Ancient Inscriptions: Sources of Mauryan history
Posted on : 02-02-2017

Evidence from ancient inscriptions

The Ashokan rock edicts were deciphered by James Princep in 1837. As these scripts were inscribed on rocks and pillars they are known as rock edicts or pillar edicts. These edicts were installed in al prominent places like major travel routes, near towns and religious places to catch the attention of the people.

In course of time many of the pillars were moved from their original places. For example, Topra and Meerut pillars were shifted to Delhi by Firoz Shah Tuglaq, Pillar at Kausambi was shifted to Allahabad and Bairat pillar was shifted to Calcutta by Cunningham.

These edicts were commonly in Prakrit language and Bramhi script. But in North West the script was Karosti whereas in Extreme west the script was Greek and Aramaic. The Edicts of Ashoka generally provide information on Administration, Religion, Ethics, Foreign and domestic policies and also about the extent of Mauryan Empire.

Major Rock Edicts: The Major rock edicts are total fourteen in number. They are called so as they are inscribed on large boulders. Major rock edicts represent the exposition of Ashoka’s government and ethical system. These edicts define the nature, scope and application of dhamma. The original location of the major rock edicts is given in the below table

In Kalinga, two separate edicts called Edicts XV and Edicts XVI are located. They are substitute for the three edicts namely,

* Edict XI on charity and kinship of mankind

* Edict XII on religious tolerance

* Edict XIII on Kalinga war and change of heart

Minor Rock Edicts: The minor edicts are concentrated in south and central parts of the Mauryan Empire. They are called so as they are inscribed on smaller boulders. These edicts highlight the activities of Ashoka as a Buddhist and also about Dhamma. The following table gives the information about the location of Minor rock edicts.

The minor rock edict found at Kandahar is bilingual and is inscribed in Greek and Aramaic scripts. The name Ashoka is clearly mentioned in the rock edicts at Maski, Gujjara, Nittur and Udegolam. The title most commonly adopted by Ashoka in his edicts is Devanampiya Piyadasi (Beloved gods). The latest discovery of three minor edicts is made from Sannati village, Karnataka.

Pillar Edicts: Originally there could have been many Pillar edicts but, only nineteen survive with inscriptions and seven survive with capitals. The stone of these pillars was transported from either Mathura or Chunar hills to different parts of the Empire. The pillar edict VII is considered to be the last edict issued by Ashoka. The following is the table giving information about few important pillar Edicts,

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