Kalinga was located in a strategic position. It was the center of important trade and pilgrimage routes. Ashoka, therefore, decided to annex the state. The Kalinga War took place in 261 BC. According to Megasthenes, Kalinga had a powerful army. Ashoka faced tough resistance from its army. The state of Kalinga was conquered, but the battle resulted in great loss of life. About one and a half lakh people died in the war. The war had far-reaching consequences on Ashoka.
Consequences of the Kalinga War
- The miseries and deaths inflicted on the people during the war brought about a great change in the personal and political life of Ashoka. He gave up the policy of conquest by force.
- After the war, Ashoka stopped hunting and eating meat on certain days. He also abandoned the life of luxury.
- Ashoka was inspired by the doctrines of Buddhism. He thus declared Buddhism as the state religion.
- The prisoners captured during the war were employed in agricultural fields as laborers. This increased the productivity of the land and brought economic prosperity to the empire.
- Ashoka abandoned the policy of waging wars and upheld the doctrine of non-violence. This led to the decline in the efficiency of the Mauryan army.
- After conquering Kalinga, Ashoka’s empire extended from the Hindukush Mountains in the northwest to River Pennar in the south. His empire also included the parts of Nepal, Kabul, Heart, and Kandahar provinces in the west.
Ashoka felt remorse after the Kalinga War. He became a firm follower of Buddhism and declared it as a state religion. He followed the policy of Dhamma.
Principles of Dhamma
- To respect elders and to love children
- To follow ahimsa or non-violence
- To do good deeds as this will reap benefits in the next life
- To respect all religions
- Not to perform unnecessary rituals
As a result of Ashoka’s Dhamma, people began to follow a policy of religious tolerance and began to live a moral and ethical life. As wars were no longer fought by the kingdom, many welfare works were undertaken which helped people to live a peaceful life.
Also, Read The Mauryan Empire