28 Shocking Facts about Ashoka

28 Shocking Facts about Ashoka

In this post I will share 28 amazingly shocking facts about Ashoka.

Our history text books in school teach us that Ashoka was a great emperor, that he was the first ruler to spread his messages via inscriptions, that he fought the Kalinga War in Orissa and after witnessing the violence and death of lakhs of people he was filled with remorse, became a pious and non-violent Buddhist and spread Buddhism. [Note 1]

All these are lies, whatever we are taught in school and colleges about benevolence of Ashoka are lies, except the part about the mindless violence and genocide in Kalinga. I have shared some stories and lesser known facts about Ashoka in this essay. It uses the same texts and inscriptions that traditional historians use to fabricate the myth of Ashoka the Great.

Below I present some shocking and unknown facts about Ashoka Maurya. [1][2][3][4][5]
  1. Ashoka's father Bindusara did not like him, because he was ugly.
  2. Indian history before British does not know of any Ashoka - he was largely ignored and forgotten by Indians.
  3. Historians of early British India revived the study of Ashoka.
  4. Information about Ashoka primarily comes from three literary Buddhist sources - Ashokavadana, Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa.
  5. In 274 BC, Bindusara died after an illness Sushima the prince was away in a battle in north-west India and rushed back to Pataliputra, the royal capital and found that Ashoka had taken over the city with the help of Greek mercenaries.
  6. Ashoka killed his step-brother and the legitimate heir by tricking him into entering a pit with live coals, and became the king.
  7. Ashoka killed all male rivals in his family.
  8. Ashoka killed ninety-nine half-brothers and only spared his full brother Tissa.
  9. Ashoka was notorious for his bad temper and sadist streak and was known as "Chanda Ashoka" or "Fierce Ashoka"
  10. Ashoka had 500 of his ministers killed because he believed that they were not loyal enough.
  11. Ashoka has 100's of women in his harem burnt to death when some of them insulted him.
  12. Ashoka was a murderous sadist who had an elaborate torture chamber, termed as the "hell on earth" or Ashoka's Hell. [Note 2]
  13. Ashoka once made his ministers obtain and sell the head of different animals including humans. [Note 3]
  14. Girika was the official executioner of Ashoka and his close friend. Girikia was so vicious that he killed his own parents because they did not want him to become Ashoka's executioner.
  15. A typical torture in Ashoka's Hell was to pry open victoms mouths with an iron and pouring boiling copper down their throats.
  16. Ashoka made a pact with Girika that he would never allow anyone who entered the palace to exit alive, including Ashoka himself. Hence by  disguising the torture chamber as a beautiful and "enticing" palace they would trap innocent onlooker and bystanders, and Ashoka was get great sadistic pleasure in seeing his victoms tortured and killed by his executioner friend Girika.
  17. Another torture in Ashoka's Hell was the torture of the five-fold tether - driving two iron stakes through their hands, driving two iron stakes through their feet and driving one iron stake through their heart.
  18. Ashoka later order his executioner friend Girika to be burn't alive.
  19. Ashoka’s conversion has nothing to do with the Kalinga war and he had become a Buddhist 2 years before the Kalinga War.
  20. Ashoka converted to Budhism when he was declared an outcaste by the Supreme Council of Kashi for fratricide and violating the treaty of Bharata.
  21. He set about eradicating Sanskrit and Brahmanism in revenge bringing the Vedic period to an end.
  22. Ashoka destroyed and plundered all the Brahmin temples and guru kulas.
  23. In 262 BC, a large Mauryan army marched into Kalinga -  100,000 died in the war and an even larger number died from wounds and hunger. A further 150,000 were taken away as captives.
  24. The battle of Kalinga was so fierce that in aftermath of the battle, Daya River flowing next to the battlefield turned completely red because of the bloodshed.
  25. A Nirgrantha follower in Pataliputra drew a picture showing the Buddha bowing at the feet of Nirgrantha Jnatiputra (identified with Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara of Jainism). Ashoka burnt him and his entire family alive in their house.
  26. Ashoka announced an award of one dinara (silver coin) to anyone who brought him the head of a Nirgrantha heretic. Violent executions started in Ahsoka's extent and went on to such an extent that his own brother was mistaken for a heretic and killed by a cowherd.
  27. Ashoka issued an order to kill all the Ajivikas in Pundravardhana (north of secular West Bengal and Islamic Bangladesh).  Around 18,000 followers of the Ajivika sect were executed as a result of this order.
  28. Ashoka's empire collapsed much before his death.

To summarize, in the words of Sanjiv Sanyal, "As one can see, Ashoka does not look like such a great king on closer inspection but as a cruel and unpopular usurper who presided over the disintegration of a large and well-functioning empire."


Note 1 - NCERT excerpt on Ashoka

Below I present an excerpt on Ashoka from a typical NCERT text book taught to impressionable young children in Indian schools today. Even a cursory reading will reveal the anti-Hindu bias and communist/socialist/welfare state undertone of the text.

Ashoka - The Emperor who Gave up War

"Ashoka’s dhamma did not involve worship of a god, or performance of a sacrifice. He felt that just as a father tries to teach his children, he had a duty to instruct his subjects. He was also inspired by the teachings of the Buddha.

There were a number of problems that troubled him. People in the empire followed different religions, and this sometimes led to conflict. Animals were sacrificed. Slaves and servants were ill treated. Besides, there were quarrels in families and amongst neighbours. Ashoka felt it was his
duty to solve these problems. So, he appointed officials, known as the dhamma mahamatta who went from place to place teaching people about dhamma."


It is not surprising that Nehru being a socialist wrote: "His edicts (instructions) still speak to us in a language we can understand and we can still learn much from them."

Note 2 - Ashoka's Hell

Ashoka's Hell was an elaborate torture chamber disguised as a beautiful and attractive palace full of amenities such as exclusive baths and decorated with flowers, fruit trees and ornaments built by King Ashoka (304–232 BCE) in Pataliputra (modern Patna, India), the capital city of the Maurya Empire.

Note 3 - Selling Human Head
A few days later, Ashoka called his ministers and told them that he required the heads of different types of animals. Knowing his violent temper (he had executed many ministers in the past) they did not ask him why he wanted these but each of them quickly went about procuring the type of head specified by Ashoka. Yashas was asked to bring a human head.

When all the ministers had obtained the heads, Ashoka asked them to sell these in the market. Soon they had all succeeded except Yashas, who found that none would buy it. He was told, thereupon, to give it away. Yet, none would accept it even free. Yashas came back, crestfallen, to report:

O King, the heads of cattle, asses, deer, birds –
all were sold for a price to buyers;
but none would take this worthless human head,
even free of charge.

Ashoka asked Yashas, “Why is it that no one will accept this human head?” “Because,” answered Yashas, “it disgusted them.” Ashoka asked him whether people found this particular head disgusting or all human heads. Yashas replied, “All human heads they find disgusting.” “What!” exclaimed the king “is my head disgusting too?” After much hesitation and at the insistence of Ashoka, Yashas finally answered, “ Yes.” Now Ashoka explained to him the intention behind this baffling exercise:

If I acquire some merit
by bowing down a head so disgusting
that none on earth would take it.
what harm is there?


  1. Ashokavadana
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashoka%27s_Hell
  3. http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=758
  4. http://swarajyamag.com/culture/ashoka-the-not-so-great
  5. https://disqus.com/by/SuchindranathAiyer/
  6. https://vox-nova.com/2008/05/29/the-constantine-and-ashoka-of-legend-a-study-iii-the-conversion-of-ashoka/
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  1. Pathetic wasn't he the Great King Ashoka!!! I've read about his atrocities extensively and I feel een more sad to see him shown in such a glorifying way in the latest serial that is being aired in India... very sad!!

    1. There's a new serial? Didn't know that :) Thanks for the comment.

    2. Archana Kapoor the above is wrong . Do not believe. Written by enemies of Ashoka.

    3. If you want to know whose incarnation Ashoka was. You decide if above is correct. Ashoka actually had stopped slaughter and to this day never likes people sacrificing animals. Ashoka was an avatar of Mahakali, Parvati, Durga, Shatrupa, Shakuntala, Draupadi, Nandni, Rajrajeshwari, Tripura Sinduri , Ahilya Holkar, Shivaji's wife,
      Kasturba and more.

    4. Dear Bharti, it is good to have faith in someone, but blind faith does not make any sense. Definitely, you are ill informed. Now so many history books are available on Ashoka, that it is difficult to hide the truth any longer. The fact is Ashoka was definitely not great, he was perhaps more normal than you and me.

    5. Ashoka was the anti-thesis of Chanakyan style rule.

  2. This is very true!! The whole history on Ashoka has been subverted!! Here is my blog post on this topic - http://drishtikone.com/ashoka-great-was-indias-first-religiously-fanatic-jehadi/

    1. Thanks a lot. Shall read the article right now and share my thoughts!

  3. Ya, in Hindi... on one of the prime time channels and it is such a super duper hit. Btw, I just sent u an indimail... why don't you have social share buttons here?

    1. Done! Thanks for pointing it out ... The social share buttons may have disappeared when I was changing some settings. Corrected now.

  4. I have my own doubt. He became cruel after facing non acceptance from family members due to his background. Had he been like that the great chanakya or radhegupta wont have vouched for him.

  5. This is a huge shock for me. :(

    1. Yes. It was for me also. I came across this aspect just a few months back when I was reading an article by Sanjeev Sanyal in Swarjya Mag, and then decided to do some research.

    2. So if you read an article in Swarajya magazine you write a Book to defame someone???
      Please give references???

  6. Ohh my.. this is shocking, we have been taught that Ashoka was a great king, and very generous too.. Thanks for sharing..

    1. You are welcome. Yes it is quite shocking .. and as you rightly said, almost opposite of what we have learn't. :)

  7. Would you please state the historical souces regarding his use of Greek mercenaries in securing his accession?

    1. Thanks for the interest. I have provided all the sources at the end section of this article. If you want detailed analysis, please refer to my book "Ashoka the Ungreat" available on Amazon Kindle.

    2. How can you write a Book Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay what are your refernces to defame Ashoka???? Please give me refernces????

  8. Asoka never existed... the whole point was to show Hinduism/sanatana Dharma in Bad Light, that Asoka converted from Bad Hinduism to Goody Good Buddhism.

    The Graphic images and content are from the Injected versions of Garuda Purana....

    there is no heaven or hell concept in Sanatana Dharma what we have are Astral Layers
    based on our Karma our soul can move up from One astral layer to another.

    The journey of the soul from Layer 1 to layer 7 then to remerge with the the Brahman,
    after going through the process of diiferent creatures then finally human then
    karmic baggage less human, is known as Samskara.

    1. Ashoka was a great king and this article is total lie

    2. I'm not wrong search the wikipedia it can never be wrong

    3. You are wrong. Wikipedia is wrong. Ashoka was a terrorist - he was like Osama bin Laden.

    4. Subhodeep where ever you got this story is totally wrong -- what were people of India doing for 36 years ---- 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."
      The above Hells were created by Sushim -- who was Duryodhana reincarnation an evil person. They were not 100 brothers it a lie they were 4.

    5. Aditya Ch -- Ashoka did exist history tells us. The images are from Garuda Puran and Ashoka was not evil as projected -- Ashoka did lot for the country as in Wikipedia.
      Some things yes the Buddhists have added in their writings to prove that Ashoka was ruthless and turned a better person after becoming Buddhist - just to let Hinduism down. But the truth is that Ashoka was Kaundinya in past life wo was fore most devotee of Buddha and an ardent follower of Buddhism. His sanskars came in from past life and he converted into a Buddhist and spread the religion . Buddha was no other than Vishnu --- As Chandragupt followed Jainism and converted into another religion started by Mahavir who is Vishnu avatar.
      incarnation. Chandragupt Maurya was a incarnation of Shiva.

  9. Brilliantly written, but most of all, I liked the Srk's image from film Asoka.

  10. is it true that after converting to Buddhism Asoka retained his ruthlessness?

    1. Ashoka was not Ruthless --- He spread Buddhism because that was God's agenda --- He was the first follower of Buddha Kaundinya.

  11. With respect to everyone's opinions shared: as per my understanding, I don't think any of these findings or research about the great emperor Ashoka is true or verified. This is still a mystery and better to keep it that way rather than making any judgements on it. It's widely known that history of Mauryan empire was not preserved and all the research later came into picture only by the British archeologists during British rule in india. There are no solid proofs that he was a bad or a cruel emperor. If this was true then why Indian flag would have Ashok chakra or the Ashoka symbol on currency. Logically, this respect towards him proves he had a great positive remark on Indian history.

  12. Thank you for writing this fantastic article. I'm a long time reader but
    I've never been compelled to leave a comment. I've bookmarked
    your blog and shared this on my Twitter. Many thanks again for a really good post!

    1. All of above is written against Ashoka by his enemies. Who was Ashoka?? who was Chandra Gupt Maurya. Can you become a King. Find me a King who had a bigger Empire than Ashoka. Ashoka in his previous life was a Kaundinya prime follower of Buddha that's why he spread Buddhism -- He was born to that. That was God's Agenda. Ashoka was Kali Maa's Avatar and Draupadi's Avatar where as Sushim was Duryodhana's Avatar. He never had 100 brothers just 4 as they show in the serial. He was never a ruthless person. That's why he ruled that otherwise he would have been overthrown. Look at his statues -- Does he look ugly??? I think he looks handsome.

    2. The above article is not fantastic how can you believe its just trash written by Ashoka's enemies. If he was as bad as he is being portrayed in this article then he wouldn't have been an emperor for so many years and well which says no king after Emperor Ashoka has been as powerful as him. He was not an ordinary person. First of all it says he was ugly and his father did not like him. Look at all the Ashoka s statues, does he even look ugly -- Ugly or not a father likes the son not for looks. The person who wrote this or made someone to write -- he father never liked him and he is Duryodhana's spirit. Ashoka was Draupadi incarnation and Sushim was Duryodhana's. Ashoka and Draupadi were Maha Kali's incarnation. Whereas Duryodhana was Takshak Nag's reincarnation. That's why Ashoka is called Devapriya. Mauyra Vansh was born for a reason -- Chandragupt Maurya was Shiva's incarnation and he was born to save the country from Greeks invasion. And also from Maha Padmanand who was again Duryodhana's reincarnation a very Ruthless person only he can do what is described up. He actually has made hell for people and acts as Yamraj to this day starts taking out people's life before there death that is their memory and drags them to his hell. He has his army person and the guy who was driving his rath(chariot) to help him. His brother Dushashan was his wife with whom he had 9 sons illegitimate. He then killed the king and married her and Nandni was born who was Draupadi's incarnation to satisfy his urge and Dushashan's urge to keep her on their laps.

  13. Amazing article highlighting the truth.

  14. This is not the complete truth.. He was a human as well.. If he was as bad as he is being portrayed in this article then he wouldn't have been an emperor for so many years and did you also read the sources as well which says no king after Emperor Ashoka has been as powerful as him after his fall? If you are an Indian, you are standing under those 4 lions which were created by this emperor. He was very intelligent. He was not just a king but the king of kings. One doesn't easily become like that. Just stop believing one source and go do some research. Maybe people those days failed to notice his good acts. It's said that ' Only the atom-sized black mark is noted in a very big bight sheet of white paper'. So stop talking rot about the emperor.


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