Discovering Pakistan

5, 000 years of Civilization & Culture

Ashoka the Great’s Rock Edicts

Ashoka, the third monarch of the Maurya Empire, ruled the Indian subcontinent between 269 and 232 BCE. Regarded as one of India’s greatest rulers, Ashoka converted to Buddhism after waging a bloody military campaign in Kalinga (modern Orissa in India).  He reformed the administrative and judicial systems of the Empire, initiated useful public works, and replaced the previously aggressive foreign policy by one of peaceful co-existence. Through Ashoka’s endorsement, the Buddhist faith spread to every corner of the Indian subcontinent and beyond, to Sri Lanka, South East Asia, even Egypt and Macedonia.

Ashoka left behind a large number of edicts, inscribed on rocks and pillars all over the Empire, reflecting on his Buddhist beliefs. Till the time that the Indus Valley script is deciphered, Ashoka’s edicts represent the earliest irrefutable evidence of writing in South Asia.

Below is the text of a Major Rock Edict found in Shahbazgarhi, in Pakistan’s Peshawar Valley. The Peshawar Valley and Potohar Plateau in Pakistan formed the heartland of ancient Gandhara, which became a thriving center of Buddhist learning and culture following Ashoka’s conversion. The original Shahbazgarhi inscriptions are written in the Prakrit language using Kharosthi script, reminiscent of Achaemenid rule in the region, while the English translation below is taken from the book “Concise History of Ancient India Volume 1” by A.K. Majumdar.

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