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Thursday, March 12, 2015

The HISTORY of Bindusara, Dharma and Ashoka - 2

Hi everyone,

In this post, i am sharing some information related to history of Mauryan King Bindusara and his wife - Dharma. It contains incident of their marriage and brief insight into the life of Dharma at the Mauryan Palace, followed by some interesting insights about Ashoka/Asoka.

The format of this post is simple. The Reference text which has been considered in this post is Ashokavadana. I am posting the English translation of that Sanskrit text, along with the scans of Sanskrit pages.

This text clearly mentions that there was NO separation of Ashoka and Dharma, as shown in the TV serial, Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat. Initially, Dharma did not get good treatment in the Mauryan household, but she became a Chief Queen later. More can be read in the text itself.

Latest Post on Asoka:
Emperor Asoka Maurya Killed 99 Brothers to Become King - Fact or Myth ? Why/Did Asoka killed Sushima ?  And some other questions | A Debate

Here we go with the translation.

In the city of Champa, a Brahmin had a fair, good-looking, fortunate daughter. She was the most beautiful girl in the country. The fortune tellers predicted she would marry a king and bear two "jewel-like sons": one would become a "Chakravartin Samrat" & rule over one of the four continents, the other would wander and fulfill his religious vows.

The Brahmin was excited by what the soothsayers said. (The whole world desires good fortune.) He took his daughter to Pataliputra. There, he had her put on all of her jewels, and he offered her in marriage to King Bindusara, declaring her to be an auspicious and praiseworthy celestial maiden. King Bindusara had her introduced into his women apartments. Now the king's concubines/wives were jealous of her. 

"This fair, gracious girl," they thought, "is the most beautiful woman in the country; if the king should ever make love to her, he would no longer pay any attention to us!" They instructed her therefore in the art of a hairdresser, so that the king should dislike her for being from a lowly profession. Soon she became an expert in her work. Indeed, whenever she started to do this, the king [would relax so much that he] would quickly fall asleep. The king was very pleased with her and decided to grant her one wish.

"What would you most desire?" he asked.
"Our union," she answered.

"But you are a barber girl," said the king, ' I am a monarch, a consecrated kshtriya [member of the warrior caste] how can I have relations with you? "

"Your majesty," she replied, "I am not a barber girl but the daughter of a Brahmin; my father gave me to your highness as a wife! "

"Who then taught you the barber's art?" asked the king.

"The ladies in the women's apartments," was her answer.

"Well, Then, you won't do me work of a barber anymore", King Bindusara declared.

Then, Bindusara made her - His Chief Queen. Together they dallied and enjoyed time with each other and made love; she became pregnant and, after a period of 8 or 9 months, gave birth to a son. When the prince's birth festival was being celebrated elaborately, she was asked what his name should be. She replied - "When this baby was born, I became ' without sorrow' (a-soka)," , and so the child was given the name Asoka.

Subsequently, the queen gave birth to a second son, and since he was born "when sorrow had ceased" (vigate a-soka) (in her life), he was given the name Vitasoka.

Ashoka was not good looking and was therefore looked down upon by Bindusara.
{ The footnote says that Bindusara also had sons from other wives. He had the horoscopes of all these princes drawn up by astrologers including the religious mendicant - Pingalavatsa. }

One day, Bindusara decided to test his sons so as to determine which one would best be able to rule after his death. He invited Pingalavatsa to test his sons in this regard. Pingalavatsa said, "O King, please take the princes to the golden palace for the test." The king accordingly took the princes to the golden palace. But, Ashoka stood there, discussing about the princes for a while.

Pingalavatsa said to him, "Child, the king has gone to the golden palace to test the princes. You also go there."

Ashoka said, "The king abhors me and doesn't even look in my direction. How can I go there?"

Pingalavatsa said, "Even then, you should go."

{ Guys, the following sentence below, gave two meanings - }
Ashoka replied, "Then, I will take your leave." (<- This is what the textnote says, though the actual translation means - "I will throw away food". )

Then Ashoka went to Pataliputra. Radhagupta was the son of the Prime Minister (Agramatya). He asked Ashoka where he was going. Ashoka answered, "The king is testing the princes in the golden palace. (I am going there.)" 

Radhagupta asked him to go there on an old royal elephant. Ashoka mounted the old elephant and went to the golden palace where there was something going on between the princes to send something away from the earth. (Couldn't get the meaning of "nishsad").

Then the princes ate a hearty meal. Ashoka had boiled rice mixed with curd in an earthen vessel / pot. { Textnote says he quenched his thirst with water but I couldn't find this in the text. }

King Bindusara said avidly to Pingalavatsa, "O Teacher, please test the princes. Who will (be able to ) lead my kingdom after me. "

The religious mendicant, Pingalavatsa, looked at the king and got worried. He knew that Ashoka would be the king. But he was not approved of by the king. If he (Pingalavatsa) said that Ashoka would be the king then he would not survive. {So he thought of a way out.  This line is not in text, but in notes.} 

He said to the king, "I cannot tell his name but I can tell you his nature. He who avails himself of the best things will be the king."

Each prince thought he would be the chosen one; One because (he thought) his seat (asan) was the best. 

{From here, my translation is different from what was given in textnotes, those who know Sanskrit can read the scan to understand better }

Ashoka is thinking deeply that the earth is his seat and he is going to be the king.
After an elaborate meal and drink, the princes returned to Pataliputra.

Then Ashoka asked, "But, who will be the king?" Ashoka said, "Without (making) any distinction, tell me who will be the king? You said that the one whose mount or seat is the best and who eats and drinks the best, will be the king. Like, see, I am going to be the king. My mount is the shoulders of an elephant, the earth is my seat, I eat boiled rice mixed with curd from an earthen vessel, and drink water."

Ashoka's mother began to enjoy Pingalavatsa's prediction that Ashoka would be the king. Then it was said by her, "O, Teacher, which of the 2 boys did you tell would be the king to King Bindusara?" 

(He) said, "Ashoka". Then it was said to her, "But, Never show any urgency to ask the king (this). " {Probably, this means that she should not tell the king about the prophecy of Ashoka becoming the king.}

This pertains to the death of Dharma. She died in 284 BC, when the first wife of Ashoka - who was named Devi was pregnant. Ashoka's brother Sushima had sent some henchmen to eliminate the pregnant Devi, but it was Dharma who became the victim.

Other History Posts under Ashoka Maurya section:

1. Emperor Ashoka Maurya - Introduction to HIM and HIS Family

2. Chanakya's Novel Method to TEST Character of Ministers

3. Emperor Asoka Maurya Killed 99 Brothers to Become King - Fact or Myth ? Why/Did Asoka killed Sushima ?  And some other questions | A Debate

4. What is the BASIS of GREATness ? | From Akbar to Ashoka to Alexander & Maharana Pratap

The article has been posted under the Ashoka Maurya section of this history BLOG.

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  1. Abhay

    It is amazing how you get such rare books and share snippets from them :)

    This story of Dharma and Bindusara is quite funny in a way - imagine the queen cutting the king's hair.!!

    Poor Ashoka - it must have hurt him so much that his father didn't care for him just because he was not good looking. How can a father hold it against his own son? In a way, Ashoka got his back on B by still becoming the emperor even though Bindusara was not in favor.

  2. Thanks Abhay, It was an interesting read.

  3. Thanks Radhika,

    Books can be found out by all/any of us. The ONLY REQUIREMENT is the URGE to search. Many books are lying in our libraries, but these days, the definition of "research" has been reduced to reading "online ebooks". Hence, it looks that finding such books is not possible. :)

    You have yourself, written many posts till now and purchased books, so you must be aware that how many books are present for us to read, provided we are ready to DIG. :)

    Coming back to Ashoka, his initial years were quite turbulent, it seems. :)

  4. Abhay ,
    I wonder y these writers of hindi telly can't show proper scripts from history :(:( In name of dramatization , they actually deviate from Real History !!! But thanks for sharing this scripts n texts buddy ... If sushim killed dharma , then y they r showing her already dead in current track ??? Phew *NR n its consequences :P;)

  5. It was very interesting to read the post. I wonder why the directors had to mislead by showing the history wrongly. As u said, there are many books available provided we have urge and thirst to read it. Once again thanks.

  6. Hello again Abhay! I simply love reading all that you put up. Well I had a fair idea about Dharma's background but never knew she was actually a barber for her beloved husband! :P

    Asoka's estranged relation to an extend is justified and so is his devilish acts for he was treated with rough hands. Anyways he redeemed, had a change of heart and like every true blue story this one too had a happy ending! And I honestly am quite surprised that you got hold of the original Sanskrit text; it just shows how much effort you put into writing all such brilliant stuff! Job well done, yet again!

    P.S. There is reputed historian Dr. Neeke Chaturvedi who has researched a lot on Magadha right from Bimbisar's reign. She was the one who said that these scripture can never guarantee factual accuracies as history back then was written with the purpose of evoking moral sense in a person. Incidents which didn't have any moral impact were noted down. And Buddhist text are usually spinned in favor of those who supported the movement back then. So Asokvandana too can't be taken as an unabridged tale!

  7. Abhay nice post. story of Bindusar +Dharma maariage feeling interesting. i think,
    if we read abciant history, some stories comes, father, knows daughter, capabilty, or he proudely offers, to man sometime king, accept his daughter, as a wife. or then lot of respect, for woman, king or others not refuses, these type of proposals
    after listening fortune teller, Dharma father, same did. or His idea worked. or Dharma became wife of bindusar..

    here liking Dharma Father confidence+Dharma confidence, +Bindusar, respect for female.

    But surprising is this , Cause of clour complexion, he not likes Ashoka.

    Ashoka will power +vision reading this post coming, Amazing.

    Abhay, Sir, your efforts day by day increasing. This time your sanskrit, version again surprising. What can i say.

    Aap hee Anmol Ratan. God bless you

  8. Very nice and interesting read. Am amazed that Ashoka had a typical south indian meal of curd rice.

  9. Thank u history-geek,
    These stories were something I never heard. Instead of barber,in the serial, they hv made her Vaidya. But I don't think the dead body is of Dharma. Hv they shown Devi in the serial?

  10. thnks 4 'tis beautiful post abhay. well said. agree wid ur bold words. i hv myself found books in libraries. lot of documents can b obtained only in libraries bt not online.

  11. Geeta,

    You are right. Dharma is still alive. The dead woman is Nirjara, Chanakya's spy sent to protect Dharma.

    Devi will come later after Ashoka grows up a bit more. :)

  12. Viji, rice is a staple diet even in Bihar.

    Incidentally, rice is native to India and was grown and eaten in north India too much before wheat came to India from Afghanistan. :)

  13. Suganya

    See my reply to Geeta. Dharma is still alive. She has to be united with Bindusara and Ashoka has to be given his legitimacy and inheritance.

  14. Iqra

    You are indeed lucky to have access to a wonderful library :)

  15. According to legend, a poor young boy who had nothing to gift the Buddha, collected a handful of dust and innocently presented it. The Buddha smiled and accepted it graciously. It is said that that boy was reborn as Emperor Ashoka.

    The Buddha predicted his birth in the story, The Gift of Dust. He said;

    A hundred years after my death there will be an emperor named Ashoka in Pataliputra. He will rule one of the 4 continents and adorn Jambudvipa with my relics, building 84,000 stupas for the welfare of people. He will have them honored by gods and men. His fame will be widespread.

  16. Thanks for sharing this piece of information Radhika

  17. Welcome Nirmala.

    Yes, book are present, only thing we need to search them. :)

  18. Shivani.
    Completely agree with you. TFS.
    Yes, these Buddhist texts which were written till 3rd Century AD often vary in details and the reasons are same as you mentioned here. :)

  19. Thank you Ayushi. :)
    I am simply sharing the readings with you all, nothing more. :)

  20. Thank u so much Radhika, Sometimes I think but fr u n Abhay, I would hv remained such an ignorant lady :) Thanks once again.:)

  21. Geeta

    Actually your comments and deductions from posts open my eyes to facts I miss otherwise. :) You have very sharp observation and I have learnt a great deal from you.

  22. Welcome and good to see you here, Katana! :)

  23. Radhika
    I comment whatever I really feel like.That is nothing as compared to the trouble taken by both of u. So sweet of u to share ur credit with us :)

  24. Abhay,
    Great information Abhay! I am always curious about Mauriyan empire and its pearl Ashoka ..His works for Lord Buddha and his religious policies are par excellent in his time ..keep going we are following :)

  25. Thanks Vanadhi.
    Even i am interested in Emperor Ashoka' policies, his turn around and the making of a GREAT Emperor. Will continue. :)

  26. Hey there again! Its been a long, long, long time since I scrolled the pages in here...and honestly it feels great to be back to the virtual world after a hectic tryst with exams and stuffs.

    I had already made the mention of Dr. Neeke Chaturvedi, to that list I'd like to add Dr. Shonalika Kaul another reputed historian with great knowledge on rise and fall of Magadha empire. Now both these women have agreed or rather put forward their conclusion on Asandhmitra and Devi being one and the same; but I still found some discrepancies on that. Asokavandana, Mahavimasa and Divyavimsa all indicate at the identities of these two names being one. If you can please look into it. I was in Patna two back, unfortunately I couldn't visit the excavation sites as due to president's visit the place was closed. I am hoping to steal a glance next time. :)

    I found out the screenplay is being written by Ashok Banker, a fantastic journalist and writer of the myth-fic and history-fic genre. So it is safe to assume that the entire series is nothing but historical fiction.

    P.S, Have you heard about Amrapali? The ancient muse because of whom Vaishali was destroyed. Will dig a bit about her? What I found on her is nothing but there please! :)

  27. I just hope she comes as Asandhmitra and changes to Devi after marriage. Enough of distortions have already found their way.

    P.S. Who is the little lady, Sushim is lattu on? :P

  28. Shivani,
    Welcome back. I was also less active for some time and will be less active for some more time, though i drop in regularly.

    As we discussed on another blog post, i am also trying to dig up this issue, but i am not able to get a sort of confirmation. There are certain sections who take Asandhimitra as different queen.! I remember Mahavamsa saying Asandhimitra as the Chief Queen. It was a Sri-Lankan source, which have undoubtedly highlighted the story of Ashoka and Devi. Certain historians opine that, had Devi and Asandhimitra been same, those writers would have made a special mention of Devi as a Chief Queen.! Right now, i have mixed feelings. Thanks for sharing your inputs and please keep contuining in future too. :)

    Yeah..Oh yes.! I have read about Amrapali too, if i remember, she was associated with Buddha as well, she served Buddha on one ocassion. Its quite hazy in memory. The issue is that, i do read, whatever comes before me, but the time to pen down those readings on blog, is hard to find these days. Nice to see you back. :D