said to have been an elucidation and elaboration of the concept of didbhatita
(dridhabhaktita) or firm devotion, found in the Prakrit RE XIII. This has led
to the inference that Asoka’s Dhamma, therefore, had in it a political element
too. The emperor demanded from his subjects the devotion to the king’s
interest, i.e., to the king himself; the ruler, in his turn, would act like a father
to his subjects. That the Dhamma had a political purpose, apart from
upholding a broad social and moral code of conduct, has added a new
perspective to the studies of the Maurya times.
Main Features or Contents of the Dhamma
The edicts gave Asoka the opportunity to expound his dhamma. While
different major rock edicts talk about different aspects of the dhamma, the
Major Rock Edict XI contains an elaborate explanation of the dhamma, apart
from dealing with charity and kinship of humanity. It clearly indicates that
dhamma was a secular thing. From this major rock edict as well as the other
major rock edicts we can mention the following as the main features of the
1. Prohibition of animal sacrifices and festive gatherings (MRE I), and
avoiding expensive and meaningless ceremonies and rituals (MRE
2. Efficient organisation of administration (MRE VI) in the direction of
social welfare (MRE II).
3. Consideration and non-violence to animals and courtesy to relations
(MRE IV) and liberality to Brahmins, Sramanas, etc. (MRE III).
4. Humane treatment of servants by masters and of prisoners by the
government officials (MRE V; it also mentions the appointment of
5. Tolerance among all the sects (MRE VII and XII).
6. Replacement of bherighosa (sound of war drums) by dhammaghosa
(sound of peace), i.e., conquest through dhamma instead of through
war (MRE XIII).
7. Maintenance of constant contact with the rural people through the
system of dhammayatras (MRE III).