Porus- Alexander: The battle of Hydaspes

Porus or Puru raj was the King of modern day Punjab. His capital was Lahore. His kingdom lay between the Jhelum river(called Hydaspes by the Greeks) and Chenab(called Asesines in Greek literature). Alexander the great fought four battles in Asia, among which the battle of Hydases was important as he incurred heavy loses. Also, he decided to turn back and return back after this momentus battle. By the time Alexander reached the banks of Jhelum he had already conquered many big empires in Asia especially Syria, Egypt(in Africa), Persia(ruled by Darius III) and Babylonia. Alexander was 29 years old when he set out to conquer India and Porus was in his 50s.

In 327 BC Alexander and his army leave Bactria, in present day Tajakisthan and heads to Afghanistan(which was part of India then). On the way he added many Persian cavalary men to his army as they are very good at facing the elephants the Indians own in their army.In 326 BC the army of Alexander reach Indus river in Taxshashila kingdom(modern day Balochistan). The ruler of Takshashila(Taxila in Greek) is Ambhi Raj, who has enemity with Porus and Puru Kingdom. So he welcomes Alexander and joins him in his campaign to defeat Porus. He even provides him elephants, war horses and cavalary expert in warfare.

Porus is waiting for him on other end of river Hydaspes preventing him from entering North of India. Alexanders army camps on other side of Hydaspes(Jhelum) and Porus lines the other side with his army and elephants. Porus thinks that Alexander will wait for river flow to reduce to cross, but Alexander gets his men to get boats and crosses near a bent curve in river in peak summer when river is in full spate. But majority of Alexanders army is left on other side of river as this is a ambush plan. Alexanders horses are terrified of the huge elephants and refuse to swim across Jhelum. So Alexander plans to make a surprise ambush from back side on Porus army and take elephants away from the shore so that all his horses agree to land on the shore.

Alexander, in his own letters, has given as account of his war with Porus. He says the two armies were separated by the river Hydaspes, on whose opposite bank Porus continually kept his elephants in order of battle, with their heads towards their enemies, to guard the passage, that he, on the other hand, made every day a great noise and clamour in his camp, to dissipate the apprehensions of the barbarians

Alexander and his small army move in night shadows to the bent curve where his boats slowly take him to the other side. There is heavy rain the night Alexander and his small army move to other bank of Jhelum. Porus army is surprised by the early morning attack and the rain and their chariots wheel get struck in wet mud on the bank. One of Porus son dies in the attack and the remaining who are alive run off back to the main army on far shore.

Porus decides to attack Alexander himself but leaves some elephants and soldiers on bank of river to dissuade his huge army on other side from crossing over. Porus took 200-300 elephants and nearly 30000 cavalary men to attack Alexander. But by then Alexanders remaining army starts crossing the river bank. Alexander marches against left wing of Porus army and his commander Coenus marchs through the right wing. Alexanders army rains arrows on Porus army and the elephants get scared and run in panic. Coenus succeeds in breaking the right plank and moves back side and attacks Porus army from back side.

Arrian wrote:

In time the elephants tired and their charges grew feebler, and with nothing worse than trumpeting. Taking his chance, Alexander surrounded the lot of them – elephants, horsemen, and all – and then signaled his infantry to lock shields and move up in a solid mass. Most of the Indian cavalry was cut down in the ensuing action; their infantry, too, hard pressed by the Macedonians, suffered terrible losses.

The Macedonians are in open field while the Porus army is struck between hills. The injured elephants go on rampage and Takshashila army and Persian cavalary dodge them. Craetrus army reach bank in teams and start attacking Porus. 20,000 infantry men of Porus are dead and 3000 cavalry men also are no more. Porus two sons die in battle. Alexander hardly loses 1000-2000 men in this battle.

Porus is brought in front of Alexander. Alexander asks what treatment he should receive. Porus replied “Treat me like a King would treat another King”. Alexander was impressed by his bravery on field and off it and made him his vassal and gave back his kingdom.

Plutarch wrote:

When Porus was taken prisoner, and Alexander asked him how he expected to be used, he answered, “As a king.’ For that expression, he said, when the same question was put to him a second time, comprehended everything. And Alexander, accordingly, not only suffered him to govern his own kingdom as satrap under himself, but gave him also the additional territory of various independent tribes whom he subdued…

After this battle Alexander moved towards Indian Ocean. But his beloved horse “Bucephalus” died of old age and battle wounds. Bucephalus was around thirty years old and was with Alexander since his youth. There was an rebellion in the Macedonian army and Alexander decided to go back home.

About this decision Plutarch wrote, “Alexander at first was so grieved and enraged at his men’s reluctancy that he shut himself up in his tent and threw himself upon the ground…but at last the reasonable persuasions of his friends and the cries and lamentations of his soldiers…prevailed with him to think of returning.”

But he died in 323 BC on way back home in Babylon. He probably died of malaria or liver disease by chronic drinking.


Chandragupta’s Folly

Chandragupta Maurya


Chandra Gupta Maurya when he reached adulthood decided to defeat the Nands who ruled major portions of North India.

Chandra Gupta went and met Alexander the Great in 325 B.C. at the age of 20 years to see whether he can help to defeat the Nands. But he could not get required support. Hence he started building his own army and with help of Chankya started recruiting young men and training them in warfare.

Once he had a huge army he attacked the Magadh Empire ruled by Dhananand on borders in 320 B.C.. But he was defeated by the huge Nands army. Chandra Gupta Maurya had to run to the forests and take shelter to save his life from Nands army.

One day Chankya and Chandra were walking in a village when they they saw a woman serving her child hot rice. The boy put his hand in center and burnt his fingers and screamed in pain.

The mother commented “ My son you are as foolish as Chandra Gupta himself”

The boy asked “ Mother why what am i doing that you are comparing to Chandra Gupta”

The mother replied “You put your finger in center which is more hot and burnt your fingers. Chandra gupta also is doing the same mistake, he is attacking the major city without subduing the frontiers. Hence the inhabitants of the frontiers are rising against his army and Nands army is defeating him easily”

After hearing this woman Chandra Gupta went back and raised an army again and started attacking smaller kingdoms like Punjab and conquering them before he finally attacked Magadh and defeated Dhananand.


Parvatak death – How Chandragupta became the only emperor of India?

Chandragupta Maurya gathered an army to defeat Dhanannad the ruling Nand empire king. But since the army was not huge enough he and Chankya went to King Parvatak and asked for help. Parvatak was the king of the Himalayan region the present day Nepla and father of Maleyketu. Parvatak agreed provided he will get half the sahre of provinces won by Chandragupta Maurya after defeat of Dhananand.

In 314 B.C. Chandragupta Maurya attacked Magadh kingdom.  The Magadh army was commanded by Bhadrashal a powerful army commander of those times. But Dhananand army aws no match to Chandraguptas warring powress and Chankyas tactics. The 9 Nandas lost their life in the war and Dhananand’s army was routed. When Dhananand  was brought in front of Chandagupta he requested Chankya to help him retire with his wife and daughters to a forest which was graunteed. Dhananand left with his wives and few daughters. He left behind the families of his dead brothers and sons. Also he left behind a few of his daughters. Now some of these daughters were trained Vishakanyas.

Parvatak and Chandragupta along with Chankya entered the Magadh palace. In the following days Parvatak and Chandragupta divided the huge wealth of Dhanananad among themselves. Now it s happened that Dhananand had left many of his daughters back in the palace and Paravatak became greatly enamoured by one of them.

Parvatak requested Chankya to conduct his marriage with this Nand daughter. Since Nand youngest daughter was already married to Chandragupta, Chankya had no objections. The marriage was fixed and conducted. Now no one was aware of the fact that this daughter of Nand was a Vishakanya. Dhananand had fed small doses of poison to his many daughters and left them behind so if they come in contact with enemy men, the men would die.

The marriage was a grand affair and the rituals began.  During the rituals the fire produced swaet in this Nand daughters hand that transferred into Parvatak’s body. After sometime Paravatak collapsed because of the poison spreading in his body. He cried and requested Chandragupta to bring the doctors so that his life could be saved. Chandragupta was about to order doctors to treat him when Chankya stopped him.

Everyone went off leaving Parvatak to die an agonizing death near the marriage fire. Thus Chandraguptas lone competitor and partner in war died and Chandragupta became emperor of entire Magadh empire.



Chankya’s death



Chandragupta Maurya abdicated his throne and left Pataliputra for Shravanebelogla in Karnataka at age of 56 years with a jain monk Bhadrabahu. There  he became a jain monk and fasted unto death on the rocks of Shravenebelagola in 287 B.C. (when he was 58 years). Bindusara became the next emperor and Chankya became his advisor. Subhandu a minister of Bindusara and the other ministers hated Chankya. Chankya loved Bindusra alike an own grandson and Bindusara also treated Chankya with affection and reverence. One day Subhandhu went to Bindusra and told him that Chankya had killed his mother. Bindusara was shocked and started treating Chankya with disdain and contempt. This pained Chankya to no end and he left the palace and decided to fast unto death.

Chankya donated all his wealth to the poor, widows and orphans and sat on fast unto death above a dung heap. A nurse maid of Bindusara who was his mother Queen Dhuradhara’s maid told Bindusra about his birth mystery about how Chankya saved his life when his mother had eaten poison.  Bindusara was filled with remorse and ran to Chankya who was sitting on fast unto death. But Chankya despite Bindusara’s pleadings refused to give up his fast. Bindusara was angry on Subhandu and killed him for misleading him. Thus Chankya died after fast unto death.

Another theory of his death is that Subhandhu set the dung heap on fire that Chankya was sitting and fasting to death and Chankya died burnt alive.


Nands daughter and Chandra Gupta Maurya : Love at first sight

Nand was defeated in the war. He lost all his sons and brothers in the war with Chandra Gupta. He requested Chankya to allow his wives and few daughters to leave the Magadh palace and retire to forest. Chankya permitted Dhananand to leave the fort with his wives and daughters. But Chankya also ensured spies followed him and his family into forest and kept an eye on them so that if he plans to get back magadh or endanger Chandraguptas life they can kill him immediately.

Now there are two versions of how Chandra gupta married a Nands daughter.

The first version has a romantic spin to it. In this version ans Nand and family were leaving the fort, Chankya along with Chandra Gupta and  Parvatak was entering the Magadh capital. One of Nands daughter(name not provided) became attracted seeing the young and majestic Chandra Gupta Maurya and was viewing him unabatedly. Nand who saw his daughter viewing Chandra Gupta repeatedly asked her to choose her husband as she wished. Nands daughter told of her wish to marry Chandra Gupta and Nand allowed her to go to Chandra Gupta.

Chandra Gupta was entering the Pataliputra fort with Chankya  and Parvatak. Nands daughter got down from her fathers Chariot and ran to Chandra Guptas chariot. The axle of the wheels broke and Chandra Gupta ordered her not to come behind them or climb his chariot. But Chankya stopped Chandra Gupta and said not to dissuade a woman who had loved him whole heartedly and left her family for him. Thus Nands daughter married her fathers Nemesis Chandra Gupta Maurya.

The second version is Chankya wanted the ministers of Nand to support Chandragupta Maurya and hence he ordered him to marry Nands younger daughter. A few of Nands daughters were left behind by him as he left Magadh palace and Chandragupta married the younger daughter of Nand and provided shelter to the remaining in the fort. Many of the daughters left behind by Nand were trained as Vishkanyas.

Whichever version is to be believed, for Chandragupta it was a political marriage arranged by Chankya to help secure the Magadh kingdom in long term.


Ashoka Family Tree

Ashoka the Great was born in 304 BC to Emperor Bindusara. Bindusara was the son of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya the founder of Maurya dynasty. He was the 3rd Emperor of Maurya dynasty and ruled Indian Subcontinent from 262-238 BC(36 years reign). He died at age of 72 in 238 BC. Ashoka’s mother was a Brahmin and her name was Shubadrangi or Dharma Ashoka had many names associated with him like Samraat Chakravartin (emperor of emperors), Devanampriya (the beloved of god), Priyadarshin (He who regards everyone with affection) His empire extended from present day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan to India till Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Here are a few facts on Ashoka and his family

Father: Emperor Bindusara

Mother: Shubadrangi or Dharma(in south) a commoner Brahmin


Sushim – Elder step brother

Vitashok – Real brother (younger)


First wife – Devi was a Buddhist nurse and daughter of a merchant in Vedisagari. She was mother of his elder son and daughter Mahendra and Sangamitra. She was not made chief Queen as she was a commoner.

Second Wife – Kaurawaki was a fisherwoman and mother of Ashoka’s second son Tivala, Ashoka credits her with changing his lifestyle and embarking on welfare measures for his citizens in his edicts. She was his favourite Queen as her’s is the only name on Ashoka’s edicts.

Third Wife and Chief Queen – Asandhimitra the chief Consort of Ashoka, she remained childless but was Empress of Mauryan Empire for more than 30 years, She was given title Agramahishi means chief Queen and his chief advisor. She died in 240 BC. Ashoka was deeply aggrieved by her death.

Fourth Wife – Padmavati mother of Kunala the future heir and second son of Ashoka

Fifth Wife – Trishyaraksha was also a chief Queen later after Asandhamitra’s death. She died in 238 BC. She was a maid of Asandhamitra and vowed Ashoka using her dancing skills. She was also responsible for making his heir Kunala blind. She committed suicide.



Mahendra born in 285 BC and became a Buddhist monk at the age of 20

Tivala(or Tivara) was the viceroy of Takshila, he died before Ashoka

Kunala was the natural heir to Ashoka but was blinded at a young age by his step mother Trishyaraksha. His mother Padmavati died when he was an infant and Ashhoka’s Chief consort Asandhamitra brought him up like her own son Jaluka

Jaluka – son of Asandhamitra


Sangamitra born in 282 BC and became a Buddhist monk like her brother Mahindra

Charumati was a daughter of Ashoka through his cocubbine but adopted by Asandhamitra


Dasaratha who became Emperor after Ashoka

Sumana son of Sangamitra

Samprati son of Kunala and the Emperor after Dasaratha

This is not an exhaustive list and will be updated when data will be available


Chandra Gupta Maurya – Family Tree


Father:  Sarvatha Siddhi (assumed given by jain texts)

Mother:  Not Known

Father(adopted):  Kshema Dharma

Mother(adopted): Mura

Wife List

Empress Dhuradhara: Married in 325 B.C. (at age 20 years)

Daughter of his eldest maternal uncle and chief consort of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya

A princess of Nanda Dynasty: Daughter of the defeated King Dhananand (Name unknown) married at age 32 years

Princess Helen: Married in 305 B.C. after defeating Seleucus Nicator (at age 40 years)

Daughter of Seleucus Nicator, Commander in chief of Alexander the Great


Keshnak: Elder son of Dhuradhara and Bindusara died at as a baby (at age 23 years)

Bindusara: Heir born in 320 B.C. to Dhuradhara is a cousin of Chandragupta Maurya (at age 25 years)





Note1: People assume that Dhananand daughter is Dhuradhara but the Jain and Bhuddist books clearly state she was Chandragupta’s cousin and maternal uncle’s daughter(adopted mother side)

Note2: Chandragupta had many wives and many children but the details are not available

Note3: No one can say who is real parents of Chandragupta because he was found in a cow shed by his adopted father

Note4: Chandragupta Maurya family name comes from his adopted mother name “Mura” or because his father was a peackock herdsman “Mor” was expanded to Maurya

Note5: In some Buddhist texts Chandragupta is said to be Kshatriya from Sakya clan(that of Gautama Buddha) but some other texts quote he was from a low Shudra caste. But in reality since Chandraguptas birth parentage was never established(his real parents were never found), its difficult to day which clan or caste he belonged to. But his heirs considered themselves as Kshatriya’s.

Note6: The Buddhists assume that Chandragupta was from Sakya clan to which Gautam Buddha belonged and that his father name was Surya Gupta. But there is n concrete evidence to prove this.

Note7: Its mentioned in some Greek books that Chandragupta and Helena had a son. In reality Chandragupta had many children but their details are not available. This fact was written by travelers to his court.



Ashoka Maurya Timelines

304 B.C. Ashoka birth

284 B.C. Birth of son Mahendra (20 years)

282 B.C. Birth of daughter Sangamitra(22 years)

268 B.C. Sangamithras marriage to Agni brahma (36 years)

264 B.C. Death of Bindusara after 25 years of reign (40 years)

264 B.C. Official coronation ceremony of Ashoka (40 years)

262 B.C. Kalinga war (42 years)

260 B.C. First Minor Rock Edict at Bodh Gaya(44 years)

259 B.C. Issue of two Kalinga Rock Edicts(45 years)

257 B.C. Issue of fourteen Rock Edicts (47 years)

250 B.C. Pilgrimage to Lumbini gardens birth place of Buddha

250 B.C. Ashoka officially starts sending Buddhist missions and adopts it as state policy (54 years)

228 B.C. Ashoka death (76 years)

Note: Chandragupta abdicated in 289 B.C. and Bindusara ruled for 25 years till 264 B.C. when he died. Ashoka was crowned and ruled till 228 B.C. Ashoka had his own regenal years.



Chandragupta Maurya Timelines

345 B. C. Birth of Chandragupta.

325 B.C. Chandragupta met Alexander the Great (20 years)

325 B.C. Chandragupta Maurya marries his first cousin Dhuradhara (maternal uncles daughter)

323 B. C. Keshnak, elder son of Chandragupta is born and dies as a baby

320 B. C. Bindusara’s birth and Dhuradhara’s death by poison

316 B. C. End of Greek domination in the Punjab by Chandragupta. (29 years)

314 B. C. Chandragupta invaded Nanda dominions. (31 years)

313 B.C. Coronation of Chandragupta as emperor (32 years)

313 B.C. Chandragupta marries a daughter of Nanda  (32 years)

305 B.C. Seleukos Nikator defeated by Chandragupta. (40 years)

305 B.C. Chandragupta married Helena, the daughter of Seleukos Nikator(40 years)

289 B.C. Chandragupta abdicated throne (56 years)

287 B.C.  Chandraguptas Death (58 years)

Note1: Chandragupta became a jain monk under guidance of Bhadrabahu and did meditation in Sharvanabelogola in Karnataka before fasting unto death. Chandragupta met Alexander when he was around 20 years old so his birth was around 345 B.C. as per buddist records. In Greek mythology Chandragupta is named Sandrakottos.

Note2: Some books say that Chandragupta Maurya ascended the throne of Magadh in 321 B.C. instead of 313 B.C. That is incorrect because Porus lived till 317 B.C. and ruled his domains then only Chandragupta attacked Punjab and annexed it around 316 B.C.



Emperors of Magadha empire – Chronology

519 B.C. Bimbisara ascends the throne  (28 years of reign) and belonged to Haryanka dynasty

491 B.C. Ajathashatru  son of Bimbisara ascends throne (25 years reign)

483 B.C. Nirvana of Buddha

468 B.C. Nirvana of Mahavira

466 B.C. Darsaka son of Ajathashatru ascends throne (25 years reign)

441 B.C. Udayi ascends throne (33 years reign)

408 B.C. Udayi’s death

353 B.C. Maha Padmananda murdered his soverign Kalasoka and upsured the throne and founded Nanda dynasty. Maha Padmananda was the son of a barber and a soverign of Kalasoka(an minor) and ruled 28 years

326 B.C. Alexander the great invades Indus valley(India)

325 B.C. Dhananad ascends the throne of Magadh(12 years)

325 B.C. Chandragupta Mauray meets Alexander

323 B.C. Death of Alexander the great

317 B.C. Chandragupta Maurya conquers Punjab

313 B.C. Chandragupta defeats Dhananand and ascends the throne

Bibliography: Sir William Jones, The Puranas, Parishitaparvan, The jain and Bhuddist chronicles of Ceylon and India



Dhuradhara: The First Indian Empress


Dhuradhara was the first wife and chief consort of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. Her name means distinguished or eminent. According to the jain book Mahavamsatika Dhuradhara was the daughter of the elder brother of Chandraguptas mother Mura.  Dhuradhara and Chandragupta were married in 325 B.C. She gave birth to two sons of Chandragupta one Keshnak in 323 B.C. and the heir Bindusara in 320 B.C. She did not live long to enjoy her husband’s success from an ordinary man to an emperor of India. She died just before giving birth to son Bindusara.

The story goes that Chankya was scared that his most precious pupil could be poisoned by his opponents and always mixed a bit of poison in Chandragupta’s food without his knowledge. One day Chandra gupta shared food from his plate with his wife Dhuradhara without knowing it is poisoned. Dhuradhara was just 7 days away from giving birth to Bindusara. Immediately Dhuradhara felt unwell and collapsed.

Chankya who was passing that way rushed into the room and first cut off her head so that the poison does not reach the baby and then cut her stomach and removed baby Bindusara. The mother had already died by then but a drop of the poison fell on the baby’s forehead making a black round spot. Hence he was named Bindusara. Bindusara became a favourite of Chankya who treated him with extreme affection and taught him about warfare and administration. Thus Dhuradhara was the first Empress and Queen Mother of Magadh Empire(posthumously) as Chandragupta did not marry anyone for a long time after her death.

Chandragupta loved Dhuradhara very much as although he later married a Nanda Princess, the daughter of Dhananand(name unknown) for political compulsions, yet Dhuradhara only remained the chief consort of Chandragupta(posthumously) and the Empress of Mauryan  Empire. Chandragupta did not have another chief consort although after the death of Dhuradhara he had married many other princesses after becoming an emperor.  She can also be called the first Empress of India.  She was also mother of two sons of Chandragupta Keshnak who died as three day old infant and Bindusara the next emperor of Mauryan Empire.



Helena : The Greek Mauryan Princess

Seleucus Nikator

Chandragupta Maurya defeated Seleukos Nikator the commander in chief of Alexander the great and the ruling Emperor of Persia in 305 B.C. It was a political alliance in which Helena the daughter Seleukos Nikator and Macedonian Princess married Chandragupta Maurya, the Emperor of India(and Mauryan Empire).

Though the father of Helena was against the marriage as Chandragupta was not a Greek yet Helena was attracted to Chandragupta and advised her father to arrange her wedding to him. Helena must have been in her early 20s when she was married off to Chandragupta Maurya who was 40 years then. Helena was daughter of Seleukos and his Persian wife.

Helena became quiet Indian after marriage to Chandragupta Maurya. She learned Sanskrit and Classical Indian music. She became his chief consort and Empress of Mauryan Empire. Chankya agreed to the marriage of Helena and Chandragupta Maurya only after taking in writing that Helena’s son shall not ascend the throne of Magadh. Hence the historians hint a love affair between Helena and Chandragupta.

It is believed that Chandragupta waged a war against Seleukos Nikator so that he could marry Helena. The story goes that one day Chandragupta was going with his gaurds on horse when he saw Helena and her friends playing near a river. Chandragupta was attracted to this young lady and fell in love with her. He started writing letters to her and after sometime she too started reciprocating his feelings. That is when Chandragupta decided that he had to marry this Greek Princess his love and attacked Seleukos Nikator.  Seleukos Nikator was defeated and he gave Helena’s hand in marriage to Chandragupta Maurya in 305 B.C.  Chandragupta Maurya gave 500 elephants as gifts to his father in law Seleukos Nikator and he in return gave him large parts of Afghanistan and Persian Empire. Chandragupta and Helena had a son from their union.

In 289 B. C. at the age of 56 years Chandragupta Maaurya abdicated his throne to his son Bindusara and embraced Jainism and left for Shravanabelegola in Karnataka where he meditated for 2 years and fasted unto death in 287 B.C. Helena stayed back with Bindusara after Chandragupta’s abdication and later left to Greece where she died.



Bindusara: Birth Story


Bindusara was the son of the first Mauryan emperor and founder of Mauryan empire and his first wife Dhuradhara. Chandra Gupta Mauray became an king and emperor after defeating the Nanda’s king Dhananand. Chankya always felt that Chandra guptas life would be attempted by his enemies. And that came true also because Vishkanya’s were sent to kill Chandra gupta Maurya.

So Chankya decided that to protect Chandragupta Maurya he would have to get immune from poison. So he would add a pinch of poison in his food everyday without Chandraguptas knowledge. One day Chandragupta had meals with his wife Dhuradhara. Dhuradhara ate the meals from his plate too and immediately fell very sick. She was just a few days away from giving birth to Bindusara.

In order to save Bindusara life, Chanakya rushed to her and cut off her head to stop the flow of blood through her body and then cut open her stomach and pulled out the baby Bindusara. But a drop of poison fell on baby head and it left a black mark on his forehead hence he was named Bindusara. He was also known as Simhasena.



Nigrodha and Ashoka – A meeting that changed Emperor Ashoka



The meeting of Ashoka with Nigrodha the son of Sushima his elder brother is a turning point in Emperor Ashokas life. Two incidents made Ashoka realize the path of ahimsa and Buddhism. One was meetng Nigrodha the son of Sushima his elder brother whom Ashoka killed to becomer emperor and second is the Kalinga war where more than a lakh people were killed in war with Maurya empire.

One day Ashoka was sitting in his palace when he saw a Buddhist monk going in front of his palace. Ashoka asked the gaurds to call that Buddhist monk inside for a meeting. The Buddhist monk was called inside and Ashoka asked him who he was?

Nigrodha told him, he is Nigrodha a Buddhist monk and son of Sushima. Ashoka was shocked, because Sushima was his elder brother whom he had killed to become an emperor of Maurya dynasty. But Nigrodha showed neither anger nor hatred towards Ashoka and his face was calm and composed.

Ashoka got down from his throne and went to Nigrodha and hugged him and told him to sit in any seat in the court. Nigrodha looked around and did not find any seat empty except that of Emperor Ashoka. Nigrodha walked up to the throne and sat on it and Ashoka followed him back to his throne. Both sat on throne and talked about Nigrodha and Buddhism. That was the first time Ashoka heard about ahmisa and Buddhism.

Note: Nigrodha’s father was Sushim  the eldest son of Binduasara. After the death of their father Bindusara in 273 B.C. there was a war for the throne among the sons of Bindusara, where Ashoka emerged victorious by killing many of his step brothers. A legend says he killed 99 of his step brothers to ascend the throne of Magadha. Its believed Ashoka pushed Sushim in a pit filled with hot coal and killed him.



Kunala – Ashoka’s dutiful and worthy son

Kunala was the son of emperor Ashoka and Queen Padmavati. His mother died a few days after his birth and he was brought up by the chief consort of Ashoka, Queen Asandhimitra (also known as Devi). After Mahendra became a buddist priest the next in line to succeed Ashoka was Kunala. Kunala as per the notings of Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang was known through out the kingdom for his great compassion, piety and humility.

There was an uprising in Taxila and Ashoka sent Kunala to quell it. Ashoka had told Kunala that if he wanted to send any message or ordersw he would send it in sealed envelope with a mark of his teeth. Trishyaraksha was the chief Queen of Ashoka at that time in BC 238. She was a maid of Ashoka’s first wife Asandhamitra and wowed Ashoka through her dancing skills. She was responsible for making Kunala blind.

There are two major stories behind her plotting to make Kunala the next heir blind.

The first story goes like this. There was a huge age gap between Trishyaraksha and Ashoka and hence she was attracted to her step son the young and handsome Kunala. But she failed to coax sexual favours from Kunala who considered her as a mother. Hence she conspired and had him sent out of Pataliputra to Taxila. Once Ashoka wanted to send Kunala an order to send him two precious jewels from Taxila and wrote an letter to that effect. Trishyaraksha who was present there took the letter and put a dot over the letter ‘a’ to change Adheeyu to Andheeyu. Ashok adid not recheck the letter and sealed it with his teeth mark and send it to Takshila. The ministers of Kunala were shocked at the letter contents but Kunala wanted to not disobey the Kings words and set a wrong precedent. So he ordered his ministers to blind him with an hot iron rod and left with his family.

After years of wandering he finally arrived in Pataliputra with his wife Kanchanamala and wowed Ashoka with his melodious singing. Ashoka asked him what reward he wanted and Kuanla revealed his true identity. Ashoka was shocked to find him blind and in that pitiable condition. The enquiry was made on who had changed the letter contents and Trishyaraksha was executed. Some legends say that she committed suicide on her own. Kunala demanded his inheritance and Ashoka rejected it sadly because Kunala was blind. But Kunala told him he wanted it for his son not for himself. Ashoka asked him when he had a son and he showed Ashoka his young baby son Samprati(just now). Ashoka promised him that after his death Samprati shall be emperor of the Mauryan dynasty.

Another story on Kunalas blinding goes to say that Trishyaraksha wanted her son to be next emperor and hence to eliminate Kunala she hatched the plot to make him blind. Whatever the circumstances but Kunala became blind due to plotting of his step mother. Kunala represented the rare breed of loyal and selfless sons who would follow their father’s harsh and cruel orders although they were unjust. Kunala it is said had his eyes send to Pataliputra to be presented to Ashoka and when Ashoka received them he was shocked and regretted having sealed the letter without reading it.

Kunala means Eagle or Lotus and he is credited with establishing a kingdom in Indian-Nepal border near Mithila.