Emperor Ashoka

For those interested in more on this critical figure, Richard Gombrich and others recently discussed on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time, episode here.

The program includes a good bit of historical context, descriptions of the monuments, their inscriptions, their strategic placement and their importance as some of the earliest written records we have of Buddhist doctrine and its application.

Perhaps most relevant to the lectures is how a leader of such great importance and influence could be simply forgotten to Indian history. In Lecture 4 of course 6102 Mahayana, "Mahayana at an Early Stage," professor Peter Della Santina describes how until up until just about a hundred years ago, Asoka was regarded as Buddhist legend. Gombrich and others explain the historical (and still current) reasons why this would be the case, as Asoka (and the Dhamma) specifically went against core brhaminical rituals (including blood sacrifice) and social order (i.e. the caste system).

A worthwhile listen and an opportunity to hear directly from Gombrich himself on this subject.