- January 13, 2022
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
Subject – History
Context – JDU seeks action against BJP leader who likened Ashok to Aurangzeb
- Many historians consider Ashoka as one of the greatest kings of the ancient world.
- His policy of Dhamma has been a topic of lively discussion among scholars. The word ‘Dhamma’ is the Prakrit form of the Sanskrit word ‘Dharma’.
- Dhamma has been variously translated as piety, moral life, righteousness and so on, but the best way to understand what Ashoka means by Dhamma is to read his edicts.
- The edicts were written primarily to explain to the people throughout the empire the principles of Dhamma.
- Dhamma was not any particular religious faith or practice; so, we should not translate Dhamma (or its Sanskrit equivalent Dharma) as religion.
- The principles of Dhamma were so formulated as to be acceptable to people belonging to different communities and followers of any religious sect.
- Dhamma was not given any formal definition or structure.
- It emphasised on toleration and general behaviour. Dhamma stressed on dual toleration; it emphasised on toleration of people themselves and also toleration of their various beliefs and ideas. There is a stress on the notion of showing consideration towards slaves and servants; there is stress also on obedience to elders; generosity towards the needy, brahmanas and sramanas, etc.
- Ashoka also pleaded for tolerance of different religious sects in an attempt to create a sense of harmony.
- The policy of Dhamma also laid stress on non-violence. Non-violence was to be practised by giving up war and conquests and also as a restraint on the killing of animals. However, Ashoka realized that a certain display of his political might may be necessary to keep the primitive forest tribes in check.
- The policy of Dhamma also included certain welfare measures like planting of trees, digging of wells, etc. Ashoka attacked ceremonies and sacrifices practised regularly on various occasions as meaningless.
- A group of officers known as the Dhamma-mahamattas were instituted to implement and publicize the various aspects of Dhamma. Ashoka thrust a very heavy responsibility on them to carry his message to the various sections of the society. However, they seem gradually to have developed into a type of priesthood of Dhamma with great powers and soon began to interfere in politics as well.
- Rock Edict XIII is of paramount importance in understanding the policy of Dhamma because it is a testament against war. It graphically depicts the tragedy of war and shows why Ashoka turned against it. It is a unique event in the annals of the ancient world because we do not know of any other contemporary monarch who renounced war. Ashoka embarked on the policy of Dhamma after this war.
Examples of Mauryan Art
The most important examples of Mauryan art include:
1) Remains of the royal palace and the city of Pataliputra
2) A monolithic railing at Sarnath
3) The excavated chaitya halls or cave dwellings in the Barabar-Nagarjuni group of hills in Gaya.
4) The non-edict bearing and edict bearing pillars with their capitals.
5) The front half of an elephant carved in round from a live rock in Dhauli in Odisha.
Pataliputra, the Mauryan capital bears the stamp of Imperial art. According to Megasthenes, the city of Pataliputra was about fifteen kilometers long, two and a half kilometres in width, and was surrounded by a moat that measured about two hundred meters wide and fifteen meters deep. The ramparts of the city had sixty-four gates and some five hundred and seventy towers. Excavations have unearthed a small portion of the ancient city as most of it is occupied by modern habitation. In addition, most of the structures were probably made of wood and brick which did not survive the floods and vagaries of time.
Edits and Pillars
Mauryan pillars are free standing, tall, well proportionate, with tapering shafts and monolithic in nature. They are made of sandstone which was quarried at Chunar. The pillars have a lustrous polish. They do not have a base. The capital is joined to the tapering end of the shaft with a cylindrical bolt. The capital is in the shape of inverted lotus (often referred to as the bell capital). On top of it is an abacus (platform) which finally supports an animal carved in round. The columns that carry Ashokan inscriptions are those of DelhiMirat, Allahabad, Lauriya-Araraj, Lauriya-Nandangarh, Rampurva (with lion capital), Delhi-Topara, Sankisya, Sanchi and Sarnath. The non-edict bearing columns include those of Rampurva (with a bull capital), BasarhBakhira (with a single lion capital), and Kosam. Columns bearing dedicatory inscriptions have been found at Rummendei and Nigali Sagar. Of these, the capitals of Lauriya-Nandangarh and Basarh-Bakhira are in situ.
As far as the crowned animals are concerned, the LauriyaNandangarh and Basarh-Bakhira, and one of the Rampurva pillars has a surmounted lion seated on its hunches; the Sankisya pillar supports a standing elephant; the second Ramapurva pillar, a standing bull; Sarnath and Sanchi columns, four lions sitting back to back. The Lauriya-Araraj column may have had a Garuda capital. Except for the horse, the other symbols are very much present in early Brahmanical imagery
|Made up of number of pieces
|Part of some larger architectural scheme
|Bell shape at the top
|Bell shape at the bottom
|Without support base
|With support base
Monolithic Railing at Sarnath
A polished fragment of a monolithic railing at Sarnath is assigned to the Mauryan period. It is made of polished Chunar sand stone. It compares well with the Bharhut railing. It is copied from wooden contemporary originals. The plinth or the ‘alambana’, the uprights or the ‘stambhas’, the horizontal bars or the ‘suchis’ and the coping stone or the ‘ushnisha’ have all been carved from a single monolithic stone
At Dhauli (Bhubaneshwara, Odisha), there is a rock sculpture of the front part of an elephant. It has a heavy trunk which curls gracefully inwards. His right front leg is slightly tilted and the left one slightly bent, suggesting forward movement. Its naturalistic stance, powerful portrayal in stone is very impressive and gives the feeling that the elephant is walking out of the rock.
Rock Cut Caves
The Mauryan period saw the beginning of rock cut architecture. The caves are located in the Nagarjuni and Barabar hills to the north of Bodhgaya. Three caves in Barabar hills have dedicatory inscriptions of Ashoka and three in the Nagarjuni hills have inscriptions of his successor Dasaratha. The exteriors of the caves are very plain. However, the interiors are polished to a high degree. The earliest of these caves is Sudama cave which contains an inscription dated to the 12th regnal year of Ashoka and is dedicated to the Ajivika sect.