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Asoka (R. 273–226 BCE)

Asoka was a great emperor of ancient India who had both Hindu and Buddhist sensibilities and left an indelible imprint on ancient world civilization. His policy of dharma (Sanskrit) or dhamma (Prakrit) was not religion in its traditional sense. It connoted a righteous path and piety. The son of the Mauryan emperor Bindusara (r. 298–273 BCE) and Queen Subhadrangi, Asoka embraced Buddhism after the famous Kalinga War of 261 BCE. A transformation took place, and he became Dharmasoka (“Righteous Asoka”) from Chandasoka (“Cruel Asoka”). The wanton destruction and causalities of the war moved the Emperor. He eschewed digvijaya (“victory by war”) for dhamma vijaya (“moral conquest”). His path of self-righteousness based on moral and ethical principles was in conformity with Indian religions. Albeit inspired ...

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