Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Do You Know
|Do You Know|
The Emperor Ashok built several pillars throughout India. They were inscribed about Mauryan kings during his reign in 3rd century BC. Maybe there were many pillars before but at present only 19 pillars survive with inscriptions. Many are preserved in fragmentary state. Their height is averagely 40-50 feet and weighing up to 50 tons each. All the pillars were quarried at Chunaar, just south of Vaaraanasee, UP, and were dragged, sometimes hundreds of miles to the place where they had to be erected.
Why these pillars were erected? Ashok took over the kingdom of his grandfather Chandragupt Maurya in 269 BC. After 8 years he fought Kaling war, in which in his own words - "150,000 people were deported, 100,000 were killed and as many as that perished..." Seeing so large scale destruction he felt very bad and got converted to Buddhism. Although it did not become state religion but with his support it spread rapidly. To spread it far and wide he sent his emissaries to near and distant areas and erected these pillars with Buddhist tenets inscribed on them. legend has it that Ashok built 84,000 Stoop commemorating Buddha's life events. Some f the Stoop contained networks of walls containing the hub spokes and and rim of a wheel; while others contained interior walls in a Swaastik shape. The wheel represents the Sun, time and Buddhist law; while the Swaastik stands for the cosmic dance around a fixed center and guards against evil.
Locations of Ashok Pillars
Ashok Pillars in Foreign Countries
These pillars have four components - The shaft are always plain and smooth, circular in cross section, slightly tapering upwards, and always chiseled out of a single piece of stone. The capitals have the shape and appearance of a gently arched bell formed of lotus petals. The abaci are of two types - square and plain, and circular and decorated, and these are of different proportions. The crowning animals are either seated or standing, but always in the round and chiseled in a single piece with the abaci.
Ashok Column or Ashok pillar at Saaranaath (the iron capital) is the most celebrated pillar established there in 250 BC. On this pillar, four lions are seated back to back. This lion capital has been adopted as the national Emblem of India, and the wheel, Ashok Chakra from its base was placed onto the center of the national flag of India.
Their inscriptions are in Eastern, Middle and Western Praakrit language, which is regarded as Panjaabee or North-Western dialect, Ujjayinee or Middle dialect, and Magadhee or Eastern dialect. They all are written in Braahmee script.
The first pillar was discovered in the 16th century. It first looked of brass but after going near to it, it was found of highly polished sandstone with upright script that resembled a form of Greek. Since then about 150 Ashok inscriptions have been found, carved onto the face of rocks, or on stone pillars in North India and South India. These pillars were placed at strategic positions near border cities and trade routes.
Why is Ashok Pillar in Delhi, and a similar one in Karnaatak; And not any in Tamilnaadu ?
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 08/31/12