The Edicts of Emperor Ashoka - Do they have any relevance in this present discordant world?
The Edits (a collection of more than thirty inscriptions on the pillars,  boulders and cave walls)  of Ashoka, the third monarch of the Mauryan dynasty in India (reign  268 to 232 B.C) was one of the most  important archaeological discoveries ever made. Equally  significant was the discovery of the meaning of such edits in the 19th Century. The edits show Emperor's commitment to ''Peace'' and ''Dhamma''
Edicts of Ashoka,

Had these edicts in  the Brahmi characters not  been systematically studied,  deciphered or decoded  by the British archaeologist and an official of the East India Company, James Princep  along with Major Cunningham  in 1837, Emperor Ashoka would have gone down in Indian history as just a great ruler of ancient India and  his valuable message on the crux of life - peace, tolerance, justice and equality, and his astonishing  ability to foresee  events ahead of his time would have gone  unnoticed till now. 

Edicts of Ashoka.

After the death of Ashoka his edits were forgotten and the pillars and rock edicts lay buried and ignored or a long time. That the long  cultural lacuna caused as a result of ignorance of  Ashoka's edits in a different script  for  over a millennium until  the 19th century  is deplorable and a sad history.  Mostly written in the Brahmi script  and deciphered centuries later, it took another  70 long years to find out its author was Emperor  Ashoka. Till then   historians had no idea about the author.   Later they found out the reference  Devanampiya  Piyadassi (“Beloved of the Gods” and “Gracious of Mien”)  was actually Emperor Asoka.

Ashoka's inscription, Kandahar, Afghanistan

Above image: Ashoka's inscription, Kandahar, Afghanistan; bilingual inscription in Greek and Aramaic260 BCE, 10th year of his reign.

After the ghastly  Kalinga war in 261 B.C the realization came upon him that overwhelming power was no match for tolerance and peace in a society. It was a complete  metamorphosis for the emperor who was  fearful warrior in terms of  attitude and outlook on life. Originally a Hindu Monarch, he converted to Buddhism and renounced violence and preached peace and equal rights. Death and displacement of tens of thousands of innocent people and families in the wake of war had changed his heart and soul. 

An Edict is said to be an official order or proclamation issued by a person in authority or a king and Ashoka through the edicts - 120 of them  describe in detail his view on  ''Dhamma'' _ the Prakrit form of the Sanskrit Dharma, a dedicated effort to solve some of the problems that a complex society faced. The inscriptions  are of two kinds - one addressed to the  the Buddhist  Sangha, the other being to the populace.  His edicts are quite  informative about Ashoka’s belief in peace, righteousness, Justice, equality and his concern for the welfare of the people  He kept the edits visible at the vantage places where people were likely to congregate in large numbers. Emperor had the edicts  inscribed on the polished sandstone pillars, boulders and cave walls where the visitors would notice. This idea of issuing decrees - a sort of publicity, it is believed was borrowed from Darius (rulers of Persia).  The Major Rock Edicts and Major Pillar Edicts are basically moral and political in nature: they never mention Buddhism. The major rock edits cove general subject of running a kingdom giving importance to civil work and peaceful attitude of  people. The minor rock  and pillar edits cover the principles of Buddhism, but the ruler never preached. 

Several historians are appreciative of Ashoka's edits and the intended ethical values that are frozen in his  edits. A good example is the Wheel of Law taken from Ashoka's pillar edict which is our national symbol. 

Ashoka, with a view to spreading the message of Lord Buddha made a collection of 33 inscriptions on the Pillars of Ashoka during his reign from 269 BCE to 232 BCE. 'The Rock Edicts'' was the first primary evidence of  how Buddhism had begun to spread far and wide under the patronage of  many popular rulers.

Besides religion, edicts  also dealt with  valuable instructions  to run  kingdom effectively with better  irrigation systems etc.,  and  peaceful moral behavior of  the administrators

These inscriptions, spread across  neighboring  counties like  Nepal, Afghanistan, etc.,  provide amble evidence about the growth of  Buddhism in these places.  In India, rock edicts are  found in  Kalsi, Uttarakhand; Sopara, Maharashtra; Mount Girnar, Gujarat; Yerragudi, Andhra Pradesh; Dhauli, Orissa; Jaugada, Orissa

The inscriptions found in the eastern parts of Mauryan empire are written in the Brahmi script in  Magadhi language. As for those in neighboring Gandhara they  are in Kharoshthi along with Aramaic script of the Greek lands.
Emperor Ashoka emphasized the importance of ethics in life, Dhamma and non-violence. There is no evidence that he ignored the role military in the administration and  he had to face threats from invaders. 

In the present unpalatable situation  on the global level  the humanity faces threats from many corners, war between  countries, religious terrorism, border provocation, natural calamity, etc., and on the  national and family level people are facing, domestic violence,  insecurity, communal and class conflicts,  corruption, nepotism, etc. will Ashoka's edicts act as panacea? 

The new discovery of an inscription on a rock inside a cavern on the hillock of Jambai, a village in the South Arcot district of Tamil Nadu, throws light on the  link between Ashoka and the Tamil country. In his edicts he mentioned about  a dynasty of rulers called the Satyaputras  -  a chieftain whom emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.C.E, calls one of his neighbors. Refer to: (

The earliest stone inscription on Kerala is the Edicts of Ashoka (BC 274-237). Kerala is referred to as "Keralaputho" (meaning Kerala Puthra) - Ashoka pillars 2nd and 13th.  It is worthy of mention that the old Kerala is not mentioned as  "Cheram" while "Cholas" and the "Pandyas" are named as such.