Bharat Ek Khoj

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Ashoka Part-ll
(Episode 14)

Ashoka is now the Emperor and is relaxing with a vina recital in court. There is an interruption by the Buddhist emissaries from Ujjain on a tiding of gratitude for the nearly-completed monastery. The fun-loving youngest prince Tissa is disrectful to the visitors and makes matters worse by joucularly climbing on the imperial throne. The vaxed Ashoka gives him capital punishment for the fross misdemeanour and mitigates it by granting a reprieve of seven days on the 'throne' with boundless merriment! Tissa, already under a Damocles' sword, hardly enjoys the reprieve and, when finally pardoned, seeks solace in Buddhism.

As Nehru notes, only the southeast and a part of the south were beyond the empire's way. The old dream of uniting the whole of India under one supreme government fired Ashoka. On the news of skirmishes againt the business community by the small Kalinga-rulers and disruptions in trade, Ashoka mounted an all out attack on Kalinga on the east coast and, despite brave resistance by the independent people of Kalinga, his armis triumphed. There was terrible slaughter in this war, as officially recoeded in one of Ashoka's edict, cited by Nehru: Kalinga was conquered..150,000 persons were thence carried away as captive: 100,000 were slain many times that died...thus arose His Sacred Majesty's remorse for having conquered the Kalinga, because the conquest of a country previously unconquered involves the slaughter, death and carrying away captive of the people, that is a matter of profound sorrow and regret...

A highly paenitent Ashoka, goes out to re-call his missing brother Tissa. Traveling over hills deals, the emperor locates Tissa's monastery, but the monk-brother declines to return, saying he has discovered the ultimate Truth in his new reclusive life under Buddha's teaching. Ashoka dons monk's robe himself and both brother devote themselves to the spred of Tathagata's gospels of righteousness and goodwill. Ashoka creates public works for the people by digging wells, building roads and hospitals, and planting trees. He creates a unique communication system, by issuing numerous edicts carved rock and metal spread out all over India. These edicts that are still with us, exhort the cause of eduction, show respect for all faiths, prohibit animal sacrifice and encourage abstention alcoholic. Above all, he makes himself available at any hour and at any place to work for the commonwealth.

As we see, an ardent Ashoka sends his own son and daughter, Mahendra and Sanghamita, to Sri Lanka conveying his greeting and Buddha's message. Nehru records how his ambassadors went to Syria, Egypt, Macedonia, Cyrene and Epirus making an appeal to the mind and the heart. There was no compulsion. His messengers went to Central Asia also, beside Myanmar and Cambodia. Because of the growth of foreign contacts and missionary enterprises trade between India and other countries also grew.