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Emperor Ashoka's Early Life

2014-03-02

Ashoka was born to the Mauryan emperor Bindusara and a relatively lower ranked wife of his, Dharma [or Dhamma]. He was the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, founder of Mauryan dynasty.

The Avadana texts mention that his mother was queen Subhadrangi. According to Ashokavadana, she was the daughter of a Brahmin from the city of Champa. Empress Subhadrangi was a Brahmin of the Ajivika sect, and was found to be a suitable match for Emperor Bindusara. Though a palace intrigue kept her away from the emperor, this eventually ended, and she bore a son. It is from her exclamation "I am now without sorrow," that Ashoka got his name. The Divyavadana tells a similar story, but gives the name of the queen as Janapadakalyani.

Ashoka had several elder siblings, all of whom were his half-brothers from other wives of Bindusara. His fighting qualities were apparent from an early age and he was given royal military training. He was known as a fearsome hunter, and according to a legend, killed a lion with just a wooden rod. Because of his reputation as a frightening warrior and a heartless general, he was sent to curb the riots in the Avanti province of the Mauryan empire.

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Emperor Ashoka

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