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Asokan inscriptions of Pakistan A study in socio-economic perspective.

Byline: Vijaya Kumar Babu

Abstract

The Land of Purity and Culture, Pakistan, has a hoary Archaeological and Historic antiquity, running back to the recorded Indus Valley Civilization. The Beard Priest and the Dancing Girl, stand to the testimony of Metallurgical and Stone-carving industry, as early as the chalcolithic times (c. 3500 BC).

Epigraphs, also called Inscriptions, the Written Records, composed in the contemporary Script and Language, divulge, the then SEGPLART i.e. -- Social, Economic, Geographical, Political, Philosophical, Linguistic, Aesthetic, Administrative, Agrarian, Religious and Technological aspects of Times. Coming to Pakistan context, the Edicts i.e. Royal Records, issued by Emperor Asoka, stand to be best examples of the contemporary Society.

For example, the XIII Major Rock Edict of Emperor Asoka, found at Shahbbazgiri, divulges the death toll at the Kalinga War, his eschewing the War, the principles he brought into practice to be followed by the subjects of the land for a better and civilized society, the countries on the south and the north etc.

Though of the total number of Inscriptions issued by Emperor Asoka (c.274 - 232), are 37, (dated-17 and undated--20), those found in the Pakistan region is limited to only 05, they are equally rich and informative; and bespeak of the contemporary Social and the Economic levels and standards of the People and the Land.

In order to understand the subject proper, it would be impedimental to peep into the History of Pakistan, as a birds eye view, from Pre-Historic times to till the end of the rule of Emperor Asoka.

Hence it is divided into the following Themes, Topics and Sub-Topics:

First phase of the Pakistan History begins with

a)###Pre History###(Ehde-quadeem-ki-tarikh)

b)###Proto History###(Ehde-vasta-ki-tarikh)

c)###Early History###(-ki-tarikh) and further sub divided into

a)###Pre-History - Palaeolithic

###(Lower, Middle and Upper phases)

###Mesolithic

###(Lower, Middle and Upper phases)

###Neolithic (Lower and Upper phases)

b)###Proto History -Chalcolithic (Indus valley),###

###Copper Age and Iron Age.

Following the discontinuation of the Indus Valley Civilization, a huge vacuum appeared in the History of Pakistan, till 6th Century BC, where after the Early Protestant Movements such as Jainism, Buddhism etc. took birth. There existed a numerous City and Republican States. But, of them, Sixteen (16) emerged powerful states, named Shodasa Mahajanapadas (solah taqatver Riyasatein) They are-

01. Anga###02.Avanti###03. Assaka

04. Chedi###05. Kosala###06. Kasi

07. Kambhoja###08. Kuru###09. Malla

10. Matsya###11. Magadha###12. Panchala

13. Saurasena###14. Ujjaini###15. Vatsa

16. Vajji

Out of the 16, Four Kingdoms emerged more powerful. They are

1. Magadha

2. Kosala

3. Vatsa

4. Avanti

Finally Magadha transformed into most powerful State of political administration and remained for Centuries as Magadhan Empire.

Second Phase of Pakistan History:

The second phase begins with the Establishment of calibrated Political Kingdoms.Though inscriptions and structural remains form the Major Sources for the study of the same, since the present Study is based on the Epigraphical Data alone, structural details are not touched. Following is the list of Mauryan rulers and brief account of the inscriptions issued by the Asoka:

Mauryan Dynasty (c. 322 to 185 BC)

1. Chandragupta Maurya###322 - 298###

2. Bindusara###297 - 272

3. Asoka###274 -232###

4. Dasaratha###232 - 224

5. Samprati###224 - 215

6. Salikusa###215 - 202

7. Deva Varma###202 - 195

8. Satadhanva###195 - 187

9. Brihadradha###187 - 185

I) Classification:

Total issued--37

(Dated-- 17 --- Undated- 20)

a) Inscriptions on Rocks:

1. Minor Rock Edicts - I-IV

2. Major Rock Edicts - I-XVI

(Pakistan: V, VII, IX, XII, XIII)

3. Cave Inscriptions - I-III

b) Inscriptions on Pillars:

4. Minor Pillar Edicts - I-III

5. Pillar Inscriptions - I-II

6. Pillar Edicts - I-VII

Dated--17: (Counted after coronation years)

01. Minor Rock Edict --###I###2.5 years

02. Major Rock Edict --###XIII###08###"

03. Major Rock Edict --###VIII###10###"

04. Minor Rock Edict --###IV###10###"

05. Major Rock Edict --###III###12###"

06. Major Rock Edict --###IV###12###

"07 Cave Inscription --###I###12###"

08. Cave Inscription --###II###12###"

09. Major Rock Edict --###V###13###"

10. Pillar Inscription --###II###14###"

11. Cave Inscription --###III###19###"

12. Pillar Inscription --###I###20###"

13. Pillar Edict --###I###26###"

14. Pillar Edict --###IV###26###"

15. Pillar Edict --###V###26###"

16. Pillar Edict --###VI###26###"

17. Pillar Edict --###VII###27###"

II) Location/Find Spots of Inscriptions:

Major Rock Edicts - V and IX

Mansehara - Pakistan

Major Rock Edicts-VII,XII and XIII

Shahbazgahri - Pakistan

III) Languages (jabaanein):

Except the Major Rock Edict-XII, composed in Greek, exclusively for those, whose mother tongue is Greek, rest of the Inscriptions i.e. V, VII, IX and XIII are composed in Prakrit Language

IV) Scripts (tehreer):Excluding the Major Rock Edict - VII, composed in Kharoshti, popularly read by the Central Asian inhabitants, remaining i.e. inscription nos. V, IX, XII, XIII are composed in Brahmi Script.

V) Social Welfare Activities (samaji-bhalai-ki-khidaamat) Major Pillar Edict--VII:

a) Plantation of Banyan Trees on Road sides (rasstonke-donom-janib-darakht-ugaana)

b) Growing Mango groves (aam-ke-paeda-ugaana)

c) Digging of Wells @ every 16 kms distance (khooun-ki-khudvaayi)

d) Construction of Watersheds (aabdaar khanon-ki- taameer)

VI) Countries and Lands referred to:

1. Major Rock Edict-V:

a) Yavanas b) Kambhojas c) Gandharas

d) Rashtrika-Paitryantakas

2. Major Rock Edict-XIII:

a) Yavanas at a distance of 600 yojanas/5000 kms

b) Beyond Turamaya country-- Antikini, Maka, Alikasundara

c) South- Chloa, Pandya, Tamraparni, Yavana Kambhoja, Nabhaka, abhpankti, Andhra, Bhojapaitranika, Pulinda

VII) Pious Deeds: (nek atwar)

1. Major Rock Edict-VII

a) Self Control (khud ehtesabi)

b) Purity of Thoughts (tatheer-e-afkaar)

c) Gratitude (mashkoor hona)

d) Firm Devotion (musammam erada)

2. Major Rock Edict-XII

a) Do not Degrade Others

(kisiki tazheek na karna)

b) Do not Extol the Self

(khud numaee na karna)

VIII) Courtesy (saadagi pasand), Respect (izzat) and Reverence (etheraam):

1. Major Rock Edict-V

a) Servile (muflis log)

b) Traders (tujjaar)

c) Farmers (kisan)

d) Brahman

as (brahman/baman)

e) Rulers (hukmaran)

f) Destitutes (jungi bewaein)

g) Elderly Persons (zofa)

2. Major Rock Edict-IX

a) Slaves (ghulam)

b) Servants (khidmat gaar)

c) Elders (ulama)

d) Brahmanas (brahman/baman)

e) Sramanas (sramanas)

f) Restrained Dealing (khush kalami)

IX) Administration (intejam):

1) Major Rock Edict-V: (officers- ohdedaar)

a) Rajjuka (Zila-i-ohdedaar)

b) Pradesika (Subedar)

Now, let us examine in detail the different activities ordered by Emperor Asoka for the Welfare of the People ......

Appointment of Dharma Maha Matras (khanuni-o-intejami ohdedaraan) i.e. Judicial cum Administrative Officers, is not merely for administration of the land alone, but the propagation of dharma, more. Thus, in the eyes of Asoka, Correctional and Judicial administration are meant to make the prisoners (quaidi) and convicts (sazayein) to eschew their past activities and to follow dharma (usool-o-zwabit), so that they become responsible citizens.

Social Welfare activities, such as--Digging of Wells (khooun-ki-khudvaayi), at a distance of 16 kms, Laying of Roads (raaste-banaana), Excavation of Tanks (taalaabon-ki-khudaayi), Plantation of Trees (paed ugaana), Construction of Rest Houses (saraaye-khana-bananaa) etc. are the activities aimed to promote People's Welfare (mafade-amma), Strengthening Revenue (khazana ke takhat), Political Stability (siyaasi...) and Strategy for Promotion of Trade and Commerce (kaarobaari-maamilat-ka-phailav) added to the devotion of enough and more time for dharmic activities.

That is, What Asoka meant is, Winning the People is important, but not by Sword and Blood, but by a Pious Word and Deed. He understood the results of war, with special reference to war against Kalinga. Policy of aggrandizement results in nothing more than blood shed, devastation, destitution and growth on all fronts becomes stand still. Progress halts forever. Hence no more firings and wars, please.

As said earlier, Asoka was unhappy with the results of the war, he eschewed the same. But Kings have to win the people. He, having well understood the situation, decided to win them by inculcating the Ideals of Dharma, so that they refrain from all uncivilized activities including that of War, and help each other, constantly, by sharing their pains, pangs, pleasure and mirth of each other. People registering themselves to be Good Citizens i.e. sujana (behtar-riyaya), results in Good Administration i.e. suparipalana (behtar-nazm-o-nasaq), which is more important to the society.

Self Governance Swaparipalana (khud-etemadi), is to be achieved, not merely by political theology but by Self Control (khud ehtesabi), Purity of Thought and Practice (tatheer-e-afkaar)

Finally, to sum up, the purpose of this article is to inform the West and the rest of the East, that Pakistan, since, second century BC, through the Edicts of Emperor Asoka, has understood, and been trying to explain the World, the devastating results of War (jung), be it internal strives or external wars, and the importance of peaceful coexistence, by following the Policy of Self Control (khud ehtesabi), Purity of Thought (tatheer-e-afkaar).

Let there be no Wars, but Welfare of People

Let flowers Grow and Bloom instead of Blood

Let not the People cry for loss of Families,

But try for Universal Brotherhood and Family- i.e. Vasudhaika kutumbakam
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Author:Babu, Vijaya Kumar
Publication:International Journal of Arts and Humanities
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 31, 2010
Words:1463
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