The Kalinga War

Kalinga war was turning point for Ashoka and India History. The club focused on understanding why the war was waged and what were it’s consequences for Ashoka.

  1. The Kalinga war is the most famous war fought between the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka the Great and the State of Kalinga.
  2. Kalinga was a feudal republic state now known as Odisha.
  3. This war was the last battle which Ashoka the Great ever fought.
  4. Bindusara, the father of Ashoka had made some attempts to conquer Kalinga but had been defeated.
  5. The war began in 261 BC which was the 8th year of the reign of Ashoka.
  6. The king of Kalinga was Raja Anantha Padmanabhan during this time.
  7. After Bindusara’s death, Ashoka took complete charge to annex Kalinga.
  8. By taking ammunitions to protect their land, the brave and loyal people of Kalinga fought fiercely against the armies of The Mauryan Empire. However, it turned into an infamous bloodshed battle.
  9. Around 100,000 Kalinga civilians and more than 10,000 of Ashoka’s own warriors died during this battle.
  10. The bloodshed in the war was so much that it is said, the Daya river running next to the battlefield turned red with the blood of the slain.
  11. Ashoka felt that he was the cause of this destruction which made him devote the rest of his life to Ahimsa (non-violence).
  12. After the Battle of Kalinga, Ashoka ended his military conquest of expansion of his empire, and he ruled his historic empire for more than 40 years with

Key Points

  • While the early part of Ashoka’s reign was apparently quite bloodthirsty, he became a follower of the Buddha’s teachings after his conquest of Kalinga.
  • According to a contemporary text, the Edicts of Ashoka, Ashoka converted to   Buddhism because he “felt remorse on account of the conquest of Kalinga because, during the subjugation of a previously unconquered country, slaughter, death, and taking away captive of the people necessarily occur.”
  • In one source, his conversion is presented as a gradual process coming from intense personal anguish, rather than spurred by a specific event.
  • As a Buddhist emperor, Ashoka believed that Buddhism is beneficial for all human beings, as well as animals and plants, so he built a number of stupas. He also well spread Buddhism to neighboring kingdoms.

Key Terms

  • Dharma: Cosmic law and order, behaviors that are considered to be in accord with the order that makes life and the universe possible, including duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues, and ‘‘right way of living.” Also specifically signifies the teachings of the Buddha.
  • Edicts of Ashoka: 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.

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