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. 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.

  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.

  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.

  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?

  11. 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!

  12. Amazing article highlighting the truth.

  13. 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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