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Character Introduction: Ashoka

Character Introduction: Ashoka

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Sanguen Vitae: Member (India)

 

Name: Ashoka

Turn Date: 260 BC

Sire: Alexander

Mate: No Mate

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Ashoka was born to the Mauryan emperor Bindusara and a relatively lower ranked wife of his, Dharma. He was the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, founder of Mauryan dynasty. The Avadana texts mention that his mother was queen Subhadrangi. According to Ashokavadana, she was the daughter of a Brahmin from the city of Champa. Empress Subhadrangi was a Brahmin of the Ajivika sect, and was found to be a suitable match for Emperor Bindusara. Though a palace intrigue kept her away from the emperor, this eventually ended, and she bore a son. It is from her exclamation “I am now without sorrow”, that Ashoka got his name. The Divyavadana tells a similar story, but gives the name of the queen as Janapadakalyani.

Ashoka had several elder siblings, all of whom were his half-brothers from other wives of Bindusara. His fighting qualities were apparent from an early age and he was given royal military training. He was known as a fearsome hunter, and according to a legend, killed a lion with just a wooden rod. Because of his reputation as a frightening warrior and a heartless general, he was sent to curb the riots in the Avanti province of the Mauryan empire.

The Buddhist text “Divyavadana” describes Ashoka putting down a revolt due to activities of wicked ministers. This may have been an incident in Bindusara’s times. Taranatha’s account states that Achare Chanakya, Bindusara’s chief advisor, destroyed the nobles and kings of 16 towns and made himself the master of all territory between the eastern and the western seas. Some historians consider this as an indication of Bindusara’s conquest of the Deccan while others consider it as suppression of a revolt. Following this, Ashoka was stationed at Ujjayini as governor.

Bindusara’s death in 272 BCE led to a war over succession. According to Divyavandana, Bindusara wanted his son Sushim to succeed him but Ashoka was supported by his father’s ministers, who found Sushim to be arrogant and disrespectful towards them. A minister named Radhagupta seems to have played an important role in Ashoka’s rise to the throne. The Ashokavadana recounts Radhagupta’s offering of an old royal elephant to Ashoka for him to ride to the Garden of the Gold Pavilion where King Bindusara would determine his successor. Ashoka later got rid of the legitimate heir to the throne by tricking him into entering a pit filled with live coals. Radhagupta, according to the Ashokavadana, would later be appointed prime minister by Ashoka once he had gained the throne. The Dipavansa and Mahavansa refer to Ashoka’s killing 99 of his brothers, sparing only one, named Vitashoka or Tissa, although there is no clear proof about this incident (many such accounts are saturated with mythological elements). The coronation happened in 269 BCE, four years after his succession to the throne.

Buddhist legends state that Ashoka was bad-tempered and of a wicked nature. He built Ashoka’s Hell, an elaborate torture chamber described as a “Paradisal Hell” due to the contrast between its beautiful exterior and the acts carried out within by his appointed executioner, Girikaa.This earned him the name of Chanda Ashoka (Ca??a Asoka) meaning “Ashoka the Fierce” in Sanskrit. Professor Charles Drekmeier cautions that the Buddhist legends tend to dramatise the change that Buddhism brought in him, and therefore, exaggerate Ashoka’s past wickedness and his piousness after the conversion.

Ascending the throne, Ashoka expanded his empire over the next eight years, from the present-day boundaries Assam in the East to Balochistan in the West; from the Pamir Knot in Afghanistan in the north to the peninsula of southern India except for present day Tamil Nadu and Kerala which were ruled by the three ancient Tamil kingdoms.

While the early part of Ashoka’s reign was apparently quite bloodthirsty, he became a follower of the Buddha’s teachings after his conquest of Kalinga on the east coast of India in the present-day states of Odisha and North Coastal Andhra Pradesh. Kalinga was a state that prided itself on its sovereignty and democracy. With its monarchical parliamentary democracy it was quite an exception in ancient Bharata where there existed the concept of Rajdharma. Rajdharma means the duty of the rulers, which was intrinsically entwined with the concept of bravery and dharma. The Kalinga War happened eight years after his coronation. From his 13th inscription, we come to know that the battle was a massive one and caused the deaths of more than 100,000 soldiers and many civilians who rose up in defence; over 150,000 were deported. When he was walking through the grounds of Kalinga after his conquest, rejoicing in his victory, he was moved by the number of bodies strewn there and the wails of the kith and kin of the dead.

His victories and ability to unit all of India, caught Alexander’s attention. He made his way back to India, to talk to Ashoka. He was there to witness Ashoka convert to Buddasm and changing his ways. Seeing the man grow and change, he offered him immortality.

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Note: You might have noticed (India) next to the characters name.   While building Sanguen we’re establishing a section in India.  There isn’t enough Vampires to have a Clan or even a Kin Clan at the moment – so they established in India but their ties are to Sanguen.

Image: Irrfan Khan

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