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Foci of debate

Emperor Ashoka

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Foci of debate

Recently scholarly analysis determined that the three major foci of debate regarding Ashoka involve the nature of the Maurya empire; the extent and impact of Ashokas pacifism, and what is referred to in the Inscriptions as dhamma or dharma, which connotes goodness, virtue, and charity. Some historians have argued that Ashokas pacifism undermined the military backbone of the Maurya empire, while others have suggested that the extent and impact of his pacifism have been grossly exaggerated. The dhamma of the Edicts has been understood as concurrently a Buddhist lay ethic, a set of politico-moral ideas, a sort of universal religion, or as an Ashokan innovation. On the other hand, it has also been interpreted as an essentially political ideology that sought to knit together a vast and diverse empire. Scholars are still attempting to analyse both the expressed and implied political ideas of the Edicts (particularly in regard to imperial vision), and make inferences pertaining to how that vision was grappling with problems and political realities of a virtually subcontinental, and culturally and economically highly variegated, 3rd century BCE Indian empire. Nonetheless, it remains clear that Ashokas Inscriptions represent the earliest corpus of royal inscriptions in the Indian subcontinent, and therefore prove to be a very important innovation in royal practices.


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