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Ashokas Edicts

The Edicts of Ashoka hold an important place in the history of Buddhism as the first tangible evidence ever found to prove the existence of this religion. The edicts refer to 33 inscriptions seen on the pillars, boulders and cave walls here. Historians have deduced that these inscriptions were written by none other than the power Emperor Ashoka. He was the ruler of the Maurya dynasty from 269 BCE to 231 BCE. These edicts are found in many areas across the Indian subcontinent. The edicts weren't just inscriptions on pillars that brought Buddhism into light, they proved to the skeptics that Ashoka was indeed the ruthless king who gave up his cruel ways and established an empire on the foundation of righteousness, kindness and trust. One of the important rock edicts of Ashoka lies at Junagadh in Gujarat. Written in Brahmi script, this edict has been written on high peaks of the rocky Girnar Hills. This one is considered the oldest script done in India.

All of Ashoka’s edicts broadly fall under three categories.

  1. The major rock edicts are found in Gujarat and Orissa. Major rock edicts are 14 personal declarations by Ashoka.

  2. The minor rock edicts include the Queen's Edicts, bilingual edicts at Kandahar and inscriptions at Barabar.

  3. The third, pillar edicts, are carved out of sandstone. They propagate the importance of moral values to incorporate kindness, tolerance, and concern for the welfare of people.

The story behind Ashoka's transition is an interesting one. Ashoka was believed to be a harsh and ruthless prince who resorted to spiteful ways to seize the throne. He did not spare his brothers and took them to bloodshed to gain his rule. In a strange turn of events, this cruel king took to Buddhism one fine day and ruled wisely for the rest of his life. This transformation happened during the war of Kalinga. This war is considered one of the most gory recorded in history. The bloodshed, anger, turmoil and regret of this act brought a complete change in Ashoka's personality. Although Ashoka was found calling himself a Buddhist several times before the war, he dedicated his entire life to imbibe the teachings of Buddhism in his life. The discovery of these edicts confirmed the existence of this king and his dramatic life.

Inscriptions found at Junagadh are the major rock edicts. Junagadh lies on the Saurashtra peninsula and it is surrounded by the Girnar Hills, which were created out of black granite. The inscriptions lie at the top of the hills, which makes them accessible to only a few Jain pilgrims every year. These pilgrims have to wade their way up to the mountain to visit the edict. This pin-men inscription written on Girnar is one of the most legible of Ashoka’s edicts. Done in Brāhmī script, it has a greater impact than the one found at the entrance of the National Museum in Delhi.

James Prinsep

James Prinscep was an English scholar and Orientalist known for his reading of the inscriptions of Ashoka.

What it Says

The rock edict at Junagadh is the first one. Here is what it says:

The King, King Piyadasi, has caused this Dhamma edict to be written. Here (in my domain) no living beings are to be slaughtered or offered in sacrifice. Nor should festivals be held, for Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, sees much to object to in such festivals, although there are some festivals that Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, does approve of. 

Other Buildings and Sites Nearby

Mahabat Maqbara

For a long time in the past, Junagadh was ruled by the Nawabs. These rulers are buried at the mausoleums here, which are stunning examples of the Indo-Islamic architecture of those times.

Durbar Hall Museum

Go back to the era of yore with the Durbar Hall Museum at Junagadh where you will find a massive collection of silver ware, ancient armours, chandeliers and thrones that belonged to the Nawabs who ruled the region.

Jama Masjid

The Upperkot Fort in Junagadh comprises the Jama Masjid, which was a Hindu temple before it was rebuilt into a mosque.

Upperkot Fort

This fort of Junagadh belonged to Chandragupta Maurya. He built it in 319 BC and it was refurbished many times to give it the current state. Many rulers tried to take over this stunning fort during the Raj era. However, none could capture it for a longer time.

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Ashokas Edicts
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Ashokas Edicts

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