Edict XIII of Ashoka’s Great Rock Inscriptions: The Kalinga War and Dhamma-vijaya

Introduction: The conquest of Kalinga at the eastern coast of India by Ashoka (268-233) in the year 261 BC was an event of greatest historical importance for India and world history. It brought to completion the rise of the Maurya kingdom as the first pan-Indian state. But the atrocities committed on the people of Kalinga led him to adopt Buddhism and its teaching of non-violence (ahimsa). As Devanampriya (“Beloved of the Gods”) he propagated its Dhamma (“religion”)  by his unique rock and pillar inscriptions, placed at about sixty selected places throughout South Asia and Afghanistan, and by missionaries sent to the Hellenistic rulers in the Mediterranean world: to the Yona (Greek) king, Antiyoka (Antiochos II of Syria, 261 to 246 BC), Turamaya (Ptolomaios II Philadelphos, 285–247), Antikini (Antigonos Gonatas of Macedonia, 276–239), Maka (Magas of Cyrene, c.300–250), Alikasudara (probably Alexander of Epirus, 272–255). Moreover, his son Mahinda brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka and two monks to Burma. Ashoka’s imperial patronage and his quest for the “Victory of [Buddhist] Religion” (Dhamma-vijaya) laid the foundation stone for the rise of Buddhism as world religion.
(see also AHOI, Ch. II, section Ashoka, the Beloved of Gods, pp. 65-71)

(Edict XIII, Shahbazgarhi version of the Great Rock Inscriptions, quoted from E. Hultzsch, Inscriptions of Asoka, Inscriptionum Indicarum, vol. I, Oxford 1925, pp. 68-70)


(A) When king Dēvānaṁpriya Priyadarśin had been anointed eight years, (the country of) the Kaliṅgas was conquered by (him).
(B) One hundred and fifty thousand in number were the men who were deported thence, one hundred thousand in number were those who were slain there, and many times as many those who died.
(C) After that, now that (the country of) the Kaliṅgas has been taken, Dēvānaṁpriya (is devoted) to a zealous study of morality, to the love of morality, and to the instruction (of people) in morality.
(D) This is the repentance of Dēvānāṁpriya on account of his conquest of (the country of) the Kaliṅgas.
(E) For, this is considered very painful and deplorable by Dēvānāṁpriya, that, while one is conquering an unconquered (country), slaughter, death, and deportation of people (are taking place) there.
(F) But the following is considered even more deplorable than this by Dēvānāṁpriya.
(G) (To) the Brāhmaṇas or Śramaṇas, or other sects or householders, who are living there, (and) among whom the following are practised: obedience to those who receive high pay, obedience to mother and father, obedience to elders, proper courtesy to friends, acquaintances, companions, and relatives, to slaves and servants, (and) firm devotion,—to these then happen injury or slaughter or deportation of (their) beloved ones.
(H) Or, if there are then incurring misfortune the friends, acquaintances, companions, and relatives of those whose affection (for the latter) is undiminished, although they are (themselves) well provided for, this (misfortune) as well becomes an injury to those (persons) themselves.
(I) This is shared by all men and is considered deplorable by Dēvānāṁpriya.
(J) And there is no (place where men) are not indeed attached to some sect.
(K) Therefore even the hundredth part or the thousandth part of all those people who were slain, who died, and who were deported at that time in Kaliṅga, (would) now be considered very deplorable by Dēvānāṁpriya.
(L) And Dēvānāṁpriya thinks that even (to one) who should wrong (him), what can be forgiven is to be forgiven,
(M) And even (the inhabitants of) the forests which are (included) in the dominions of Dēvānāṁpriya, even those he pacifies (and) converts.
(N) And they are told of the power (to punish them) which Dēvānāṁpriya (possesses) in spite of (his) repentance, in order that they may be ashamed (of their crimes) and may not be killed.
(O) For Dēvānāṁpriya desires towards all beings abstention from hurting, self-control, (and) impartiality in (case of) violence.
(P) And this conquest is considered the principal one by Dēvānāṁpriya, viz. the conquest by morality [dhamma vijaya].
(Q) And this (conquest) has been won repeatedly by Dēvānāṁpriya both here and among all (his) borderers, even as far as at (the distance of) six hundred yōjanas,where the Yōna king named Antiyoka (is ruling), and beyond this Antiyoka, (where) four—4—kings (are ruling), (viz. the king) named Turamaya, (the king) named Antikini, (the king) named Maka, (and the king) named Alikaṣudara, (and) towards the south, (where) the Chōḍas and Pāṇḍyas (are ruling), as far as Tāmraparṇī.
(R) Likewise here in the king’s territory, among the Yōnas and Kambōyas, among the Nabhakas and Nabhitis, among the Bhōjas and Pitinikas, among the Andhras and Palidas,—everywhere (people) are conforming to Dēvānāṁpriya’s instruction in morality [dhamma].
(S) Even, those to whom the envoys of Dēvānāṁpriya do not go, having heard of the duties of morality, the ordinances, (and) the instruction in morality of Dēvānāṁpriya, are conforming to morality and will conform to (it).
(T) This conquest, which has been won by this everywhere,—a conquest (won) everywhere (and) repeatedly,—causes the feeling of satisfaction.
(U) Satisfaction has been obtained (by me) at the conquest by morality.
(V) But this satisfaction is indeed of little (consequence).
(W) Dēvānāṁpriya thinks that only the fruits in the other (world) are of great (value).
(X) And for the following purpose has this rescript on morality been written, (viz.) in order that the sons (and) great-grandsons (who) may be (born) to me, should not think that a fresh conquest ought to be made, (that), if a conquest does please them, they should take pleasure in mercy and light punishments, and (that) they should regard the conquest by morality as the only (true) conquest.
(Y) This (conquest bears fruit) in this world (and) in the other world.
(Z) And let there be (to them) pleasure in the abandonment of all (other aims), which is pleasure in morality.
(AA) For this (bears fruit) in this world (and) in the other world.


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