Asokan Studies

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Item Code: NAF789
Author: D.C. Sircar
Publisher: Indian Museum, Kolkata
Language: English
Edition: 2000
Pages: 173 (22 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10. inch x 7.5 inch
Weight 550 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

The present , volume was intended to embody Dr. D.C. Sircar’s studies of Asokan edicts published on different occasions, but suitably edited for it; however, it has actually come to be a valuable Supplement to the monumental work of E. Hultzsch, entitled Inscriptions of Asoka (Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol. I, revised edition ), 1925, in which all the Brahmi and Kharostihi inscriptions of the Maurya king discovered in the Indian sub-continent till then were ably edited. After 1925, new Asokan records in Brahmi have been found at twelve sites in India , and out of them, the Gavimath and Palkigundu (Raichur Distric, Karnataka) versions of MRE I were published by R. L. Turner while sircar studied the remaining Rock and Pillar edicts discovered at Ahraura, Armaravati, Bahapur (Delhi), Erragudi, Gujarra, Nittur, Panguraria, Rajula-Mandagiri, Sopara and Udegolam in different parts of India-in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. He has also written on some of the Greek and Aramaic records of Asoka, which have been discovered in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The present volume not only contains the large number of his studies mentioned above, but also a dissertation on the Maski version of MRE I which was already included in Hultzch’s work as well the texts of the Gavimath and Palkigundu copies of MRE I studied by Turner and the Bairat, Rupnath and Sahasram versions of the same edict and also the Brahmagiri, Jatinga-Ramesvara and Siddapura copies of MRE I-II studied by others including Hultzsch.

The two unique features of the book are that this is the first work in which the recently discovered Panguraria, Nittur and Udegolam edicts find a place and that the Synoptical tExts appended to the volume bring together seventeen versions of MRE I and seven version of MRE II for facilitating their comparative study by the students of epigraphy, linguistics and history.


About The Author

Dr. D. C. Sircar was formerly Government Epigraphist for India and Carmichael Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Calcutta University. He served a number of Indian and Foreign Universities as Visiting Professor and had occasions to deliver lectures in numerous institutions in India and outside. Dr. Sircar was General president of the All-India Oriental Conference (Ujjain, 1972) and also presided over such bodies as the Epigraphical and Numismatic Societies of India. He has been elected General President of the Indian History Congress (Bombay, 1980). Dr. Sircar is recipient of the Sir William Jones Medal of the Asiatic Society (Calcutta) as well as the Akbar Medal of the Numismatic Society and the Tamrapatra of the Epigraphical Society. He is Honorary Correspondent of the Archaeological Survey of India, Honorary Vidyavaridhi of the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara and Honorary Fellow of several learned associations.

Dr. Sircar has written on most aspects of early Indian history and has published numerous books and more than one thousand and one hundred papers and notes in various periodical in India and abroad.

The name of Dr. Sircar is generally regarded as’ a sufficient guarantee for the merit of his works. It has been said t hat , he is the greatest living epigraphist in India, and has made a life-long serious study of inscriptions such as no other living scholar, Indian or European , has made and that he ‘has earned a position of eminence’ in the fields including those of epigraphy and numismatics by producing quantities of painstaking and objective scholarship’. “ Specialists working in this material are obliged to take Prof. Sricar’s judgments into account.; they ignore him only at their peril”. Reference is made to his excellence in a type of historical research which may be called the first level of synthesis’, i.e. ‘the gathering together of related epigraphs, squeezing out every drop of information they will yield, and collecting the evidence of literature, numismatics and the epigraphs of contemporary kingdoms in assessing their full significance’. “Because of ht concentration which he devotes to a subject, little escapes his scrutiny and much has a wider significance than one would at first suppose.”

Dr. Sricar is described as ‘one of our most indefatigable workers in the field of early Indian antiquarian and historical research’ and whatever he writes as resting ‘upon wide, accurate and dependable scholarship’, an as ‘characterized by sound and critical objectively’.



The monograph of Asokan Studies by Prof. D. C. Sircar almost exhausted by the time when the nation was observing 2300th birth anniversary of the great Maurya emperor Asoka in the year 1997. Therefore , it was felt necessary to make this volume available for the researchers and students interested in the study of epigraphic records issued by the celebrated monarch. No revision was possible due to the sudden demise of the late-lamented scholar. The present reprint edition will definitely satisfy the growing demand of the volume.





The edicts of the Maurya emperor Asoka form a unique branch of Indian epigram-phical literature for a variety of reasons. They offer the earliest records in the Brahrni and Kharosthi alphabets in several forms of Prakrit speech and throw welcome light on the meagre and dubious information offered by tradition on the career, religious policy and administration of a mighty emperor who is one of the greatest sons of India and the world. They give us an idea about Asoka's Dharma which appears to be the form of religious faith originally propagated by the Buddha and to be earlier than the Buddhism of the existing canonical literature of a somewhat later date. Above all, they embody the message of Asoka whose life and activities are counted among the best contributions of India to the civilization of the world. The emperor introduced generosity and forbearance in politics and administration and was remarkable not only for his piety but also for his liberal and impartial dealings with the subjects irrespective of their caste and creed. He realised the futility of military conquests and the importance of peace after a great victory over a powerful enemy and thereafter became an upasaka (lay follower) of the Buddha and followed the latter's path of peace. He says how, after a period of inactivity, he became zealously active in the cause of Dharma and how, within a short time, his religious practices, regulations and teachings led to the growth of Dharma every- where. In this connection, Asoka emphasises that the brilliant results of such religious activities can be achieved by both the rich and the poor. There was soon a change in his foreign policy, and he began to pursue a policy of toleration in respect of the neighbouring states in spite of the great strength and vast resources of the Maurya empire. Asoka now preferred the conquest of the heart of the peoples of other kingdoms by love and toleration and dreamt of a peaceful world in which various peoples would live in harmony. Thus the Maurya emperor realised in the third century B.G what has imperfectly dawned upon our politicians who thought of the League of Nations and the United Nations Organisation after World Wars I and II respectively. Asoka's administration is re- markable for his attempt at an experimentation because, at the same time, he tried to utilise the services of the officers for the propagation of Dharma as well as to maintain the high standard of their efficiency in administrative work.

The inscriptions of Asoka belong to different classes and have been discovered in different parts of India as well as in Pakistan and Mghanistan. All his records published previously were very ably re-edited by the great German Indologist, E. Hultzsch, in his valuable work entitled Inscriptions of Asoka (Corpus lnscriptionum. Indicarum, Vol. I, New Edition, 1925) which practically superseded earlier works on the subject. Out of the numerous Asokan records discovered and published at later dates, the Gavimath and Palkigundu versions of Minor Rock Edict I were edited by R. L. Turner in the Hyderabad Archaeological Series, No. 10, 1931 and 1952, while the author of the present volume published the remaining Brahrni epigraphs discovered at Indian sites such as the Rock and Pillar Edicts Found at Ahraura, Amaravati, Bahapur (Delhi), Erragudi, gujarra, Nittur, Panguraria, Rajula-Mandagiri Soparfi, and Udegolam. A few Aramaic edicts found at Taxila in Pakistan and in the eastern areas of Afghanistan have been published or noticed while some edicts in Greek and Aramaic found near Kandahar have been published by Italian and French scholars. The author of the volume had also occasion to write a few other articles on Asokan epigraphs besides those referred to above.

Most of the author's studies of the edicts of Asoka, which first appeared usually in periodicals-notably the Epigraphia Indica, are incorporated in the present volume with thanks to the authorities who published them in their original form. Some of' the author's notes (e.g., those on Asokan expressions like samavaya, bhage ariuie, parimda, amba-kapilika and vivutha appearing in the Indian Culture, Vol. VII, 194], pp. 487ff.; Vol.VIII, 1942, pp. 388-400; Epigraphic Indica, Vol. XXXV, 1963-1964, pp. 99-100; and Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXXVIII, 1962, pp. 222ff., have, however, been left out from this collection mainly because they have been utilised in his works entitled Select In- sriptious bearing on Indian History and Civilization, Vol. I, Calcutta University, 1942 and 196.5, and Inscriptions of Asoka, Publications Division, Government of India, New Delhi, 1957. 1967 and 1975.

The references to the sources where the studies originally appeared are supplied below,

Chapter I -Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XXXII, 1957-1958, pp. 1-28.

Chapter II -(1) Ibid., pp. 29-30.

Chapter (2) Foreigners ill Ancient India and Laksmi and Sarasuati in Art and Literature, edited by D. C. Sircar, Calcutta University, 1970, pp. 25-34.

Chapter III -Mrzski Inscription of Asoka (Hyderabad

Archaeological Series, No.1), revised edition by D. C. Sircar, Hyderabad, 1958, pp. 1-30.

Chapter IV -(1) Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XXXVI, 1965-1006, pp. 293-48.

(2) Ibid., Vol. XXXVIII, 1969-1970, pp. 1-4.

Chapter V .au«, Vol. XXXI, 1955-1956, pp. 20.5-10.

Chapter VI -Ibid., Vol. XXXIX, 1971-1972 (in the press).

Chapter VII -Ibid., Vol. XXX, 1955-1956, pp. 211-18.

Chapter VIII –(1) Ibid., XXXIII, 1959-1960, pp. 333-37

(2) Ibid., Vol XXXV, 1963-1964, pp.. 40-43.

Appendix I- Indian Museum Bulletin, Vol. XII Nos. I & 2, 1977.

Appendix II- Ibid.

Appendix III -Journal of Ancient Indian History, Vol. XII, 1978-79 (in the press).



A number of the studies relate to several more or less similar texts of Minor Rock Edict I discovered and published at different dates in separate articles so that an amount of repetition was inevitable in the original papers. While revising them for the present volume, an attempt has been made to eliminate this feature as far as possible, though its vestiges may still persist here and there. It is, however, well known to the students of Indian epigraphy that even Hultzsch could not avoid such repetitions while dealing with different versions of the same edicts in his celebrated work cited above.

The author will be happy if his Asokan studies, now placed together in the hands of the students of history, are found to be of any use to those who are interested in the history of Asoka with special reference to his message.

The author records his debt of gratitude to the authorities of the Indian Museum, Calcutta (particularly to Dr. Amal Sarkar, its Publication Officer) who have kindly arranged for the publication of the volume. He also expresses his gratefulness to Dr. J. R. Haldar of the Museum, who has been good enough to prepare the index.

The author is again thankful to the Indian Council of Historical Research which favoured him with a grant for helping him in the preparation and publication of his studies in epigraphy. Part of the amount was utilised in the compilation of the present volume including the insertion of Nagari transcripts of the epigraphical texts in it.



While dedicating this volume to the sacred memory of the late Professor S. Radha- krishnan, I remember the saddest experience of my official career in the Epigraphical Branch of the Archaeological Survey of India. In connection with the celebration of 2500th anniversary of the Buddha's Maha-parinirvana I was requested by the Buddha Jayanti C. Committee, formed by the Government of India under the Chairman- ship of Professor Radhakrishnan, then the Vice-President of India, to prepare an English translation of the edicts of Asoka in order to make the Maurya king's message intelligible to the general reader.

The first difficulty for me was that the Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting wanted me to follow E. Hultzsch's translation of the edicts as found in his well-known work appearing in 1925 and my own interpretation only in respect of Asokan records discovered after that date. Professor Radhakrishnan, however, appreciated in a moment my view that conflicting opinions incorporated side by side in a work of this type were sure to confuse the readers.

The next difficulty was that the Hindi Division of the Ministry noticed some out of the many differences between my interpretation of the edicts and their Hindi translation prepared by another gentleman, and I was invited to a meeting at Professor Radha- krishnan's residence to meet the Hindi translator and a few officers. There, at the outset, I drew the Professor's attention to only one of the points raised, in which my translation of the word mrga as 'an animal' was regarded as wrong and the meaning 'a deer' adopted by the Hindi translator was stated to be correct. Professor Radhakrishnan at once observed that mrga is generally 'an animal' and particularly 'a deer' whereupon the appears to support the second meaning. I politely replied that it was possible for me only to follow my own ideas and not the opinion of the officer. The Secretary then observed that Hultzsch's translation of the edicts could be published in preference to mine while the Secretary of the Ministry of Education, another officer present at the meeting, appeared to prefer the publication of an English version of their Hindi translation. I observed that there could not be any better advice than these because it was really impossible for me merely to copy others' views in respect of the edicts after having intensively studied them for two decades first as an M.A. student, then as a teacher of Post-Graduate classes and finally as an officer of the EpigraphicaJ Branch. However, Professor Radhakrishnan was not inclined to accept the advice of either of the two Secretaries.

I faced the third difficulty when my book was going through the press. I had reason to suspect that the idea was not only to deprive me of any honorarium due to the author but even to publish my book without the author's name. I was then compelled to appeal to Professor Radhakrishnan to be so kind as to see that at least my authorship of the book was not suppressed and was very glad soon to be assured that it would not be.

It brings tears to my eyes today to think of the great man's kindness which saved a poor officer from trouble.




  Introduction vii
Chapter- I Minor Rock Edicts I-II and Edicts I-XIV at Erragudi  
  I. Introduction 1
  II. Texts and Translation of MRE I_II 7
  III. Texts and Translations of RE I-XIV 13
Chapter- II Fragmentary Rock Edicts at Sopara and Kandahar  
  I. Fragment of RE IX at Sopara 42
  II. Fragments of the Greek version of RE XII and XIII at Kandahar 44
Chapter- III Maski version of MRE I  
  I. Findspot and Discovery 50
  II. Importance of the Inscription 52
  III. Language and Grammar 56
  V. Text and Translation 60
  V. Commentary 62
Chapter- IV Northern version of MRE I at Ahraura and Delhi  
  I. Ahraura version 72
  II. Delhi Version 82
Chapter- V Central Version of MRE I at Gujarra 86
Chapter- VI Western version of MRE I at Panguraria 94
Chapter- VII Southern version of MRE I and II at Rajula-Mandagiri 104
Chapter- VIII Minor Rock and Pillar Edict at Kandahar and Amravati  
  I. Greek and Aramaic versions of MRE IV at Kandahar 113
  II. Fragmentry Pillar Edict (MPE IV) at Amaravati 118
  Appendix I Nittur Version of MRE I-II 123
  Appendix II Udegolam Version of MRE I-II 129
  Appendix III Synoptical Texts of MRE I-II 132
  Index 141

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