I am making this post on heavy demand of many blog readers. This is the first historical post under the new section of this blog which is related to Emperor Ashoka Maurya. It talks about his family-wives, sons, grandsons, etc. (at the end), his brief introduction and sources for digging his history.
The life history of this monarch is replete with countless incidents, many of which are sourced from the Buddhist Legends / texts. Often, while reading about this monarch, we come across incidents which oscillate between fact and fiction, establishing the veracity of which has proved to be an herculean task even for the best of the historians. So, while discussing him, we will be debating the information obtained from his "edicts" which are considered as Pure FACTS, along with that obtained from the Buddhist / Jain legends, from various countries, viz. Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, India(that time called AryaVrata/Jambudwipa-present day Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan), Japan, China, etc.
A very brief introduction about this monarch...
In the annals of kingship there is scarcely any record comparable to that of Ashoka, both as a man and as a ruler. To bring out the chief features of his greatness, historians have instituted comparisons between him and other distinguished monarchs in history - Both, Eastern and Western, ancient and modern, Pagan(in simple terms it means nature worshiper) or Muslim, and Christian.
In his efforts to establish a kingdom of righteousness after the highest ideals of a theocracy, he has been likened to David and Solomon of Israel in the days of its greatest glory ; in his philosophy and piety he recalls Aurelius ; he was a Charlemagne in the extent of his empire and, to some extent, in the methods of his administration, too, while his Edicts, "rugged, uncouth, involved, full of repetitions," read like the speeches of O. Cromwell in their mannerisms.
Lastly, he has been compared to The Khalifa Omar and to the noted sovereign Emperor Akbar of Hindustan, whom also he resembles in certain respects. As in the case of great characters like King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, the good King Alfred, or King St. Louis of France, a mass of tradition has gathered round the name of Asoka. Myths and legends have freely and luxuriantly grown round it, and it would have been very difficult to recover his true history, were it not for the fact that he has himself left us a sort of autobiography in his messages to his people, written on rocky surfaces or exquisitely finished and polished pillars of stone. In these sermons on stone we find his true self revealed and expressed, his philosophy of life, his conception of an emperor's duties and responsibilities, and the extent to which he lived to realise the high ideals and principles he professed and preached. This kind of evidence, which is not only a contemporary but a personal record, too, is unique in Indian history, and, whether suggested by indigenous or foreign precedents, it is fortunate we have it for one of our greatest men in a series of thirty-five inscriptions published on rock or pillar, of which some are located at the extremities of his empire.
|Sarnath Lion Capital | Emperor Ashoka - Adopted as Indian Emblem|
Ashoka was the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, who established the Mauryan Empire in BharatVarsha, after defeating the last ruler of Nanda Dynasty - DhanaNanda, in 324 BC.
Though, some historians dispute the fact, but it is generally believed, he married the daughter Durdhara of DhanaNanda, who was mother of Bindusara. She died at the time of child birth of Bindusara around 320 BC. There is a popular legend associated with birth of Bindusara which we discussed on the blog few months back, which is as follows.
Chandragupta Maurya's chief minister/advisor was Chanakya. Chanakya feared that there would be assassination attempts against Chandragupta by his enemies via poison. Chanakya wanted to make him immune from poison. He added small amounts of poison in Chandragupta's diet everyday so that he would get used to it. Though, Chandragupta was not aware of it. One day, while dining, he shared his food with Durdhara who was pregnant. As she was not immune to the effects of poisoning, she collapsed. Chanakya in order to save the child in womb cut open her belly and took out the baby. But, since one drop of poison had touched the forehead of baby it caused a mark on his forehead. Thus the prince was saved and named Bindusara. Bindu means Mark. Another variation of this tale says, the foetus was implanted into the womb of a goat, after death of his mother and hence his body developed marks similar to goat. Hence he got the name Bindusara. In Hindi, Bindu means mark, sara means addition. Hence the name means "sum of marks/spots".
Thus, taking in account, the legends and Edicts together, we find the following relations of Ashoka :
Father—Bindusara, son of Chandragupta Maurya. Bindusara had many wives. As per legends -> 16 wives.
Mother—Shubhadrangi, as named in the northern tradition; also called Dharma in the southern tradition. She was a Brahmin by birth.
(i) Sumana / Sushima, eldest, but stepbrother ; son of Charumati/Charumitra.
(ii) Tisya, youngest(real) brother ;
He is called Vitashoka or Vigatashoka in the northern legends,
Or, Mahendra by the Chinese traveller Chuwang,
Or, Sudatta / Sugatra in some other Chinese texts ;
(iii) Vitashoka, according to Sri-Lankan texts.
(1) Devi. Her full name was " Vedi Sa Maha Devi Shakya Kumari " ;
(2) Karuwaki /Kaurwaki , called " Dwitiya Devi Tivala mata" that means " The Second Queen, mother of Tivara " in the Edict of Ashoka; She is the ONLY wife of Ashoka whose name is found in Ashokan edicts.
(3) Asandhimitra, designated as "agramahisi" meaning - Chief Queen ;
(4) Padmavati ;
(5) TisyaRakshita ; she was made Chief Queen 4 years before his death, by Ashoka.
(1) Mahendra, son of Devi ;
(2) Tivara, son of Karuwaki / Kaurwaki;
(3) Kunala, son of Padmavati,
also known by the name of "Dharma Vivar Dhana", as mentioned in Nepali(?) texts. Also, the same name is mentioned by Chinese traveler/Buddhist monk, Fa-hien, who visited India in 4th-5th Century AD. in the court of ChandraGupta-II , he went to Sri Lanka also. ;
Do not confuse this ChandraGupta II(of Gupta Dynasty) with Chandragupta Maurya(Ashoka's grandfather).
(4) Jalauka, mentioned in the Kashmiri texts.
The Edicts of Ashoka tell us of four princes serving as Viceroys in four different, and remote, provinces, and designated as "Kumars" or "AryaPutras" , distinguishing them from the sons of lower status called "dalakas". Status of sons was determined from the status of their mothers.
(1) Sanghamitra, whose mother was Devi ;
(1) Agni Brahma, husband of Sanghamitra, nephew of Ashoka ;
(2) Deva Pala Kshatriya, husband of Charumati, and Prince of Nepal.
(1) Dasaratha, who became king after Ashoka;
(2) Samprati, son of Kunala ;
(3) Sumana, son of his daughter Sanghamitra.
RadhaGupta - He is mentioned as grandson(real or adopted?) of Chanakya. After death of Chanakya, for a brief time period, the post of main minister went to someone else, after which RadhaGupta rose to the fore. He is credited to have played an instrumental role in securing the throne for Ashoka.
How do historians arrive at the dates ?
On the basis of the texts to which we owe most of these names, it is also possible to ascertain some dates in the domestic life of Ashoka. For instance, we are told in the Sri Lankan texts that Ashoka's eldest son and daughter, Mahendra and Sanghamitra, were both ordained in the 6th year of his coronation when they were respectively 20 and 18 years old. Taking the date of Asoka's coronation to be 269/270 B.C., we get approx. 284 B.C. and 282 B.C. as the dates of the birth of Mahendra and his sister respectively.
If we take the father's age at the birth of his eldest child as 20 years, then Asoka must have been born in 304 B.C., and was thus seen by his grandfather, Chandragupta Maurya, who died in 299 B.C. It is also stated that Ashoka's son-in-law, Agni Brahma, was ordained in the 4th year of his coronation, i.e., in 266 B.C., before which a son was born to him. Thus Sanghamitra must have been married in 268 B.C. at the latest, i.e., at the age of 14.
I tried to cover all possible issues in brief. Due to paucity of time, this is a brief post.
Other History Posts under Ashoka Maurya section:
1. Chanakya's Novel Method to TEST Character of Ministers
2. Emperor Asoka Maurya Killed 99 Brothers to Become King - Fact or Myth ? Why/Did Asoka killed Sushima ? And some other questions | A Debate
3. What is the BASIS of GREATness ? | From Akbar to Ashoka to Alexander & Maharana Pratap
4. The HISTORY of Samrat Bindusara, Dharma and Ashoka
Article Category : Ashoka Maurya.