Ashoka and his rule

After the war of Kalinga, Ashoka did not fight any war and kept his empire intact not by military power but by adopting the policy of religious toleration and patronising multi-cultural trends in the society. Although he converted to Buddhism and enthusiastically preached dhamma, he never forced anyone to change his religion. Ashoka maintained integrity of all religions in his empire.

One of the important aspects of his rule was that he founded new cities. As a result of this development, trade and commerce flourished. Construction of cities during Ashoka's rule increased the value of professional classes of artisans in society as they were employed by the ruling elite to build their palaces and design their furniture, jewellery and costumes. City life gave rise to cultural activities, and music, dance, painting and sculpture became popular among the wealthy. Scholars were patronised by rulers as well as by the nobility.

Patliputra was the capital of Maurya Empire. It was surrounded by high walls to protect it from enemies and robbers. Its gates were closed at night and nobody was allowed to enter the city. The estimated population of the city was 140,000. There were markets and bazaars in the city where one could buy all kinds of goods. The other famous cities were Taxila, Ujjain, Kosambi and Mathura.

Ashoka built many stupas as an expression of his devotion to Buddhism. For Buddhist priests, he also built vihar or hostels where they lived and worshipped. He also constructed a number of monasteries for priests where they could spend their time in peace and seclusion.Throughout his empire, Ashoka built roads which facilitated traders and travellers to move from one place to another. He also planted trees on both sides of the roads so that passers-by could take rest under trees' shades during the hot summer. He also built rest houses near main roads to provide accommodation to travellers during long journeys.

Water supply was made efficient by digging wells and constructing water reservoirs. Ashoka also built hospitals where doctors used herbal medication to treat the patients. Hospitals were provided with plenty of herbs that were cultivated according to the advice of physicians.

Archaeologists have found a great number of coins belonging to Ashoka's reign which indicate the presence of goldsmiths who made coins for traders as well as for government. The usage of coins made trade and commerce flourish and selling of commodities became easier as the goods could be taken in any part of the empire and after selling them, coins could be obtained. The invention of coins, however, created a new class of moneylenders whose business was to lend money on high interest rate and exploit the needy.

Ashoka, following the principal of dhamma, prohibited the slaughter of animals and reduced his habit of eating meat. Later on, he completely banned the practice of slaughtering. He also abandoned hunting. Before his rule, it was a tradition to slaughter many animals for royal consumption.

Ashoka treated his people like his children and tried his best to provide them with justice. Though there were punishments for crimes but they were light and not brutal. In case of death penalty, three days were given to get the confirmation of the crime and if the accused was found to be innocent, he was immediately released. It was customary to release prisoners on different occasions.

To propagate his message, Ashoka sent his messengers to every part of his empire. He also sent ambassadors of peace to Syria, Egypt and Greece.

Ashoka maintained his vast empire intact because of his policy of peace and tolerance. During his rule, he neither invaded any country nor did any country invade India. This kept India peaceful and prosperous.

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