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(əsō`kə), d. c.232 B.C., Indian emperor (c.273–c.232 B.C.) of the MauryaMaurya
, ancient Indian dynasty, c.325–c.183 B.C., founded by Chandragupta (Chandragupta Maurya). He conquered the Magadha kingdom and established his capital at Pataliputra (now Patna). His son, Bindusara (d. c.
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 dynasty; grandson of ChandraguptaChandragupta
(Chandragupta Maurya) , fl. c.321 B.C.–c.298 B.C., Indian emperor, founder of the Maurya dynasty and grandfather of Asoka. He conquered the Magadha kingdom (in modern Bihar and Jharkhand) and eventually controlled all India N of the Vindhya Hills. In c.
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. One of the greatest rulers of ancient India, he brought nearly all India, together with Baluchistan and Afghanistan, under one sway for the first time in history. According to legends, after his bloody conquest (c.261 B.C.) of the state of Kalinga, Asoka was remorseful for the suffering he had inflicted; accepted BuddhismBuddhism
, religion and philosophy founded in India c.525 B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha. There are over 300 million Buddhists worldwide. One of the great world religions, it is divided into two main schools: the Theravada or Hinayana in Sri Lanka and SE Asia, and
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 and abandoned wars of conquest. Knowledge of Asoka's rule is obtained chiefly from the many boulders and pillars inscribed with his pious exhortations; a notable example is at SarnathSarnath
, archaeological site, SE Uttar Pradesh, India, 4 mi (6.4 km) N of Varanasi (Benares). It is the site of the deer park (mrigadawa) where, according to tradition, Buddha first preached. Buddhist monuments include an inscribed pillar (3d cent. B.C.
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. In these inscriptions, he proclaimed his belief in ahimsa, or nonviolence and advocated tolerance of all faiths. He erected numerous Buddhist monasteries and stupas, regulated the slaughter of animals, and softened the harsh laws of his predecessors. He sent Buddhist missionaries throughout India and its adjacent lands and as far as Syria, Egypt, and Greece. His own son or brother headed the mission to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). It is said that under his auspices a great Buddhist convocation was held at his capital, Pataliputra; its purpose was probably to suppress heresy and to confirm the Buddhist canon. India prospered and art flourished under the reign of Asoka, who, beyond his many imperial accomplishments, is most celebrated for his elevation of Buddhism from a simple Indian sect to a world religion. After his death the Mauryan empire swiftly declined.


See studies by V. A. Smith (1909, repr. 1964), R. Thapar (1961), R. D. Mookerji (3d ed. 1962), B. G. Gokhale (1966), and J. Strong (1989).

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Ashoka at the QuayThe Quay, Springfield Quay Glasgow G5 8NO 0800 195 3195
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