The lions and coins that we see on our notes were carved in stone and placed on top of a massive stone pillar at Sarnath.
The empire that Ashoka ruled was founded by his grandfather, Chandragupta Maurya, more than 2300 years ago. Chandragupta was supported by a wise man named Chanakya or Kautilya. Many of Chanakya’s ideas were written down in a book called the Arthashastra.
There were several cities in the empire like the capital Pataliputra, Taxila, and Ujjain. Taxila was a gateway to the northwest, including Central Asia, while Ujjain lay on the route from north to south India. Merchants, officials, and crafts persons probably lived in these cities.
Emperors need more resources than kings because empires are larger than kingdoms, and need to be protected by big armies.
So also they need a larger number of officials who collect taxes.
The area around Pataliputra was under the direct control of the emperor. The officials were appointed to collect taxes. Officials also punished those who disobeyed the ruler’s orders. Spies kept a watch on the officials. And emperor supervised them all, with the help of senior ministers.
There were some amount of controls from Pataliputra were often sent as governors, and local customs, and rules were probably followed.
The Arthashastra tells us that the north-west was important for blankets and south India for its gold and precious stones. It is possible that these resources were collected as tribute.
In the forest regions, people were more or less independent. So they provide elephants, timber, honey, and wax to Mauryan officials in the form of tax.
Ashoka was the first ruler who tried to take his message to the people through inscriptions. Most of Ashoka’s inscriptions were in Prakrit and were written in the Brahmi script.
Kalinga is the ancient name of coastal Orissa. Ashoka fought a war to conquer Kalinga. However, he was so horrified when he saw the violence and bloodshed that he decided not to fight any more wars. He is the only king in the history of the world who gave up conquest after winning a war.
Ashoka’s dhamma did not involve worship of a god, or performance of a sacrifice. He was also inspired by the teachings of the Buddha.
There were so many problems that troubled him. People in the empire followed different religions, and this sometimes led to conflict. Animals were sacrificed. Slaves and servants were ill-treated. There were quarrels. Ashoka felt it was his duty to solve these problems. So he appointed officials, known as the dhamma mahamatta who went from place to place teaching people about dhamma. He also sent messengers to spread ideas about dhamma to other lands, such as Syria, Egypt, Greece and Sri Lanka.
He built roads, dug wells, and built rest houses. Besides, he arranged for medical treatment for both human beings and animals.