Emperor Ashoka | ಅಶೋಕ ಮಹಾರಾಜ

Came across various versions of the same story. As I couldn’t find a succinct version, I consolidated yet another one myself from different sources on the web to match the one I’d heard originally long ago (can’t remember where).


Emperor Ashoka ruled the vast Mouryan empire [around 273 BC], but there was one small state called Kalinga (now called Orissa) that remained independent, beyond Ashoka’s empire. The people of Kalinga were patriots and loved freedom. They were ready to fight and die in defense of their motherland. Ashoka asked Kalinga’s royalty to submit before his supremacy. When they defied this diktat, Ashoka sent one of his generals to Kalinga to make them submit. The general and his forces were, however, completely routed through the skilled tactics of Kalinga’s commander-in-chief.

Ashoka, baffled at this defeat, attacked with the greatest invasion ever recorded in Indian history until then. Kalinga put up a stiff resistance, but they were no match for Ashoka’s brutal strength. The whole of Kalinga was plundered and destroyed: Ashoka’s later edicts say that about 100,000 people were killed on the Kalinga side and 10,000 from Ashoka’s army; thousands of men and women were deported.

After the victory, standing on the great battlefield of Kalinga, surrounded by death and destruction, he is said to have walked among the rotting corpses and dead animals that were being eaten by vultures. As far as his eye could see he saw only the corpses and severed limbs of soldiers killed in the battle. There were streams of blood. Soldiers were rolling on the ground in unbearable pain. This sight made him feel deeply remorseful and he cried the famous quote “What have I done?”

As he moved through the dead, he saw a monk in the distance – also walking among the bodies, but radiant and at peace. According to one account, the Emperor said to himself; “Why is it that I, who have everything, am so wretched, whereas this monk, who has nothing save for his robes and bowl, is so serene in this place of terror?”

It is said that it was this encounter that transformed him from a tyrant to one of history’s most just and benevolent rulers.

Reference Sources:
Wiki on Ashoka

Terror, Counter-terror and the Dharma

Ashoka – biography from freeindia.org


“My God, what have we done?” – Robert Lewis, the co-pilot of the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb in August 6, 1945.

4 Responses to “Emperor Ashoka | ಅಶೋಕ ಮಹಾರಾಜ”

  1. Leonid Mamchenkov Says:

    I’ve heard a similar story about several rulers. But those were from unrealiable sources. 🙂

  2. msanjay Says:

    yeah I think its pretty hard to find reliable sources for something that happened so long ago. [Or maybe sometimes even somethings that happened yesterday 😉 ]

    Anyway, it was quite surprising to see how a similar reaction of regret (atleast momentary) in the atom bomber as well many centuries later! I wonder if the unknown last words of the bombers of 9/11 were “oh no…“…

  3. msanjay Says:

    “My sources are unreliable, but their information is fascinating.”

    ~ Ashleigh Brilliant

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