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Ashoka's Edicts: Unveiling Varna System's Hidden History.



  Oct 13, 2023

Ashoka’s Edicts & Their Implications on Varna System



What are Ashoka’s Edicts?

The edicts are a collection of 33 inscriptions on the Pillars of Ashoka and boulders and cave walls spread throughout the Indian subcontinent. They depict Ashoka’s teachings, ideologies, and policies, reflecting his embrace of Buddhism and the propagation of moral and ethical norms.

Content of the Edicts:

The edicts primarily highlight Ashoka’s advocacy for non-violence, respect for all religious sects, kindness, and moral behavior. They focus on the practice of dharma, which encompasses righteousness, truth, and duty. The texts discuss familial relations, good governance, and the role of religious professionals.

Criticism related to the Varna System:

Despite Ashoka’s emphasis on moral conduct and righteousness, his edicts conspicuously avoid mentioning the varna system or caste hierarchies.
This omission is significant considering the caste system’s impact on Indian society.
One could argue that Ashoka missed an opportunity to address or challenge the prevailing social hierarchies of his time. His silence raises questions about the prominence of the caste system during his reign and its portrayal by subsequent sources, which predominantly focus on a fourfold social division.

Ashoka’s Time and its Significance:

Ashoka reigned during a period of significant socio-cultural change. His adoption of Buddhism and propagation of ethical governance was pioneering.
Yet, the lack of mention of the caste system in his edicts prompts a reevaluation of the social structures during his era, questioning whether the caste system’s portrayal by later Brahminical sources was more prescriptive than reflective of the actual societal dynamics.
 
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