Ashoka ( English pronunciation: /əˈʃoʊkə/; Sanskrit: अशोक; IAST: Aśoka; died 232 BCE) was an ancient Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from c. 268 to 232 BCE. He was the grandson of the founder of Maurya dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya who had created one of the largest empires in ancient India, then renounced it all, and had become a Jain monk. One of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka expanded Chandragupta's empire, and reigned over a realm that stretched from present-day Afghanistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east. It covered the entire Indian subcontinent except parts of present-day Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. The empire's capital was Pataliputra (in Magadha, present-day Patna), with provincial capitals at Taxila and Ujjain.
In about 260 BCE, Ashoka waged a destructive war against the state of Kalinga (modern Odisha). He conquered Kalinga, which none of his ancestors had done. Some scholars suggest that he belonged to Jainism tradition, but it is generally accepted that he embraced Buddhism. Legends state he converted after witnessing the mass deaths of the Kalinga War, which he himself had waged out of a desire for conquest. "Ashoka reflected on the war in Kalinga, which reportedly had resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and 150,000 deportations, ending at around 200,000 deaths." Ashoka converted to Buddhism about 263 BCE. He is remembered for Ashoka pillars and edicts, sending Buddhist monks to Sri Lanka and Central Asia, and establishing monuments marking several significant sites in the life of Gautama Buddha.
Beyond the Edicts of Ashoka, biographical information about him rely on legends written centuries later, such as the 2nd-century CE Ashokavadana ("Narrative of Ashoka", a part of Divyavadana), and in the Sri Lankan text Mahavamsa ("Great Chronicle"). The emblem of the modern Republic of India is an adaptation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka. Ashoka's name "Aśoka" means "painless, without sorrow" in Sanskrit (the a privativum and śoka "pain, distress"). In his edicts, he is referred to as Devānāmpriya (Pali Devānaṃpiya or "The Beloved of the Gods"), and Priyadarśin (Pali Piyadasī or "He who regards everyone with affection"). His fondness for his name's connection to the Saraca asoca tree, or the "Ashoka tree" is also referenced in the Ashokavadana. H.G. Wells wrote of Ashoka in his book The Outline of History: "Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Ashoka shines, and shines, almost alone, a star."...LESS