Friday, August 19, 2022

The Emperor Ashoka - forgotten and rediscovered

THE RELIGIOUS HISTORY NERD BLOG: The Mystery of the Pillars of Ashoka (Barbara O’Brien).
The pillars and the boulder inscriptions were the work of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, called Ashoka the Great, who ruled from about 268 to 232 BCE. Ashoka was a convert to Buddhism, and many of the inscriptions were edicts given to his people to live according to the dharma, the teachings of the Budda. “What is dharma?” asked one edict. “Little evil, much good, kindness, generosity, truthfulness and purity.” Other inscriptions told the story of Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism. And some called for harmony among all people and religions in his empire.

Ashoka’s influence spread Buddhism far beyond the borders of India. In time archeologists recognized that Ashoka’s edicts had been left in many parts of central Asia, in other languages. For example, edicts engraved in the western part of his empire were in Greek. An inscription discovered near Kandahar in 1958 was written in Greek and Aramaic.

Cross-file under Aramaic Watch

I have posted on the Buddhist edict inscriptions of the Emperor Ashoka here, here, and here. But this article also gives the back story of how Ashoka was forgotten in India and how his Pali edicts were deciphered and his story rediscovered in the nineteenth century.

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