As an administrator Ashoka understood what all cultures have always known yet struggled to implement.

Prosperity goes hand in hand with peace 

Throughout the ancient and modern times, the countries that have witnessed stable geo-political situations have prospered. You cannot be in the midst of simmering tensions and war like state and expect trade and commerce to flourish. Also, a peaceful society gives the residents a sense of safety and belonging which in turn inspires them to work harder.

Ashoka’s act of embracing Buddhism turned out to be a political masterstroke because of this reason in particular. He understood that he needed to have peace reign in his empire and Vedic Hinduism was anything but peaceful with its brutal varna system where humans belonging to the so called lower castes were treated worse than animals.

Ashoka turned to Buddhism knowing that his lead will motivate a huge chunk of the people in his empire to turn to Buddhism and embrace a life where every life form is treated equally. His first wife Devi who was a Buddhist is said to have had a major influence in Ashoka being exposed to the religion.

It was a huge step towards an egalitarian society, one that even Dr B R Ambedkar turned to in more recent times. Both of them had similar motivations, one that aspired to build a progressive and content society.

The varna system was not just restrictive but inhuman in its more serious forms. It had turned our society into a narrow minded one which shunned every sign of progress, the exact opposite of what the system was meant to do when written and codified by Manu.

Maybe the leaders of today can take a page out of the way these leaders instilled pride in their subjects. Or may be it would not work today.

That’s the thing about history. What worked in one period might just not work at another because the social dynamics are vastly different. Also with today’s age of instant communication you can never be sure about how one thing will impact another.

A cricket match is directly proportional to the low voter turn out during elections. Years back when Ramayana and Mahabharata were broadcasted for the first time, it meant empty streets. What I am trying to say is that I might wax eloquent about the kind of administrator Ashoka was but I will not make the mistake of ignoring the fact that the age was totally different. The country that India was then and is now are two vastly differing worlds. It however still does not stop me from trying to wade through the thick 1000 page book on him as I am still determined to read till the very last word.

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