The scene opens in Ashoka's many-pillared hall in his place at Pataliputra (dug up in Nehru's time in an incredible state of preservation). Ashoka, grandson of Chandragupta succeeded to the great Magadha Empire around 273 BC. Already the empire included a far greater part of India and extended right intoCentral Asia, Of Ashoka Nehru quotes hg wells approvingly: Amidst the tens of thousands of names and monarchs that crowd the columns of history... the nameof Ashoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star from the Volga to japan his name is still honoured. China, Tibet, and even India , though it has left his doctrine,preserve the tradition of his reeatness...
There is a discussion in the royal court of Bindusar about the wisdom of Ashoka continuing as a prince, as a viceroy in the north-western province of whichTaxila, the university centre, was the capital. There is some confidential information on the incipient feud between the designed Yuvraj (heir apparent) Sushima and Ashoka related to their incumbency to throne after the imminent demise of the ailing king.the prime minister assesses the espionage report on revolt in Taxila and sends Sushima there, Ashoka is at Ujjain meeting the business-leader there for possible support and obtaining his charming daughter for matrimony. There is an appeal for grant of land to build a Buddhistmonastery which finds ready support with ashoka, notwithstanding some Brahminical resistance. There are complaints about multiple taxation incurred by the business community which Ashoka solves gaining their confidence.
The sick Emperor Biudusar is worried about quelling the Taxila unrest and is keen to call Sushima to Pataliputra to make him the heir-apparent. Ashoka anticipates the royal mind and ignoring a command to proceedto Taxila, turns up in the capital. By another slight of hand, he declares him as Raj-Pratinidhi(the royal representative) even before Sushimagets a chance. The feud for succession now hots up and the bed-ridden emperor can do precious little. By planning well ahead Sushima's return route to Patliputra is obstructed by an outwardly polite Ashoka and Sushima's plot for a frontal attack next morning is nipped in the bud by a swift assassination. The other princes, who could possibly prove recalcitrant, are also swiftly eliminated The way of Ashoka to his gloried destination is appreciably clear.