Ashok was one of the two great emperors of India. He reigned for about 40 years after he became ruler of Magadh in 272 B.C.
He was the first king to educate his men and lead them to the path of truth. He was the only military man who gave up warfare.
Ashok was the grandson of Chandra Gupta who founded the Maurya Empire. The name of his father was Bindusar.
Ashok was brought up in ‘Patliputra, the capital of Magadh. In the name of education he was taught things that would supply learning, culture and wealth.
It is said that as a child he was very furious. But after he had acceeded throne, there was a complete change in his nature.
About the year 262 B.C. he decided to make an attack on the kingdom of Kalinga now called Orissa. He fought a bloody war after a great slaughter of men, women and children, he conquered Kalinga and added it to his empire.
But he had not the cruel heart of a conqueror. The sight of terrible ruin filled his mind with horror.
The sufferings and bloodshed in the war had a great effect on his mind. At that time, he met a great Budh preacher named Upagupt.
The teachings of Upagupt brought about a complete change in his life and character. He made Buddhism the state religion. He made up his mind to establish an empire on love, order and peace.
Buddhism made him a lover of all forms of life. He built hospitals for men and animals He banned animal sacrifice in his great empire.
He sent missionaries to Tibet and China, Burma, Ceylon and Deccan to spread Buddhism. He began to practise the law of piety.
He taught people in that law. He himself put on Yellow robe of a monk. He made China, Tibet, Japan, Ceylon and some other countries to follow Buddhism.
He made 14 principles of law to make his people happy. He got them engraved on rocks and pillars throughout the empire.
They are known as edicts of Ashok. They taught the people to be truthful, honest, dutiful, non-violent and obedient.
Ashok was a man of character. This is clear from the fact that he kept peace in war-loving age. He adopted Buddhism. As a king he was just and kind. He spent his life in the service of people.