Chanakya

 chanakya

Acharya Chanakya (350-275 BCE) , he traditionally identified as Kautilya or Vishnu Gupta

 

Birth 

 

Chanakya’s birthplace is unknown , possibly Acharya Chanakya born in Kusumpur near Pataliputra (modern day Patna) city in ancient India . According to the Buddhist text Mahavamsa Tika, his birthplace was Taxila. According to some other Jain accounts, he was a native of South India. His father name  was “Chanak”

When Chanakya was born he had a full set of teeth, which is a sign that he would become a king or an emperor. But since he was born in a Brahmin family, it was considered inappropriate. Thus, his teeth were broken and it was predicted that he would make another person a king and rule through him

Even as a child, Chanakya had the qualities of a born leader. His level of knowledge was beyond children of his age.

Chanakya’s Education

Rishi Canak named his son as “Chanakya”. Being a teacher himself, he knew the importance of education. Taxila was one of the world centres for education. At a very early age little Chanakya started studying Vedas. The Vedas; considered to be the toughest scriptures to study were completely studied and memorized by Chanakya in his infancy. He was attracted to studies in politics. In politics Chanakya’s acumen and shrewdness was visible right from childhood. He was a student of politics right from child hood. Known as a masterful political strategist, He knew how to put his own people in the opposite camp and spy the enemy without his knowledge before destroying him forever. Chanakya was an ace in turning tables in his favour irrespective of the circumstances. He never budged to pressure tactics by the ruthless politicians. In this way after studying religion and politics, he turned his attention to economics, which remained his lifelong friend. “Nitishastra”, a treatise on the ideal way of life shows his in depth study of the Indian way of life.

Life as a student

Takshashila, (later corrupted as Taxila),one of the topmost centers of education at that time in India became Chanakya’s breeding ground of acquiring knowledge in the practical and theoretical aspect. The teachers were highly knowledgeable who used to teach sons of kings. It is said that a certain teacher had 101 students and all of them were princes! The university at Taxila was well versed in teaching the subjects using the best of practical knowledge acquired by the teachers. The age of entering the university was sixteen. The branches of studies most sought after in around India ranged from law, medicine, warfare and other indigenous forms of learning. The four Vedas, archery, hunting, elephant-lore and 18 arts were taught at the university of Taxila. So prominent was the place where Chanakya received his education that it goes to show the making of the genius. The very requirements of admission filtered out the outlawed and people with lesser credentials.

After acquiring vast knowledge in various branches of study he wanted everybody to get benefited. He believed in the broadcasting of knowledge and not in the storage of it. So famous was Chanakya in the vicinity of the university that he had many nicknames. He was called variously by different people, namely – Vishnugupta, Kautilya and Chanakya. The whole nation was bewildered by the cleverness and wit of this seemingly small boy who went on to single handedly unify the country with the sheer power of his character. He lived his life working to his capacity in pursuit of his vision of a happy strong and prosperous India.

Taxila University

At a time when the Dark Ages were looming large, the existence of a university of Taxila’s grandeur really makes India stand apart way ahead of the European countries who struggled with ignorance and total information blackout. For the Indian subcontinent Taxila stood as a light house of higher knowledge and pride of India. In the present day world, Taxila is situated in Pakistan at a place called Rawalpindi. The university accommodated more than 10,000 students at a time. The university offered courses spanning a period of more than eight years. The students were admitted after graduating from their own countries. Aspiring students opted for elective subjects going for in depth studies in specialized branches of learning. After graduating from the university, the students are recognized as the best scholars in the subcontinent. It became a cultural heritage as time passed. Taxila was the junction where people of different origins mingled with each other and exchanged knowledge of their countries. The university was famous as “Taxila” university, named after the city where it was situated. The king and rich people of the region used to donate lavishly for the development of the university. In the religious scriptures also, Taxila is mentioned as the place where the king of snakes, Vasuki selected Taxila for the dissemination of knowledge on earth.

Here it would be essential to mention briefly the range of subjects taught in the university of Taxila.

(1) Science,

(2) Philosophy,

(3) Ayurveda,

(4) Grammar of various languages,

(5) Mathematics,

(6) Economics,

(7) Astrology,

(8) Geography,

(9) Astronomy,

(10) Surgical science,

(11) Agricultural sciences, (12) Archery and Ancient and Modern Sciences.

The university also used to conduct researches on various subjects.

 

Commotion in Taxila

Gandhar Republic was not able to come out of the shock of the comprehensive defeat at the hands of the province of Porus, when a new contingency starred in the eyes of Taxila. Thousands of refugees poured in Taxila as a result of the widespread attacks of the armies of Alexander. These people were not productive for the state as they didn’t come to Taxila to acquire knowledge or in search of jobs. They didn’t have money or any kind of assets to buy themselves the essential commodities. To resolve the problem, a meeting was convened by the rulers of the neighboring countries and the king of Taxila. The knowledgeable people who gathered to give their opinions on the problem faced by Taxila, gave out their suggestions. At the end of the meeting, it was decided that the refugees must be given cover under humanitarian grounds. So, in line with the decision taken, a stretch of land outside Taxila was allotted for the refugees. They were allowed to enter Taxila after proving their identity with the sentry. In this way what appeared to be a calamity was appeased without

much ado. The incident was just a precursor to a series of events which reverberated across India as a result of the attacks of Alexander.

Move towards Patliputra

Though Chanakya was just a professor in the Taxila University which seemed to be far away from the happenings in the country, he actually was able to influence the governments in a big way. His students looked at him as an ideal teacher who inspired and exemplified great knowledge. His students respected him and were ready to fight at any moment at his orders. Two of his students who have been mentioned at various instances were Bhadrabhatt and Purushdutt. In the events that unfolded in the life of Chanakya, these two played a pivotal role in the achievement of his goals. It is rumored that they acted as spies for Chanakya, collecting information about his enemies.

Somehow, Chanakya came to know that there was a chance of foreign invasion. Europe’s great warrior Salukes was readying his armies to attack the weakened republics of India. There were grave designs threatening the unity and integrity of the nation. In such a scenario the ruler of Patliputra, Mahanand was squeezing the common man of his wealth with an object of enriching his own exchequer. Chanakya was aware of the internal and external threats of the country. On the one hand, the rulers of the neighboring countries were looking for the slightest of chance to annex the prosperous regions of the country and on the other hand, foreign invaders started moving towards the country with an expectation of easily smothering the country. These thoughts gave Chanakya sleepless nights. He envisioned his country clutched in the chains of slavery and defeated because of internal squabbles and differences. So he decided on the historical day, thus saying,

“Now the time has come to leave the university. The scrupulous rulers of the country must be uprooted and there is a need to strengthen the country politically and economically. My first and foremost duty is to save the country of the foreign invaders and salvage this dangerous proposition.”

With these thoughts in mind, he left Taxila University for Patliputra which paved the way for watershed changes in the politics of India and Patliputra.

Patliputra – The city of fortunes

Patliputra, (presently known as Patna) has been historically a very important city politically and strategically. Like Delhi, Patliputra has seen the ups and downs of development and great reversals. The well known Chinese traveler Fahian, who visited the city in 399 BC described it as prosperous city endowed with rich natural resources. At the same time, another Chinese traveler Huen sang described it as a city of rubbles and ruins.

Shishunagvanshi established the city on the southern bank of the Ganges. It was addressed with different names at different times. To. illustrate a few names, Pushpapur, Pushpanagar, Patliputra and Patna.

The city was industrious in producing essential commodities and luxurious goods for the rich. When Chanakya entered the city, it was known for respecting knowledgeable people and scholars. The intellectuals from across the country were warmly invited for the intercourse of new ideas and development of the state. It was virtually the city of fortunes as it recognized the true talent and rewarded richly for the work done by an individual. No wonder Chanakya decided to start his glorious campaign from Patliputra.

“I will destroy you”

Dhanananda, the ruler of Patliputra was unscrupulous and cruel by nature. He was always busy gathering money without thinking about consequences. He was always dissatisfied with the amount of money he had. Collecting taxes exorbitantly, he was a villain in the public eye. There was public outrage on the taxes which were collected on unwanted things. The main aim of collecting taxes was to serve the selfish interests of the king. There were taxes on hides, tax on wood and tax even on stone! The amount of money which Dhanananda had was unimaginable.

When Chanakya arrived at Patliputra, there was a change in the way he ran his kingdom. He gave gifts to the poor and was on the way of becoming lenient in administration. He had formed a trust or committee to administer his gifts and charities. The committee was headed by scholars and influential people of the society. It is said that the president had the powers to make up to ten million gold coins.

Since Chanakya was a great scholar from Taxila, he was included in the committee for charity. Chanakya later on became the president of the ‘Sungha’ (Trust). The Sungha used to help the king in the distribution of the money allotted for charity to the different sections of the society. In the process of delegation of the funds for charity, the president of the trust had to meet the king frequently. When Chanakya met the king for the first time, he was disgusted at the ugly appearance of Chanakya. As time passed he developed contempt for Chanakya. There was no refinement in words and conduct. To increase the fire between Dhanananda and Chanakya, the courtiers dissuaded the king from having a cordial relationship with Chanakya. Chanakya acted like a thorough professional and avoided praising the king. He always spoke bluntly and tersely. The king did not like the way Chanakya behaved with him. The king removed Chanakya from the post of president without any reasons. Chanakya was enraged at the proposition of being exploited by the less knowledgeable king. So, he erupted like a volcano on the king, and said, ” Arrogance in you has eroded the respect which I had for you. You have removed me from the presidentship for no fault of mine. You can’t act in a way detrimental to the demeanor of a king. You think there is none to question you? You have removed me from my rightful place and I will dethrone you !”

Chanakya meets Chandragupta

Just after getting humiliated from the king, Chanakya scampered through the streets of Patliputra. In a hurried walk, he stumbled upon a stump of grass and was about to fall. Chanakya the great scholar had his own style of handling things. He looked at the roots of the grass and quickly got into action. Though he was angry, he never let his anger to get out of control. He directed the anger in the right direction. Calmly, he sat down in the burning sun, removed that grass from the roots from the earth. After making sure that not even a single strand of grass is left, he resumed his journey.

While Chanakya was engrossed in removing the grass from the ground, a young man was closely watching the act of Chanakya. The young man was Chandragupta, the would be emperor of the Mauryan Empire. He looked bright. Looking at the determination of Chanakya, he was impressed and wanted to talk to the knowledgeable man.

He went to Chanakya, addressed him respectfully, and took him into the choultry. Chanakya asked him about his family background beginning his talk by asking, “Who are you? You seem to be worried.”

The young man stepped forward with great reverence and said, “Sir, my name is Chandragupta. Yes, you are correct I am in great trouble but should I trouble you with my worries?”

Chanakya calmed down the young man by saying, “You can tell me about your troubles with freewill and without any ambiguities. If I am capable enough, I’ll definitely help you.”

“I am the grandson of king Sarvarthasiddhi, He had two wives, Sunandadevi and Muradevi. Sunanda got nine sons called the Navanandas. Mura, had only one which was my father. The Nandas tried to kill my father time and again. We were more than hundred brothers. The Nandas out of jealousy, tried to kill all of us. Somehow I survived and I am totally disgusted with my life. I want to take revenge on the Nandas who are ruling over the country presently.”

Chanakya who was freshly wounded by the Nandas found a companion to destroy the distraught king. Chanakya was greatly moved by the tale of woe. He was emotionally charged listening to the story of Chandragupta and vowed to destroy the Nandas and get Chandragupta his rightful place as a king of Patliputra. Chanakya said “I will get you the kingship, Chandragupta. From that day on Chanakya and Chandragupta worked in tandem to destroy the corrupt and unscrupulous rule of the Nandas.

Chandragupta has not been well documented. The place of birth, family background and several details regarding his life are not available. Several things have been said and written about his family and parents. Probably, he belonged to the Moria community. He might have got the name Chandragupta Maurya afterwards and his royal lineage was known as the Maurya dynasty. His mother was perhaps the daughter of a village headman. His father was the king of a forest area called Pippatavana, who died in a war. Chandragupta came to Patliputra along with his mother.

As a boy Chandragupta was a born leader. Even as a boy, he was accepted as a leader by all. As a boy he used to mimic the king’ court. His bravery and shrewdness were visible right from childhood. As Chanakya was moving along the streets of Patliputra, he saw little Chandragupta enacting the king. Sitting on the large throne, the little boy shouted against injustice and corrupt practices of the kings and people in general. Looking at the bright face of Chandragupta, he was impressed at the intellect and wisdom in the boy’s voice. For seven or eight years Chandragupta had his education there, and that too with selected teachers shortlisted by Chanakya himself. The art of warfare and the art of governance were mastered by Chandragupta with equal expertise.

The Greek invader

The relationship between Chandragupta and Chanakya bloomed through the years developing into a strong force for their enemies. Most of the historical events took place right under the eyes of Chanakya and Chandragupta. The troops of Alexander and the umpteen number of invaders who ravaged the subcontinent for decades around India. It is said that Chandragupta met Alexander. The bold and arrogant talk by Chandragupta enraged Alexander as a result of which Chandragupta was arrested. Chanakya’s training to Chandragupta was over by now and he thought it to be the right occasion to let Chandragupta taste the practical aspect of warfare. Chanakya closely observed the movement and strategies employed by Alexander. He also became aware of the weaknesses of the Indian rulers.

Freedom from the Greeks

The rustic boy that Chandragupta was, now had matured into a sound military commander. The source of strength for Chandragupta and his army was the power of mind and the towering personality of Chanakya. In that war of independence for northern India, Chandragupta was the physical instrument, while its thinking brain was Chanakya.

The deterioration of the prowess of Alexander happened because of the weakening of Satraps or the commanding officers. Niccosar, a Satrap was killed even when Alexander was alive. Another formidable Satrap called Philip, was killed weakening Alexander like never before. After Alexander’s death in Babylon, all his Satraps were either killed or dislodged , one by one. Alexander’s lieutenants divided his empire among themselves in 321 BC. No realm east of the Indus – the River Sindhu was mentioned in that settlement. It meant that the Greeks themselves had accepted that this region had gone out of their rule.

Defeat of the Nanda king

Before defeating the Nandas, Chanakya had to employ various strategies before victory. Chanakya firstly tested the policy of attacking the core of the city. The policy met with defeats again and again. With the change in strategy, Chanakya and Chandragupta began the attack on the borders of the Magadha Empire. Again there were mistakes. The troops were not stationed in the areas conquered. So when they marched forward, the people of the conquered areas joined together again and encircled their army. Thus those who had been defeated had to be fought again and again.

Chandragupta and Chanakya learnt lessons from these mistakes. They now stationed troops in the conquered regions. So those enemies would not raise and cause any trouble. Chanakya with his cleverness had earlier won the friendship of king Parvataka (or Porus Second). Now Parvataka, his brother Vairochaka and son Malayeketu came with their armies to help them. The Nanda king had the support of a big army. The other equally important support was the guidance of his very able minister, Amatya Rakshasa. This minister was very intelligent and had unlimited loyalty to the king. Chanakya knew that getting Amatya out of his way was the only way of defeating King Nanda. Chanakya devised a plan which involved planting of spies in the enemy camp. In a very short span of time, the weaknesses of the Nandas became visible. Parallely, the Nandas and Amatya Rakshasa made plans to counter any attacks by Chanakya.

Details are not available regarding the war between the Nandas on the one hand and Chandragupta and Chanakya on the other. But it was a keen and bitter fight. The Nanda king died. His sons and relatives also died. Even Amatya Rakshasa was helpless. Chandragupta was victorious proving the foresight of Chanakya regarding his abilities. The old king and his wife retired to the forest. It is said that after sometime Chanakya had the old king and his wife killed , because he thought that if Amatya Rakshasa made them take a son by the rights of adoption, there would be claimants to the throne. He wanted the lineage of the Nandas should be totally eliminated.

The true aspect of Chanakya

The momentous life of Chanakya reminds us of a revengeful saga where the individual is obsessed by the idea of taking revenge. But personal revenge was not the aim of Chanakya. He wanted that the kingdom should be secure and that the administration should go on smoothly, bringing happiness to the people. He thought that there were two ways of ensuring the happiness of the people. Firstly, Amatya Rakshasa had to be made Chandragupta’s minister; Secondly, a book must be written, laying down how a king should conduct himself, how he should protect himself and the kingdom from the enemies, how to ensure law and order, and so on.

By writing “Arthashastra” and “Nitishastra”, Chanakya has become a

never ending phenomena. He has truly guided the generations with his

wisdom . It would ideally suit the closing of the life of Chanakya with a

couple of quotations by Chanakya

“The secret task of a king is to strive for the welfare of his people incessantly.

The administration of the kingdom is his religious duty. His greatest gift would

be to treat all as equals.”

“The happiness of the commoners is the happiness of the king. Their

welfare is his welfare. A king should never think of his personal interest

or welfare, but should try to find his joy in the joy of his subjects.”

These words were written 2300 years ago by Chanakya, the expert

statesman and wise sage. And Chanakya is also another name for

courage and perseverance.

 

Nikola Tesla

 

nikola tesla

 

Some Common Question People Ask About Nikola Tesla:

Q. Who is Tesla?

Ans: Inventor Nikola Tesla was born in July of 1856, in what is now Croatia. He came to the United States in 1884 and briefly worked with Thomas Edison before the two parted ways. He sold several patent rights, including those to his alternating-current machinery, to George Westinghouse.

Q. Who killed Nikola Tesla?

Ans: As Skorzeny described (to Berman) in detail his involvement withGeorge H. W. Bush (George H. Scherff, Jr.) in organizing the CIA by absorbing Nazi S.S. agents,” he intimated that it was Reinhard Gehlenand himself who murdered Nikola Tesla on January 6, 1943 by strangulation/suffocation.

Q.Who invented the alternating current generator?

Ans:  1886 – Nikola Tesla tries to sell his AC power system to investors in New York City, but it fails to be of interest in a city which is already heavily invested in DC power systems. Other inventors around the world also promoting AC power have similar problems.

Q.Where did Nikola Tesla do most of his work?

Ans: In 1882, Tesla began working for the Continental Edison Company in France, designing and making improvements to electrical equipment. In June 1884, he relocated to New York City :57–60 where he was hired by Thomas Edison to work for his Edison Machine Works.

Synopsis

Inventor Nikola Tesla was born in July of 1856, in what is now Croatia. He came to the United States in 1884 and briefly worked with Thomas Edison before the two parted ways. He sold several patent rights, including those to his alternating-current machinery, to George Westinghouse. His 1891 invention, the “Tesla coil,” is still used in radio technology today. Tesla died in New York City on January 7, 1943.

Early Life

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, in what is now Smiljan, Croatia. Tesla’s interest in electrical invention was spurred by his mother, Djuka Mandic, who invented small household appliances in her spare time while her son was growing up. Tesla’s father, Milutin Tesla, was a priest and a writer, and he pushed for his son to join the priesthood. But Nikola’s interests lay squarely in the sciences. After studying at the Realschule, Karlstadt (later renamed the Johann-Rudolph-Glauber Realschule Karlstadt); the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria; and the University of Prague during the 1870s, Tesla moved to Budapest, where for a time he worked at the Central Telephone Exchange. It was while in Budapest that the idea for the induction motor first came to Tesla, but after several years of trying to gain interest in his invention, at age 28 Tesla decided to leave Europe for America.

Famed Inventor

In 1884 Tesla arrived the United States with little more than the clothes on his back and a letter of introduction to famed inventor and business mogul Thomas Edison, whose DC-based electrical works were fast becoming the standard in the country. Edison hired Tesla, and the two men were soon working tirelessly alongside each other, making improvements to Edison’s inventions. However, several months later, the two parted ways due to a conflicting business-scientific relationship, attributed by historians to their incredibly different personalities: While Edison was a power figure who focused on marketing and financial success, Tesla was commercially out-of-tune and somewhat vulnerable.

After parting ways with Edison, in 1885 Tesla received funding for the Tesla Electric Light Company and was tasked by his investors to develop improved arc lighting. After successfully doing so, however, Tesla was forced out of the venture and for a time had to work as a manual laborer in order to survive. His luck changed in 1887, when he was able to find interest in his AC electrical system and funding for his new Tesla Electric Company. Setting straight to work, by the end of the year, Tesla had successfully filed several patents for AC-based inventions.    

Tesla’s AC system eventually caught the attention of American engineer and business man George Westinghouse, who was seeking a solution to supplying the nation with long-distance power. Convinced that Tesla’s inventions would help him achieve this, in 1888 he purchased his patents for $60,000 in cash and stock in the Westinghouse Corporation. As interest in an alternating-current system grew, Tesla and Westinghouse were put in direct competition with Thomas Edison, who was intent on selling his direct-current system to the nation. A negative-press campaign was soon waged by Edison, in an attempt to undermine interest in AC power. Tesla, for his part, continued in his work and would patent several more inventions during this period, including the “Tesla coil,” which laid the foundation for wireless technologies and is still used in radio technology today.

Unfortunately for Thomas Edison, the Westinghouse Corporation was chosen to supply the lighting at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and Tesla conducted demonstrations of his AC system there. Two years later, in 1895, Tesla designed what was among the first AC hydroelectric power plants in the United States, at Niagara Falls. The following year, it was used to power the city of Buffalo, New York, a feat that was highly publicized throughout the world. With its repeat successes and favorable press, the alternating-current system would quickly become the preeminent power system of the 20th century, and it has remained the worldwide standard ever since.

In addition to his AC system and coil, throughout his career, Tesla discovered, designed and developed ideas for a number of other important inventions—most of which were officially patented by other inventors—including dynamos (electrical generators similar to batteries) and the induction motor. He was also a pioneer in the discovery of radar technology, X-ray technology, remote control and the rotating magnetic field—the basis of most AC machinery.   

The Fall from Grace

Having become obsessed with the wireless transmission of energy, around 1900 Nikola set to work on his boldest project yet: to build a global, wireless communication system—to be transmitted through a large electrical tower—for sharing information and providing free electricity throughout the world. With funding from a group of investors that included financial giant J. P. Morgan, in 1901 Tesla began work on the project in earnest, designing and building a lab with a power plant and a massive transmission tower on a site on Long Island, New York, that became known as Wardenclyffe. However, when doubts arose among his investors about the plausibility of Tesla’s system and his rival, Guglielmo Marconi—with the financial support of Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Edison—continued to make great advances with his own radio technologies, Tesla had no choice but to abandon the project. The Wardenclyffe staff was laid off in 1906 and by 1915 the site had fallen into foreclosure. Two years later Tesla declared bankruptcy and the tower was dismantled and sold for scrap to help pay the debts he had accrued.

Death and Legacy

After suffering a nervous breakdown, Tesla eventually returned to work, primarily as a consultant. But as time went on, his ideas became progressively more outlandish and impractical. He also grew increasingly eccentric, devoting much of his time to the care of wild pigeons in New York City’s parks. He even drew the attention of the FBI with his talk of building a powerful “death beam,” which had received some interest from the Soviet Union during World World II. 

Poor and reclusive, Nikola Tesla died on January 7, 1943, at the age of 86, in New York City, where he had lived for nearly 60 years. But the legacy of the work he left behind him lives on to this day.

Several books and films have highlighted Tesla’s life and famous works, including Nikola Tesla, The Genius Who Lit the World, a documentary produced by the Tesla Memorial Society and the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia; and The Secret of Nikola Tesla, which stars Orson Wellesas J. P. Morgan). And in the 2006 Christopher Nolan film The Prestige, Tesla was portrayed by rock star/actor David Bowie. In 1994, a street sign identifying “Nikola Tesla Corner” was installed near the site of his former New York City laboratory, at the intersection of 40th Street and 6th Avenue.

Wardenclyffe Project

Since Tesla’s original forfeiture of his Wardenclyffe site, ownership of the property has passed through numerous hands, and several attempts have been made to preserve it, but in 1967, 1976 and 1994 efforts to have it declared a national historic site failed. Then, in 2008, a group called the Tesla Science Center was formed with the intention of purchasing the property and turning it into a museum dedicated to the inventor’s work. 

In February 2009 the Wardenclyffe site went on the market for nearly $1.6 million, and for the next several years, the Tesla Science Center worked diligently to raise funds for its purchase. In 2012, public interest in the project peaked when Matthew Inman of TheOatmeal.com collaborated with the TSC in an Internet fundraising effort, ultimately receiving enough contributions to acquire the site in May 2013. Work on its restoration is still in progress.

Ashoka The Great

Chakravartin-Ashoka

 

Some Common Question People Ask About Ashoka:

Q. Who was Ashoka the Great?

Ans: Emperor Ashoka the Great (sometimes spelt Aśoka) lived from 304 to 232 BCE and was the third ruler of the Indian Mauryan Empire, the largest ever in the Indian subcontinent and one of the world’s largest empires at its time. He ruled form 268 BCE to 232 BCE and became a model of kingship in the Buddhist tradition.

Q. What type of government did Ashoka have?

Ans: He ruled form 268 BCE to 232 BCE and became a model of kingship in the Buddhist tradition. Under Ashoka India had an estimated population of 30 million, much higher than any of the contemporary Hellenistic kingdoms. After Ashoka’s death, however, the Mauryan dynasty came to an end and its empire dissolved.

Q. Where did Ashoka rule?

Ans: Asoka (reigned ca. 273-232 B.C.), the third emperor of the Maurya dynasty, is considered ancient India’s greatest ruler. He combined the piety of a saint with the practical qualities of a king, and in the history of Buddhism he ranks second only to Buddha.

Ashoka

Ashoka (reigned ca. 273-232 B.C.), the third emperor of the Maurya dynasty, is considered ancient India’s greatest ruler. He combined the piety of a saint with the practical qualities of a king, and in the history of Buddhism he ranks second only to Buddha.

By the 3d century B.C. the kingdom of Magadha under the hegemony of the Mauryas controlled almost the entire Indian subcontinent. Only the southern tip of India and Ceylon remained free of the Mauryas’ political influence. However, Buddhist missionaries of Asoka extended religious influence into Ceylon, which became a stronghold of Theravada Buddhism through Asoka’s efforts.

In his youth Asoka served as viceroy of Taxila and later of Ujain. He came to the throne in 273 B.C., but a disputed succession delayed his coronation until 269. In 261 he annexed Kalinga, a vast tract between the Mahanadi and Godavari rivers, killing over 100,000 people and taking 150,000 captives. This was the only aggressive war of his reign, and so shocked the King’s conscience that 4 years later he publicly recorded on various edicts his profound sorrow and remorse. He devoted the rest of his life to the propagation of dharma, the Buddhist law of piety.

Life and Beliefs

To bring his precepts into harmony with his personal practice, Asoka gave up hunting, royal luxuries, and the use of meat in the royal kitchen. He established and endowed hospitals for men and animals, both within his own realm and in those of the neighboring powers. On the highways banyan trees were planted to provide shade, mango groves were laid to provide fruit, wells were dug, watering places constructed, and rest houses established to comfort weary men and animals.

He made pilgrimages to India’s holy places, preaching the law of piety to his subjects along the way. Often he was absent from his capital for as long as 10 months. He appointed a special class of officers, dharma mahamatras, to propagate morality. He asked them to be teachers first, magistrates afterward. Declaring all his subjects to be his children, he considered himself to be the trustee of their welfare rather than a ruler. But Asoka, while utilizing the full force of his administration, recognized frankly that permanent improvement was to be based on genuine change of heart, not on royal measures. He exhorted his subjects to meditate; to practice nonviolence and noninjury toward fellowmen and animals; to revere parents, teachers, mendicants, and elders; to be kind to inferiors such as servants, serfs, and beasts of burden; to be truthful; and to respect the beliefs of fellowmen. He did not seek to establish a sectarian creed and lavishly gave to all religious sects.

Monuments of Faith

From the sixteenth year of his reign Asoka permanently recorded ethical doctrines by inscribing them on rocks, sandstone pillars, and cave walls in the various regional languages. There were Fourteen Rock Edicts incised at seven different places in the remoter provinces of the empire. Some of these are preserved practically complete to this day. The second great series is that of Seven Pillar Inscriptions, six of which exist in six copies each, engraved on monolithic sandstone pillars erected at various localities in the home provinces. The seventh, perhaps the most important edict, is found on one pillar only. The remaining inscriptions consist of two Kalinga Edicts in two recensions, or critical revisions, three Cave Inscriptions, two Tarai Pillar Inscriptions, and several minor pillar and rock edicts in several recensions. The number of distinct documents is perhaps 35. Some inscriptions are in Greek and Aramaic. Bilingual inscriptions have been discovered on many pillars, making possible the decipherment of Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts. Many of the pillars contain Arabic numerals, India’s gift to mathematics.

Ashoka is reported to have built over 8,000 temples and more than 1,000 stupas, or tombs in honor of the Buddha. The stupa at Bhilsa still survives. The surviving gray sandstone pillars of his palace at Patliputra (modern Patna) display marvelous technical execution and brilliant art detail. The huge blocks of hard stone have an exquisite polish unmatched in India since the Asokan era. Asoka’s lion seal carved on the Sarnath pillar has become modern India’s state seal, and Asoka’s wheel is represented on the central stripe of India’s flag.

Anxious to spread his message across India, Asoka sent embassies to the Near East. His edicts mention Antiochus II, Theos of Syria, Ptolemy II, Philadelphos of Egypt, Magas of Cyrene, Antigonos Gonatas of Macedonia, and Alexander of Epirus. His son Mahendra and daughter Samghamitra went to Ceylon, which has been a Buddhist country since. A mission was sent to Burma, while others went to the Himalayan region and beyond. On the Indian subcontinent he sent his views to the Cola, Cera, and Pandya rulers.

Ashoka’s Empire

Maurya_Dynasty_in_265 BCE

The empire Asoka ruled comprised, in modern terminology, Afghanistan south of the Hindu Kush, Baluchistan, Sind, Kashmir, the area of the lower Himalayas, and the whole of India and Pakistan proper except the southern extremity below the latitude of Madras. The central regions were governed directly from Patliputra, the outlying domains were divided among four viceroys, who were close relatives of the imperial family. A council of ministers advised the King, but in addition there was a well-defined bureaucratic structure, and five cadres are mentioned. In spite of Asoka’s personal commitment to nonviolence, a standing army was maintained, the Kalinga Edict clearly enjoined people not to rebel for the Emperor “even in his remorse” had the power to crush them, and the death penalty was retained.

Not much is known about Asoka’s family life. His inscriptions speak of two queens; Buddhist legends mention several. Very little is known about his sons, and how many they were. It is also not known how, when, and where the king-turned-evangelist died. A Tibetan tradition maintains that he died at Taxila. Two grandsons, Dasratha and Samprathi, succeeded him and divided the empire. But within 50 years of Asoka’s death, a Brahmanical reaction, led by Pusyamitra, brought the dynasty to an end.

THE GOVERNMENT OF ASHOKA

In the beginning, Ashoka ruled the empire like his grandfather did, in an efficient but cruel way. He used military strength in order to expand the empire and created sadistic rules against criminals. A Chinese traveller named Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang) who visited India for several years during the 7th century CE, reports that even during his time, about 900 years after the time of Ashoka, Hindu tradition still remembered the prison Ashoka had established in the north of the capital as “Ashoka’s hell”. Ashoka ordered that prisoners should be subject to all imagined and unimagined tortures and nobody should ever leave the prision alive.

During the expansion of the Mauryan Empire, Ashoka led a war against a feudal state named Kalinga (present day Orissa) with the goal of annexing its territory, something that his grandfather had already attempted to do. The conflict took place around 261 BCE and it is considered one of the most brutal and bloodiest wars in world history. The people from Kalinga defended themselves stubbornly, keeping their honour but losing the war: Ashoka’s military strength was far beyond Kalinga’s. The disaster in Kalinga was supreme: with around 300,000 casualties, thecity devastated and thousands of surviving men, women and children deported.

INDIA WAS TURNED INTO A PROSPEROUS AND PEACEFUL PLACE FOR YEARS TO COME.

What happened after this war has been subject to numerous stories and it is not easy to make a sharp distinction between facts and fiction. What is actually supported by historical evidence is that Ashoka issued an edict expressing his regret for the suffering inflicted in Kalinga and assuring that he would renounce war and embrace the propagation of dharma. What Ashoka meant by dharma is not entirely clear: some believe that he was referring to the teachings of the Buddha and, therefore, he was expressing his conversion to Buddhism. But the word dharma, in the context of Ashoka, had also other meanings not necessarily linked to Buddhism. It is true, however, that in subsequent inscriptions Ashoka specifically mentions Buddhist sites and Buddhist texts, but what he meant by the word dharma seems to be more related to morals, social concerns and religious tolerance rather than Buddhism.  

THE EDICTS OF ASHOKA

After the war of Kalinga, Ashoka controlled all the Indian subcontinent except for the extreme southern part and he could have easily controlled that remaining part as well, but he decided not to. Some versions say that Ashoka was sickened by the slaughter of the war and refused to keep on fighting. Whatever his reasons were, Ashoka stopped his expansion policy and India turned into a prosperous and peaceful place for the years to come.

Ashoka began to issue one of the most famous edicts in the history of government and instructed his officials to carve them on rocks and pillars, in line with the local dialects and in a very simple fashion. In the rock edicts, Ashoka talks about religious freedom and religious tolerance, he instructs his officials to help the poor and the elderly, establishes medical facilities for humans and animals, commands obedience to parents, respect for elders, generosity for all priests and ascetic orders no matter their creed, orders fruit and shade trees to be planted and also wells to be dug along the roads so travellers can benefit from them.

However attractive all this edicts might seem, the reality is that some sectors of Indian society were truly upset about them. Brahman priests saw in them a serious limitation to their ancient ceremonies involving animal sacrifices, since the taking of animal life was no longer an easy business and hunters along with fishermen were equally angry about this. Peasants were also affected by this and were upset when officials told them that “chaff must not be set on fire along with the living things in it”. Brutal or peaceful, it seems that no ruler can fully satisfy the people.

Greek and Aramaic inscriptions by king Ashoka

 

THE PATRONAGE OF BUDDHISM

The Buddhist tradition holds many legends about Ashoka. Some of these include stories about his conversion to Buddhism, his support of the monastic Buddhist communities, his decision to establish many Buddhist pilgrimage sites, his worship of the bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, his central role organizing the Third Buddhist Council, followed by the support of Buddhist missions all over the empire and even beyond as far as GreeceEgypt and Syria. The Buddhist Theravada tradition claims that a group of Buddhist missionaries sent by Emperor Ashoka introduced the Sthaviravada school (a Buddhist school no longer existent) in Sri Lanka, about 240 BCE.

It is not possible to know which of these claims are actual historical facts. What we do know is that Ashoka turned Buddhism into a state religion and encouraged Buddhist missionary activity. He also provided a favourable climate for the acceptance of Buddhist ideas, and generated among Buddhist monks certain expectations of support and influence on the machinery of political decision making. Prior to Ashoka Buddhism was a relatively minor tradition in India and some scholars have proposed that the impact of the Buddha in his own day was relatively limited. Archaeological evidence for Buddhism between the death of the Buddha and the time of Ashoka is scarce; after the time of Ashoka it is abundant.

Was Ashoka a true follower of the Buddhist doctrine or was he simply using Buddhism as a way of reducing social conflict by favouring a tolerant system of thought and thus make it easier to rule over a nation composed of several states that were annexed through war? Was his conversion to Buddhism truly honest or did he see Buddhism as a useful psychological tool for social cohesion? The intentions of Ashoka remain unknown and there are all types of arguments supporting both views.

ASHOKA’S LEGACY

The myths and stories about Ashoka propagating Buddhism, distributing wealth, building monasteries, sponsoring festivals, and looking after peace and prosperity served as an inspiring model of a righteous and tolerant ruler that influenced monarchs from Sri Lanka to Japan. A particular story telling that Ashoka built 84,000 stupas (commemorative Buddhists buildings used as a place of meditation), served as an example to many Chinese and Japanese rulers who imitated Ashoka’s initiative.

He did with Buddhism in India what Emperor Constantine did with Christianity in Europe and what the Han dynasty did with Confucianism in China: he turned a tradition into an official state ideology and thanks to his support Buddhism ceased to be a local Indian cult and began its long transformation into a world religion. Eventually Buddhism died out in India sometime after Ashoka’s death, but it remained popular outside its native land, especially in eastern and south-eastern Asia. The world owes to Ashoka the growth of one of the world’s largest spiritual traditions.

 

Further Reading

The most authoritative study of Asoka is Romila Thapar, Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas(1961), which contains complete translations of the known inscriptions. B. G. Gokhale, Asoka Maurya (1966), discusses the influence of Asoka’s personal philosophy on his empire. Asoka is discussed at length in Gertrude Emerson Sen, The Pageant of India’s History (1948). See also Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India (1946).

Alexander The Great

 

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Some Common Question People Ask About Alexander:

Q.Who is Alexander?

Ans: Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BC) Alexander was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia in July 356 BC. His parents were Philip II of Macedon and his wife Olympias. Alexander was educated by the philosopher Aristotle.

Q.How old was Alexander the Great when his father died?

Ans: While considering the conquests of Carthage and Rome, Alexander the Great died of malaria in Babylon, Persia (now Iraq), on June 13, 323 B.C. He was just 32 years old. Rhoxana gave birth to his son a few months later.

Q.What did Alexander the Great conquer?

Ans: Alexander 1 (356–323 bc), king of Macedon 336–323, son of Philip II; known as Alexander the Great. He conquered Persia, Egypt, Syria,Mesopotamia, Bactria, and the Punjab; in Egypt he founded the city of Alexandria.

Q.Who Killed Alexander the Great

Ans.Alexander the Great may have been killed by toxic wine made from a poisonous but harmless-looking plant, scientists have claimed. The mystery of why the Greek King of Macedon, ruler of the largest empire in the ancient world, died at just 32 has baffled historians and scientists for over 2000 years.

An inspiring inheritance: 356 BC

Alexander is born in Pella, the Macedonian capital, at about the time his father becomes king of Macedonia. 

Philip II’s expansion of the kingdom, an unfolding saga of glory and excitement, is Alexander’s boyhood. 
At an early age he proves himself well equipped to share in these military adventures. He is only sixteen when he is left in charge of Macedonia, while his father campaigns in the east against Byzantium. During his father’s absence he crushes a rebellious tribe, the Thracians. As a reward he is allowed to found a new town in their territory – Alexandropolis, the first of many to be named after him. 
Macedonia is considered by other Greek states to be a backward place, but the education of the prince is the best that Greece can provide. In 343, when Alexander is thirteen, Philip invites Aristotle to become the royal tutor. 

For three years the philosopher teaches the prince. No doubt they study Homer together. TheIliad becomes a profound source of inspiration to Alexander. Scrolls of the text will later be kept beside him in his tent while he achieves military feats to put the Homeric heroes to shame. Alexander and his most intimate friend from childhood days, Hephaestion, are compared by their contemporaries to the Homeric hero Achilles and his lover Patroclus. 
 

Philip’s campaign in 340 against Byzantium provokes Athens and Thebes into taking the field against the Macedonians. The two sides meet in 338 at Chaeronaea. Later tradition credits the 18-year-old Alexander with leading a cavalry charge which decides the outcome of the battle. There is no historical evidence for this. But the prince certainly fights at Chaeronaea, and the day ends with a conclusive win for the Macedonians. 
This victory enables Philip to present himself as the leader of all the Greek states. His position is formally acknowledged at a congress in Corinth, in 337. 
 

The campaign against Persia: from 336 BC

One of the resolutions of the League of Corinth is to launch a war against Persia, with Philip as commander of the confederate forces. In the following spring (336) an advance guard of 10,000 troops sets off eastwards. But that same summer, at a feast to celebrate the wedding of his daughter, Philip is murdered by one of his courtiers. 

The League immediately elects his son, Alexander, in his place as commander. But this degree of unity is short-lived. The Thebans rebel against the League. Alexander storms Thebes in 335 BC, killing 6000. He then puts into effect a stern judgement by the council of the League. Theban territory is divided between its neighbours. The surviving Thebans are enslaved. 
 

This display of ruthless authority enables Alexander to leave Macedonia under the control of a regent, with reasonable confidence that Greece will remain calm during what may prove to be a prolonged absence. 

In the spring of 334, still at the age of only twenty-two, Alexander marches east with some 5000 cavalry and 30,000 footsoldiers. There are ancient scores to be settled between Greece and Persia. And they will be settled fast. But first he engages in some romantic tourism, making a pilgrimage to the site of Troy. In a classic Greek ceremony he runs naked to the supposed tomb of Achilles, to place a garland. He is presented with a shield, said to have been dedicated by the Trojans to Athena.
 

From now on this sacred shield invariably accompanies Alexander into battle. It soon sees action. A short distance to the east of Troy a Persian army awaits the Macedonians. The battle is fought at the river Granicus, with Alexander leading a cavalry charge through the water. The Persians are routed. Many of their troops are Greek mercenaries, of whom thousands are captured. Most of them are killed, but 2000 are sent back to Macedonia in chains to provide slave labour in the mines. 

A year later, at Issus, Alexander defeats an army led by the Persian emperor, Darius III. He captures the emperor’s mother, wife and children and treats them with every courtesy – a detail which does much for his reputation. 
 
The destruction of the Persian empire: 333 – 330 BC

Within a mere eighteen months Alexander has cleared the Persians out ofAnatolia, which they have held for two centuries. The conqueror now moves south along the coast through present-day Syria, Lebanon and Israel. The ports here are the home bases of the Persian fleet in the Mediterranean. By occupying them he intends to cripple the fleet and deprive it of contact with the cities of the empire, includingPersepolis. Most of the Phoenician towns open their gates to him. The exception is the greatest of them all, Tyre, which he besieges for seven months (see the   Siege of Tyre). 

By the autumn of 332 Alexander is in Egypt. The Persian governor rapidly surrenders.

Alexander spends the winter in Egypt. His actions there are the first indication of how he will set about keeping control of distant conquests, places with their own cultural traditions. One method is to establish outposts of Greek culture. In Egypt he founds the greatest of the cities known by his name -Alexandria. 

Another method, equally important, is to present himself in the guise of a local ruler. To this end he carries out a sacrifice to Apis, a sacred bull atMemphis, where the priests crown him pharaoh. And he makes a long pilgrimage to a famous oracle of the sun god Amon, or Amen-Re, at Siwa. The priest duly recognizes Alexander as the son of the god. 
 

In the spring of 331 Alexander is ready to move northeast into Mesopotamia, where he meets and defeats the Persian emperor Darius in the decisive battle of Gaugamela. His way is now open to the great Persian capital city of Persepolis. 

In a symbolic gesture, ending conclusively the long wars between Greeks and Persians, he burns the palace of Xerxes in 330 (legend maintains that he is prompted to this act of vandalism by his Athenian mistress, Thaïs, after a drunken party). To make plain who now rules the Persian empire, Alexander adopts the ceremonial dress and court rituals of the emperor. 

Alexander in the east: 330 – 323 BC

For two years Alexander moves through his newly acquired empire (which stretches north beyond Samarkand and eastwards through modern Afghanistan) subduing any pockets of opposition and establishing Greek settlements. Then he goes further, in 327, through the mountain passes into India.

One of the towns founded by Alexander in India is called Bucephala. It is named to commemorate his famous horse, Bucephalus, which dies here at what turns out to be the furthest point of this astonishing expedition. Alexander’s troops threaten to mutiny in the Indian monsoon. At last, in 325, he turns for home. 
 

With his army reinforced by some Indian elephants, Alexander is back in Persia. In 324 he holds a great feast at Susa to celebrate the capture of the Persian empire. During the festivities, to emphasize that Greece and Persia are now one, he and eighty of his officers marry Persian wives. His own bride on this occasion is one of the daughters of Darius. Another daughter is married to Hephaestion 

Later that year Hephaestion dies of a fever at Ecbatana. Alexander mourns extravagantly for his most intimate friend, ordering great shrines to be built in Hephaestion’s honour. But in the following year, 323, after a banquet at Babylon, he himself is suddenly taken ill and dies. The greatest conqueror in history, he is still only thirty-two. 
 
The legacy of conquest: from 323 BC

Alexander has no heir (though the posthumous son of one of his wives is formally referred to as the king, until murdered in his early teens in 309). So Alexander’s generals set about carving up the new empire. 

After prolonged warfare two of them emerge with sizable portions.Ptolemy establishes himself in Egypt. And Seleucus wins control of a vast area – Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Persia and the eastern part of the empire, including at first even the territories in India.
 
Ptolemy adds legitimacy to his rule in Egypt by acquiring Alexander’s body. He intercepts the embalmed corpse on its way to burial, brings it to Egypt and places it in a golden coffin in Alexandria. 

It will remain one of the famous sights of the town for many years, until probably destroyed in riots in the 3rd century AD. 
 
The companions of Alexander the Great are Greek in origin, as Macedonians, and their descendants continue to see themselves as Greeks. A veneer of Greek culture is the lasting result of Alexander’s conquests. It is spread thinly from Egypt to Persia and even beyond the Khyber Pass, in addition to the many Mediterranean regions lying closer to Greece. 

These places do not become Greek, but they acquire a Greek tinge – for which the 19th century coins a name, Hellenistic. Alexander’s victories launch the Hellenistic (‘Greek-ish’) Age, which will last until the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC. 
 

Macedonia itself, Alexander’s homeland, is subject to a succession of violent upheavals. In one of them his mother, Olympias, arrives with an army in 317 BC and kills his half-witted half-brother, Philip III, together with Philip’s wife and 100 of his supporters. She loses her own life in the next coup, in the following year. 

In 276 a stable dynasty is at last established by descendants of Antigonus, another of Alexander’s generals. But its future is relatively short. As the most westerly part of Alexander’s empire, Macedonia is the first region to be devoured by its imperial successor. Rome first invades Macedonia in 197 BC. From 148 Macedonia is reduced to the status of a Roman province. Not until the 19th century does it feature prominently again in history. 

Alexander-Empire_323bc
 

But nothing can dim the memory of Alexander the Great. 

The regimental song of the British Grenadiers, seeking to list heroes in the Grenadier class, begins with the line: ‘Some talk of Alexander, and some of Hercules’. The tourist to Troy, in 333 BC, would be pleased with the choice of his companion for the opening line – and pleased too with the order of listing, even if it is imposed by considerations of rhythm and rhyme.

 

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