families of his brothers, sisters and other relatives. This war of succession
accounts for the interregnum of four years (272-268 BC), and only after
securing his position on the throne, Asoka had himself formally crowned in
KALINGA WAR & CONVERSION TO BUDDHISM
The most important event of Asoka’s reign seems to have been his
victorious war with Kalinga (260 BC), the horrors of which were described
by Asoka himself: ‘A hundred and fifty thousand were killed, and many
times that number perished...’ It was previously held that he was
dramatically converted to Buddhism immediately after the Kalinga war.
But, this was not so, and as one of his inscriptions, viz. Bhabra inscription,
states it was only after a period of more than two years that he became an
ardent supporter of Buddhism under the influence of a Buddhist monk,
Upagupta. In this edict he states his acceptance of the Buddhist creed, the
faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. This edict was written
specifically for the local Buddhist clergy and not for the population at
large. He refers to himself as the ‘King of Magadha’, a title which he uses
only on this occasion.
After ascending the throne, Asoka, according to Taranatha, spent several
years in pleasurable pursuits and was consequently called ‘Kamasoka’. This
was followed by a period of extreme wickedness, which earned him the name
of ‘Chandasoka’. Finally, his conversion to Buddhism and his subsequent
piety led Taranatha to describe Asoka as ‘Dhammasoka’.
The Third Buddhist Council was held in 250 BC at Pataliputra with
Moggaliputta Tissa presiding. The Vibhajjavada (doctrine of Theravadin
school) was proclaimed as the true faith. But strangely enough Asoka makes
no mention of this event in any of his inscriptions. Of all the events
mentioned in the various Buddhist sources the only one that appears to be
corroborated by the inscriptions of Asoka is that of the purge of the Sangha.
At the conclusion of the Third Buddhist Council, Buddhist monks of
some repute were selected and sent as missionaries to various regions,
Among these were Majjhantika (who was sent to Kashmir and Gandhara),