Samrat Ashoka – History, Biography, & Family

Ashoka was a great Samrat India ever had in the 3rd Century from c. 268 to 232 BCE. He belonged to the Maurya Dynasty who ruled a larger part of India. He was the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya who was the founder of the Maurya empire. Samrat Ashoka is one of the great personality India ever had who shaped the history of India fantastically.

His empire extended from present-day Afghanistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east. His capital was Pataliputra(Patna). In India, only the present parts of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala were not under his realm. In short, he ruled parts of India, Persia and South Asia.

There was also a movie which was based on Samrat Ashoka.

Early Life 

Emperor Ashoka was born to the King Bindusara and Queen Subhadrangī in c 304 BCE in Pataliputra (Patna, Bihar).  

The Samrat was a great commander who successfully stopped the revolt that happened in Ujjain and Taxila. During the king Bindusara time, Emperor Ashoka was the governor of Ujjain. 

The only brother which was a strong contender for the thrown was Susima. Susima was his half brother but was eventually killed by the Ashoka. According to some historical facts, Susima killed Ashoka’s mother Bindusara and this was the reason why Ashok killed Susima to avenge the death of his mother.

The Kalinga War

The Kalinga conquest was one of the bloodiest war that was fought in the history of the Indian subcontinent. Kalinga was a kingdom having a monarchical parliamentary democracy system. It was the kingdom that was failed to be conquered even by Emperor Ashoka’s grandfather Chandragupta Maurya and his father Bindusara. 

Ashoka wanted to fulfil his grandfather’s and father’s dream of making Kalinga a part of their mighty Mauryan empire. Capturing Kalinga was strategically very important. It could have been a hazard in the smooth connection between Paltliputra and its central part of India. Also, Kalinga was having ports and a strong navy that was controlling the Bay of Bengal. 

The result of the war was the victory of the Mauryan Empire. However, huge destructions and bloodshed were caused by Kalinga. 

Around 150,000 of the Kalinga force died. All the rivers were filled with blood, all the establishments were either destructed completely or were on fire. It is said that besides the  Kalinga army, even the citizens sacrificed their life for their kingdom. 

By seeing so many deaths, Ashoka was feeling guilty and thus he started preaching non-violence and peace. For this, he chose the principles of Buddhism and started preaching it in his kingdom as well as in the neighbouring kingdoms. Missionaries were sent to Macedonia, Greece, Syria and Sri Lanka.

Ashoka and Buddhism

The life-changing event that made Ashoka be honoured with the title- “Priyadarśin” (He who loves everyone) is the destruction which he saw after the battle of Kalinga. This made him a preacher of non-violence and peace. This was the war which made him a follower of Buddhism. Not only he became a follower of it but he also spread Buddhism and non-violence across India as well as in other parts of the world.

 He prohibited forced labour and he also banned all violent sports like animal hunting. He constructed many stupas over India to spread Buddhism and harmony. Samrat Ashoka established hospitals in his kingdoms for humans and animals. He provided medical assistance to the neighbouring countries as well. He made good roads and also constructed wells side to the roads so that travellers thirst would be catered. 

The emperor constructed a pillar at Sarnath’s Gautam Buddha’s temple. The pillar was known as Lion Capital and this pillar, later on, was made the State Emblem of India. Even the Indian flag has an Ashoka chakra having 24 spokes on its centre. Out of the 24 spokes, 12 spokes depicts the laws of dependent termination and the other 12 spokes depicts 12 Laws of Dependent Origination.

Stupas constructed by Samrat Ashoka

Samrat Ashoka contributed a lot in the construction of the Stupas. The Sanchi Stupa that was constructed by him is today a part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

  • Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh.
  • Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh
  • Mahabodhi Temple, Bihar
  • Barabar Caves, Bihar
  • Nalanda University, Bihar
  • Taxila University, Taxila, Pakistan
  • Bhir Mound, Taxila, Pakistan
  • Bharhut stupa, Madhya Pradesh
  • Deorkothar Stupa, Madhya Pradesh
  • Butkara Stupa, Swat, Pakistan
  • Sannati Stupa, Karnataka
  • Mir Rukun Stupa Nawabshah, Pakistan

Family Background

Ashoka’s Father, Mother and Brothers

Samrat Ashoka was the grandson of the great Emperor Chandragupta Maurya who was the founder of the Maurya Empire. King Ashoka’s father was Emperor Bindusara and his mother was Queen Subhadrangī. Vitashok was the real brother of Ashoka. Emperor Ashoka had more than 100 brothers ( Including both his brothers and his half-brothers ). 

Ashoka’s Wives

It is said that Ashoka had 5 spouses namely – Devi, Karuvaki, Asandhimitra, Padmavati and Tishyarakshita. 

Ashoka married his first wife Devi at the age of 18. Ashoka met Devi-daughter of a merchant in Avanti, Ujjain. During that time Ashoka was a prince and their marriage was a love marriage.

Ashoka’s 2nd marriage was also a love marriage where he falls in love with the daughter of fishermen when he was living a life of exile because of a political conspiracy that his stepmother played against him. His 2nd wife name was Kaurwaki.

Ashoka’s 3rd wife was Padmavati and she belonged to a royal family. She died at a very early age.

Ashoka’s 4th wife was Asandhimitra who belonged to Assandhivat kingdom. This was an arranged marriage that took place for political purpose. And as this marriage took place after prince Ashoka becoming the king Ashoka, she was given the title of the chief queen.

Ashoka’s 5th wife was Tishyaraksha who was a servant to his 4th wife Asandhimitra. Ashoka felt in love with Tishyarakhsa after the death of Asandhimitra when she took great care of him. 

Ashoka’s Children

He had 6 children namely – Mahinda, Sangamitta, Kunala, Charumati, Jaluka, and Tivala. 

Mahinda and Sanghamitra were kids of Ashoka and his first wife Devi. Tivala was the son from Ashoka’s 2nd wife Kaurwaki. 

Kunala was the son from his 3rd wife Padmavati. Ashoka’s 4th wife Asandhimitra didn’t bore any child hence she took care of Kunala after Padmavati’s death. Charumati was not born to any of Ashoka’s queen. Charumati was born through a concubine. However, she was adopted by the Queen Asandhimitra.

After the great Kalinga war, he sent his son Mahinda (Mahendra) and daughter Sanghamitra to spread Buddhism and its principles in Ceylon- Presently called as Sri Lanka. 

Life Timeline

  • 309 BCE – Ashoka was born.
  • 286 BC – Ashoka became the Viceroy of Avanti.
  • 268 BCE – Ashoka was Coronated as the Samrat of Maurya Empire.
  • 261 BCE – Samrat Ashoka wins the great Kalinga war.
  • 260-232 BCE – Samrat Ashoka started sending Buddhist missionaries over the world.
  • 232 BCE – Samrat Ashoka dies.

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