Edicts Of Ashoka | Indian History | Free PDF Download



  • The Edicts of Ashoka are a collection of 33 inscriptions on the Pillars of Ashoka as well as boulders and cave walls made by the Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire during his reign from 269 BCE to 232 BCE.
  • These inscriptions were dispersed throughout the areas of modern-day Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan and provide the first tangible evidence of Buddhism.
  • The edicts describe in detail Ashoka’s view about dhamma.

The Edicts are divided into:

1 – Minor Rock Edicts: Edicts inscribed at the beginning of Ashoka’s reign.

2 – Minor Pillar Edicts: Schism Edict, Queen’s Edict, Rummindei Edict, Nigali Sagar Edict.

3 – Major Rock Edicts: 14 Edicts (termed 1st to 14th) and 2 separate ones found in Odisha.

4 – Major Pillar Edicts: 7 Edicts, inscribed at the end of Ashoka’s reign.


  • These inscriptions proclaim Ashoka’s adherence to the Buddhist philosophy which, as in Hinduism is called dharma, “Law”.
  • The inscriptions show his efforts to develop the Buddhist dharma throughout his kingdom. Although Buddhism and the Gautama Buddha are mentioned, the edicts focus on social and moral precepts rather than specific religious practices or the philosophical dimension of Buddhism. These were located in public places and were meant for people to read.
  • In these inscriptions, Ashoka refers to himself as “Beloved servant of the Gods” (Devanampiyadasi). The inscriptions revolve around a few recurring themes: Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism, the description of his efforts to spread Buddhism, his moral and religious precepts, and his social and animal welfare program.
  • The edicts were based on Ashoka’s ideas on administration and behaviour of people towards one another and religion


  • The Dharma preached by Ashoka is explained mainly in term of moral precepts, based on the doing of good deeds, respect for others, generosity and purity.

Right behaviour

  • Dharma is good, but what constitutes Dharma? It includes little evil, much good, kindness, generosity, truthfulness and purity. Pilar Edict Nb2 (S. Dharmika)
  • And noble deeds of Dharma and the practice of Dharma consist of having kindness, gene rosity, truthfulness, purity, gentleness and goodness increase among the people. Rock Pilar Nb7 (S. Dharmika)



  • Ashoka’s Dharma meant that he used his power to try to make life better for his people and he also tried to change the way people thought and lived. He also thought that dharma meant doing the right thing.

Kindness to prisoners

  • It is my desire that there should be uniformity in law and uniformity in sentencing. I even go this far, to grant a three-day stay for those in prison who have been tried and sentenced to death. During this time their relatives can make appeals to have the prisoners’ lives spared. If there is none to appeal on their behalf, the prisoners can give gifts in order to make merit for the next world, or observe fasts. Pillar Edict Nb4 (S. Dhammika)


Respect for animal life

  • The Mauryan empire was the first Indian empire to unify the country and it had a clear-cut policy of exploiting as well as protecting natural resources with specific officials tasked with protection duty.
  • He was perhaps the first ruler in history to advocate conservation measures for wildlife. Reference to these can be seen inscribed on the stone edicts.


  • Rock Edict I Prohibits animal slaughter. Bans festive gatherings and killings of animals. Only two peacocks and one deer were killed in Asoka’s kitchen. He wished to discontinue this practice of killing two peacocks and one deer as well.
  • Major Rock Edict II Provides for care for man and animals, describes about Chola, Pandyas, Satyapura and Keralputra Kingdoms of South India Major
  • Rock Edict III Generosity to Brahmans. Issued after 12 years of Asoka’s coronation. It says that the Yuktas (subordinate officers and Pradesikas (district Heads) along with Rajukas (Rural officers ) shall go to the all areas of kingdom every five years and spread the Dhamma Policy of Asoka.
  • Major Rock Edict IV Dhammaghosa is ideal to the mankind and not the Bherighosa. Impact of Dhamma on society.


  • Major Rock Edict V Concerns about the policy towards slaves. He mentions in this rock edict “Every Human is my child”. Appointment of Dhammamahamatras is mentioned in this edict.
  • Major Rock Edict VI Describes King’s desire to get informed about the conditions of the people constantly. Talks about welfare measures.
  • Major Rock Edict VII Requests tolerance for all religions – “To foster one’s own sect, depreciating the others out of affection for one’s own, to exalt its merit, is to do the worst harm to one’s own sect.“
  • Major Rock Edict VIII Describes Asoka’s first Dhamma Yatra to Bodhgaya & Bodhi Tree.
  • Major Rock Edict IX Condemns popular ceremonies. Stress in ceremonies of Dhamma.


  • Major Rock Edict X Condemns the desire for fame and glory. Stresses on popularity of Dhamma.
  • Major Rock Edict XI Elaborates Dhamma
  • Major Rock Edict XII Directed and determined request for tolerance among different religious sects.
  • Major Rock Edict XIII It is the largest inscription from the edict. King considered the victory by “Dhamma” to be the foremost victory; mentions the victory of “Dhamma“.
  • Major Rock Edict XIV Describes engraving of inscriptions in different parts of country.

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