that Asoka controlled" Hirakawa, Akira (1993). A History of Indian Buddhism: From Śākyamuni to Early Mahāyāna. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 96. ISBN 9788120809550. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k The Geopolitical Orbits of Ancient India: The Geographical Frames of the ... by Dilip K Chakrabarty p.32
  10. ^ Lahiri, Nayanjot (2015). Ashoka in Ancient India. Harvard University Press. p. 180. ISBN 9780674057777. 
  11. ^ Lahiri, Nayanjot (2015). Ashoka in Ancient India. Harvard University Press. p. 180. ISBN 9780674057777. 
  12. ^ Chugh, Lalit (2017). Karnataka's Rich Heritage – Temple Sculptures & Dancing Apsaras: An Amalgam of Hindu Mythology, Natyasastra and Silpasastra. Notion Press. p. 121. ISBN 9781947137363. 
  13. ^ Inscriptions of Asoka. New Edition by E. Hultzsch (in Sanskrit). 1925. p. 3. 
  14. ^ Seems to refer to Tamul ruler Athiyaman. Kumar, Raj (2003). Essays on Indian Society. Discovery Publishing House. p. 68. ISBN 9788171417100. 
  15. ^ Kelalaputa is the Prakrit for Kerala. Filliozat, Jean (1974). Laghu-Prabandhāḥ (in French). Brill Archive. p. 341. ISBN 9004039147. 
  16. ^ Kulkarni, S. D. (1990). INSCRIPTIONS OF AŚOKA : A REAPPRAISAL. pp. 305–309. 
  17. ^ Kosmin, Paul J. (2014). The Land of the Elephant Kings. Harvard University Press. p. 57. ISBN 9780674728820. 
  18. ^ Thomas Mc Evilly "The shape of ancient thought", Allworth Press, New York, 2002, p.368
  19. ^ Lahiri, Nayanjot (2015). Ashoka in Ancient India. Harvard University Press. p. 425 Note 40. ISBN 9780674915251. 

External links[edit]


Edicts of Ashoka
(Ruled 269-232 BCE)
Regnal years
of Ashoka
Type of Edict
(and location of the inscriptions)
Geographical location
Year 8 End of the Kalinga war and conversion to the "Dharma"
Year 10[1] Minor Rock Edicts Related events:
Visit to the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya[2]
Construction of the Mahabodhi Temple and Diamond throne in Bodh Gaya
Predication throughout India.
Dissenssions in the Sangha[2]
Third Buddhist Council
In Indian language: Sohgaura inscription
Erection of the Pillars of Ashoka
Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription
(in Greek and Aramaic, Kandahar)
Minor Rock Edicts in Aramaic:
Laghman Inscription, Taxila inscription
Year 11 and later Minor Rock Edicts (n°1, n°2 and n°3)
(Panguraria, Maski, Palkigundu and Gavimath, Bahapur/Srinivaspuri, Bairat, Ahraura, Gujarra, Sasaram, Rajula Mandagiri, Yerragudi, Udegolam, Nittur, Brahmagiri, Siddapur, Jatinga-Rameshwara)
Year 12 and later[1] Barabar Caves inscriptions Major Rock Edicts
Minor Pillar Edicts Major Rock Edicts in Greek:
Edicts n°12-13 in Greek
(Kandahar)
Major Rock Edicts in Indian language:
Edict No.1, Edict No.2, Edict No.3, Edict No.4, Edict No.5, Edict No.6, Edict No.7, Edict No.8, Edict No.9, Edict No.10, Edict No.11, Edict No.12, Edict No.13, Edict No.14
In Kharoshthi script:
Shahbazgarhi, Mansehra Edicts
In Brahmi script:
Kalsi, Girnar, Sopara, Sannati, Yerragudi, Delhi Edicts
Schism Edict, Queen's Edict
(Sarnath Sanchi Allahabad)
Rummindei Edict, Nigali Sagar Edict
Year 26, 27
and later[1]
Major Pillar Edicts
In Indian language:
Edict No.1 Edict No.2 Edict No.3 Edict No.4 Edict No.5 Edict No.6 Edict No.7
(Allahabad pillar Delhi pillar Topra Kalan Rampurva Lauria Nandangarh Lauriya-Araraj Amaravati)

Derived inscriptions in Aramaic, on rock:
Kandahar, Edict No.7[3][4] and Pul-i-Darunteh, Edict No.5 or No.7[5]

Year 32[2] Major Rock Edicts 1-10, 14, Separate Edicts 1&2:
Dhauli, Jaugada
  1. ^ a b c Yailenko,Les maximes delphiques d'Aï Khanoum et la formation de la doctrine du dhamma d'Asoka, 1990, pp.243.
  2. ^ a b c Gupta, The roots of Indian Art, p.351-357
  3. ^ Inscriptions of Asoka de D.C. Sircar p.30
  4. ^ Handbuch der Orientalistik de Kurt A. Behrendt p.39
  5. ^ Handbuch der Orientalistik de Kurt A. Behrendt p.39