|The Kalinga War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Ashoka the Great||Rani Padmavati (presumed)|
|Total 400,000||60,000 infantry,
700 war elephants
|Casualties and losses|
|100,000||200,000+ (exaggerated figures by Ashoka himself)
The Kalinga War was fought between the Mauryan Empire with Ashoka the Great and the ruler of the state of Kalinga, a feudal republic located on the coast of the present-day Indian state of Odisha and northern parts of Andhra Pradesh. The Kalinga war, the only major war Ashoka fought after his accession to throne, is one of the major and bloodiest battles in world history. Kalinga, then an Independent region put up a stiff resistance against brutal strength of Ashoka and fought bravely till the end. But despite being tough, they were outnumbered against Ashoka's armies. The bloodshed of this war is said to have prompted Ashoka to adopt Buddhism. However, he retained Kalinga after its conquest and incorporated it into the Maurya Empire.
The main reasons for invading Kalinga were both political and economic. Kalinga is then said to be a glorious and prosperous region consisting of freedom loving and artistic skilled peoples. The Kalinga Kingdom, also known as the "Utkala" were the first from the Bharata(present day India) who traveled offshore to South East for Trade. They use to follow open culture and uniform civil code.  Since the time of Ashoka's father, King Bindusara, the Mauryan Empire based in Magadha was following a policy of territorial expansion. Kalinga was under Magadha control during the Nanda rule, but regained independence with the beginning of the rule of the Mauryas. That was considered a great setback for the traditional policy of territorial expansion of the Magadhan emperors and was considered to be a loss of political prestige for the Mauryas merely imperative to reduce Kalinga to complete subjection. To this task Ashoka must have set himself as soon as he felt he was securely established on the throne.
Course of the war
As Ramesh Prasad Mohapatra remarks, "No war in the history of India as important either for its intensity or for its results as the Kalinga war of Ashoka. No wars in the annals of the human history has changed the heart of the victor from one of wanton cruelty to that of an exemplary piety as this one. From its fathomless womb the history of the world may find out only a few wars to its credit which may be equal to this war and not a single one that would be greater than this. The political history of mankind is really a history of wars and no war has ended with so successful a mission of the peace for the entire war-torn humanity as the war of Kalinga." The war began in the 8th year of Ashoka's reign, probably in 261 BC. Ashoka's grandfather Chandragupta had previously attempted to conquer Kalinga, but had been repulsed. After a bloody battle for the throne after Bindusara's death, Ashoka tried to annex Kalinga. Ashoka was successful only after a savage war, whose consequences changed Ashoka's views on war and led him to pledge never to wage a war of conquest.
It is said that in the aftermath of the Battle of Kalinga the Daya River at Bhubaneswar running next to the battle field turned red with the blood of the slain; more than 150,000 Kalinga warriors and about 100,000 of Ashoka's own warriors were among those slain.
Ashoka had seen the bloodshed with his own eyes and felt that he was the cause of the destruction. The whole of Kalinga was plundered and destroyed. Ashoka's later edicts state that about 100,000 people were killed on the Kalinga side and almost equal number of Ashoka's army, though legends among Odiyas(present day Descendants of Kalinga's Natives) believes that it was highly exaggerated by Ashoka. As per the legends, Kalinga Armies caused twice the destruction it would have received. Thousands of men and women were deported. Ashoka after seeing this was filled with sorrow and remorse.
Ashoka's response to the Kalinga War is recorded in the Edicts of Ashoka. The Kalinga War prompted Ashoka, already a non-engaged Buddhist, to devote the rest of his life to Ahimsa (non-violence) and to Dharma-Vijaya (victory through Dharma). Following the conquest of Kalinga, Ashoka ended the military expansion of the empire, and led the empire through more than 40 years of relative peace, harmony and prosperity.
- "Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Priyadarsi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dharma, a love for the Dharma and for instruction in Dharma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas." Rock Edict No.13
According to oral histories, a woman approached him and said, "Your actions have taken from me my father, husband, and son. Now what will I have left to live for?" Moved by these words, it is said, that he accepted/adopted Buddhism, and vowed to never take life again.
- Pliny the Elder (77 AD), Natural History VI, 22.1, quoting Megasthenes (3rd century BC), Indika, Fragm. LVI.
- Ashoka the Great (r. 272–231 BC), Edicts of Ashoka, Major Rock Edict 13.
- Radhakumud Mookerji (1988). Chandragupta Maurya and His Times. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 81-208-0405-8.
- "Detail History of Odisha".
- Ramesh Prasad Mohapatra(1986) Page 10. Military History of Orissa. Cosmo Publications, New Delhi ISBN 81-7020-282-5
- Kalinga (India) formed part of the Nanda Empire but subsequently broke free until it was re-conquered by Ashoka Maurya, c. 260 BCE. (Raychaudhuri & Mukherjee 1996, pp. 204-209, pp. 270-271)
- Ramesh Prasad Mohapatra (1986) Page 12. Military History of Orissa. Cosmo Publications, New Delhi ISBN 81-7020-282-5
- S. Dhammika, The Edicts of King Ashoka, Kandy, Buddhist Publications Society (1994) ISBN ISBN 955-24-0104-6 (on line)