Did King Ashoka fight wars after converting to Buddhism?

By Sunil Kumar

This question is interesting but open to speculation. According to books I’ve read recently; the whole story of Ashoka becoming a pacifist after converting to Buddhism is open to debate.

According to some historians; Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism predated the famous Kalinga war; and it was more a question of succession rather than the famous missionary zeal, remorse and the profound influence of the Buddha(a very great personality with due respect).

Excerpts from this link;

This excerpt from a new book recasts Emperor Ashoka reputation as a pacifist

“All accounts agree that Ashoka’s early rule was brutal and unpopular, and that he was known as ‘Chandashoka’ or Ashoka the Cruel. According to mainstream textbook narratives, however, Ashoka would invade Kalinga(present-day Odisha) a few years later and, shocked by the death and destruction, would convert to Buddhism and become a pacifist.

The reader will be surprised to discover that the popular narrative about this conversion is based on little evidence. Ashoka would invade Kalinga in 262 BC whereas we know from minor rock edicts that Ashoka had converted to Buddhism more than two years earlier. No Buddhist text links his conversion to the war and even Ashoka’s eulogists like Charles Allen agree that his conversion predated the Kalinga war. Moreover, he seems to have had links with Buddhists for a decade before his conversion. The evidence suggests that his conversion to Buddhism was more to do with the politics of succession than with any regret he felt for sufferings of war.”

Ashoka died in 232 B.C; nearly 30 years after the Kalinga conversion. He ruled a vast territory from present-day Afghanistan in the West to Bangladesh in the east; upto the South except for parts of Tamil Nadu; Karnataka and Kerala. Most of the historical narrative about him is from Buddhist sources; perceptions and his rock edicts. With such a vast empire at his disposal; there may have been minor battles to keep a few chieftains in check; but the most major large-scale battle is still believed to be the Kalinga war.

This entry was posted in Books, Culture, History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *