The war that changed Ashoka
The kalinga war (265-264 B.C)
was a war fought in the Indian subcontinent between the empire of Maurya and the state of Kalinga. It is one of the major battles in the history of the Indian republic. The empire of Maurya under Ashoka emerged victorious. There was a need to annex Kalinga from an economic and strategic viewpoint especially since the state of Kalinga stood in the way to the Ganges valley. Kalinga was also a strategic maritime area. When the state Kalinga refused to accent to this demand, there was only one recourse-war.
The leader of the Maurya Empire.
The Kalinga war was fought in the eight year of Ashoka reign, and was so bloody. At the end of the war, Ashoka the leader of the Maurya Empire vowed never to engage in war. The horrors and suffering of the Kalinga war, and the pain it caused to Ashoka has been aptly captured by the 13th edict “A hundred thousand were killed, a hundred thousand were killed and many times that number perished”. Having led the kalinga war himself, Ashoka fully understood the gravity of the war and in his own words
“Today if a hundred or a thousand of those people who were killed or deported when Kalinga was annexed were to face the same suffering, then it would weigh heavily onto the minds of the beloved of the Gods”
The war that changed Ashoka.
The kalinga war had a great impact on the life of Ashoka, and his administration public policy towards war. Personally, he converted to Buddhism. The brutality of the war, made him adopt a non-violence approach, and seek peace whenever possible. He further instructed his sons and grandsons NEVER to wage such a kind of war. The drums and trumpets that initially signified war was to be replaced by drums, and trumpets announcing moral and ethical principles. Ashoka later formed officers known as the rejjukas whose responsibility was to not only reward good behavior but also take care of the needs of the local inhabitants.
The kalinga war had no parallels to any other war fought with respect to the intensity and lessons learnt. After the kalinga war, the Daya River flowing near the battle field changed to red in color from the blood of slain soldiers, and kalinga civilians. It is true that kalinga war changed Ashoka, but at a very high cost in terms of displacement.