Ashok’s Kalinga Invasion: True or a fiction?
The History as it stands to-day speaks of the conversion of Emperor Ashok from Chandashoka to Dharmashoka at Dhauligiri, the battle ground in Kalinga where one lakh of Kalinga Soldiers had been killed and one lakh and fifty thousand imprisoned and taken to the Capital of Magadha by Ashok. We have absolutely no intention of questioning the greatness of Emperor Ashok or his conversion to Dharmashoka. We only question the occurrence of the ferocious Kalinga war which if true would have been the greatest genocide in the world then. How such a very sensessional and dreadful episode could not find place in the world history as it deserves? The source of ourHistory is Ashok’s rock edicts which are highly controversial. It is natural that the victor’sheroism, courage, achievements, killing of the Soldiers of the opponent in the war,were inscribed in the rock edicts at his behest to show his greatness. The rock edicts at Dhauli is a glaring example of that.
We are to find out whether there is any Historical truth of the Kalinga war or that was completely imaginary and nothing more than a fiction, which had been planned to enhance the greatness of Ashok. When one lakh Soldiers had been killed and 1 lakh 50 thousand had been imprisoned, the magnitude of the Army of Kalinga might have been 8 to 10 lakhs. Such a great Army could be maintained only by a very rich and powerful King or Emperor. It is strange that no Historian has yet said as to who was that King or Emperor who had fought against Ashok in that Kalinga war. In the rock edict of Emperor Ashok,everything including the killing of one lakh Kalinga Soldiers and making captive of one lakh and 50 thousand soldiers have been inscribed but the King or Emperor who was defeated by Ashok has not been mentioned. It was also not mentioned, how many Soldiers of Magadha have lost their lives in the war. Since 1977 when I joined in the Janata Govt. of Odisha as a Cabinet Minister, I had the opportunity of attending many Historical conferences as guest. I had categorically asked Historians in those conferences and also the reputed Historians personally as to who was the King or Emperor of Kalinga in that Kalinga war, but nobody was able to say about such a King or Emperor. If there was no King, whom the great Emperor Ashok had fought with and defeated him, killing one lakh of his soldiers. From this we can clearly infer that there was no such war and that it was a planned story which was given historical colour to glorify Ashok.
My second question is that if Chandashoka was converted to Dharmashokaat Dhauli,how he could take one lakh and 50 thousand war prisoners to the Capital of Magadha. If that were true he would have ordered to release them, then and there. After his conversion when he became Dharmashoka or a Mahatma, how could he make such a large number of soldiers the war prisoners? According to the present History, the Kalinga war was fought in 262B.C. On a plain analysis of the growth of population since 262 B.C. till today, when Odisha’s population is now 4 crores &25 lakhs, Kalinga’s population then would have been approximately 30 to 40 lakhs at best. Can we now say that one third or one fourth of the population of Kalinga were Army at that time?Hence the story of Kalinga war or Ashok’s invasion of Kalinga is not only far from truth, it is false and fabricated. Both Kalinga and Magadha were prosperous empires who were known for their Military strength. Even a great warrior like Emperor Chandragupta Mourya who extended his Empire up to Kabul in the west did not venture to invade Kalinga. It was said that Chanakya the great diplomat and Mahamantri of Chandragupta advised him not to take the risk of attacking Kalinga which was famous for its Military strength. When Magadha and Kalinga were rivals for centuries due to their armed forces, how Ashok the successor of Chandragupta who had no such Military achievement like the latter could venture to attack Kalinga.
In some of the rock edicts, it has been mentioned that being shocked at the massive death and destruction in the Kalinga war, Ashok was converted to Buddhism and became Dharmashoka. It was discovered from some of the rock edicts that Ashok was converted to Buddhism two years before he invaded Kalinga in 262 B.C. Even Ashok’s eulogists like Charles Allen agreed that his conversion predated the Kalinga war. If that was true,then how a Boudh Emperor who believed in non-violence could attack a neighbouring empire and fought such a deadly war like Kalinga war,causing enormous deaths and destruction. India is now one of the countries of the world having a large armed force. It is saidthat the strength of its Infantry is now about 14 to 15 lakhs. How Kalinga which was just like a province of the country could maintain an armed force of about 10 lakhs? Hence everything regarding Kalinga war is false and imaginary.At the time of Kalinga war, Soldiers were fighting mainly with swords and similar other weapons. After Killing of 10 to 15 thousand Kalinga Soldiers, it was natural that the other Soldiers would have fled away from the war field to save their lives. But it is strange that the Kalinga Soldiers,very patiently waited till their slaughtering reached one lakh. This is highly improbable and unbelievable.
We are told that British Historian James Princep, who was an employee of the East India Company had discovered and deciphered the rocks edicts of Ashok in 1830 A.D. and brought into light the greatness of Ashok and the fierce Kalinga war and its massacre. By then more than 2000years had elapsed from the time of Kalinga war and many Greek, Chinese and Persian Scholars had visited our country during that period.Though they have described in detail the Social, Economic and Political Conditions including all the important events of our country, how could they ignore to write about such a great war like the Kalinga war in their travel story which would have created sensation in the entire world. Hence the occurrence of the dreadful Kalinga war which is not based on any Historical data, documents or proof is false and imaginary. As it appears, it was designed to make Ashok great and to humiliate the Kalingans who were famous for their courage, bravery, heroism and indomitable spirit of fighting for the honour &dignity of their motherland. Apart from all thesecock-and-bull story about the Kalinga war, the mostimportant aspect of it is that with the background of the so called dreadful Kalinga war,where one lakh Soldiers had been killed and which would have been the greatest genocide of the world then, how Ashok became “Ashok the great and the Beloved of the Gods?”Since Ashok has already been great and cooked up stories about Kalinga war were made,the whole episode of Ashok’s invasion of Kalinga is baseless, fabricated, far from truth and nothing more than a projected fiction.
By Biswabhusan Harichandan