My Hero in Indian History
Nehru was never an admirer of kings and princess. But he makes an exception in the case of Asoka. He quotes, with approval, the remarks made by II.G. Wells in his Outline of History. According to Wells, among the numerous emperors and kings of history, Asoka shines almost like a star. From the Volga to Japan, his name is still honoured.
The Kalinga War was a turning point in the life of Asoka. He attacked it with a view to bringing it under a single government He won the war, but was himself conquered in another sense. The horrors of war tormented his soul and he made up his mind to give up war forever. Caesar used to boast that he had little difficulty in getting victory over Furnaces. He came, saw and conquered. His presence was enough to make the people yield to him. But Asoka conquered and then saw what war meant. He found out after the Kalinga War that he was responsible for the sufferings of many people. According to Dr. H.C. Rayachaudhari, a famous Indian historian, the sight of misery and bloodshed in the Kalinga campaign smote the emperor’s conscience and awakened in his breast sincere feelings of repentance and sorrow. He realized that war could never be a solution to disputes. He felt that the way of the Buddha alone could give lasting peace to mankind, He, therefore, wanted to conquer the hearts of men by the laws of duty and piety. Accordingly, he carved out numerous edicts on rocks and pillars throughout his vast empire. These edicts declared the emperor’s eagerness to protect the `Dharma’. He wanted even the semi-barbarous forest tribes to be treated with kindness. All living creatures in the empire should have security, peace and joyousness. His spirit of toleration was the product of his love for his subjects and of his respect for-sincere faith. For the comfort of men and animals he planted shady trees along the roads, He dug wells and built rest houses and established hospitals. In short his solicitude for the welfare of all living billings was remarkable.
Asoka’s appeal was never to force, but to the mind and hearts of men. He wanted to respect all religions. He was a latitudinarian.
Asoka is one of the most remarkable personalities in the history of the world. He was tireless in his exertions, and unflagging in his zeal—all directed to the promotion of the spiritual and moral welfare of his people, whom he called his children. Like Tennyson, he visualised a time when there is no war and when the Federation of the World comes into being, to guide the destinies of man:
For I dip into the future, far as human
eye could see;
Saw the vision of the world, and all the
wonder that would be….
Till the war-throbbed no longer, and the
battle-flags were furled
In the Parliament of Man, the Federation
of the World.