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Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas: With a new afterword, bibliography and index (Oxford India Paperbacks) download epub

by Romila Thapar

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Romila Thapar's groundbreaking work cuts through the hagiography and reveals a much more realistic and true to. .

Romila Thapar's groundbreaking work cuts through the hagiography and reveals a much more realistic and true to life image of Asoka. This she achieves through a close reading of the texts, what Asoka said about himself through his edicts and setting Asoka and his life against the social and political context of his age. The "warts and all" image of Asoka brings to like an Asoka who is in many ways more compelling and interesting than the conventional picture of the emperor.

ISBN 10: 0195639324 ISBN 13: 9780195639322 Publisher: Oxford University Press, 1997 Hardcover. Customers who bought this item also bought.

About the author (1997). Romila Thapar is at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Bibliographic information. Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas: With a New Afterword, Bibliography and Index Oxford India Collection Oxford India Paperbacks.

Romila Thapar is Prof. Emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi. She is Fellow of the British Academy in 2008 she was awarded Kluge Prize for lifetime Achievement in the Humanities. Preface The reign of Asoka began to attract the attention of historians well over a century ago. In 1837, James Prinsep first published his work on the Asokan inscription in a series of papers. Romila Thapar is Prof.

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Are you sure you want to remove Aśoka and the decline of the Mauryas from your list? Aśoka and the decline of the Mauryas. with new afterword, bibliography and index. 2nd ed. by Romila Thapar. Published 1998 by Oxford University Press in Delhi, New York. History, Politics and government, Maurya dynasty. Aśoka King of Magadha (fl. 259 . ), Maurya dynasty, Maurya family, Aśoka King of Magadha (ca. 274-232 . ), Asoka King of Magadha (ca.

The noted Indian historian Romila Thapar (b. 1931), a specialist in ancient India . Romila Thapar is an Indian historian and Professor Emeritus at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. 1931), a specialist in ancient India, has drawn the ire of certain of her compatriots because she has objected to re-writings of Indian history that she claims to have been motivated more by religious, ideological and political reasons than by factual ones. A graduate from Panjab University, Dr. Thapar completed her PhD in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

Looking for books by Romila Thapar? . Indian Tales (Puffin Books). Interpreting Early India (Oxford India Paperbacks).

Looking for books by Romila Thapar? See all books authored by Romila Thapar, including A History of India: Volume 1 (Penguin History), and Sakuntala: Texts, Readings, Histories (Anthem South Asian Studies), and more on ThriftBooks. Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas: With a new afterword, bibliography and index. India: Another Millennium? Series By Romila Thapar. History and Beyond: Interpreting Early India, Time as a Metaphor of History, Cultural Transaction and Early India and from Lineage to State.

Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas: With a new afterword, bibliography and index (Oxford India Collection) - Romila .

Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas: With a new afterword, bibliography and index (Oxford India Collection) - Romila Thapar. India: The Ancient Past: A History of the Indian Sub-Continent from c. 7000 BC to AD 1200 - Burjor Avari. The Complete Taj Mahal: The greatest monument to love, and the lost world of the Agra gardens and their characterful owners, re-created through superb scholarship and evocative illustrations. The book features hundreds of new photographs plus drawings by the Indian architect Richard Barraud that include plans and reconstructions of Agra and the Taj complex as they looked in Shah Jahan's time.

Oxford India Perennials Series. Author is a renowned historian on the Mauryas and ancient India. This classic provides a comprehensive history of the Mauryan empire. Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas.

This volume is about the history of the decline of the Mauryan dynasty in ancient India and the reign of Aśoka . Romila Thapar, author.

This volume is about the history of the decline of the Mauryan dynasty in ancient India and the reign of Aśoka Maurya.

First published in 1961, this classic work is based largely on the edicts of Asoka, whose policies are analyzed against the background of Mauryan civilization during the third and fourth centuries B.C. The present edition has been thoroughly revised with a new afterword and archaeological site map.

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The study of ancient history sometimes has a very different feel to the study of modern history. The personalities of ancient history often have a larger than life appearance. Over the centuries through the development of traditions and a loss of original sources, the images that come down to us are often highly idealized and give the distant past the sense of a long lost golden age. This more than anything else creates a reverence for the ancients (whether Indians, Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks or Romans) that seldom attaches to personalities of more recent times. There is so much more source material about more recent times that we can see the times and the people of more recent periods "warts and all". Attempts to idealise our more recent past therefore will usually lack credibility - and even appear ridiculous.

Asoka is a personality from the distant past who perhaps more than any other is idealized. Indian and Chinese (especially Buddhist) sources propagate such an image of Asoka. The traditional narrative is reasonably well known. Chandra Gupta Maurya established the Mauryan empire in North India in the late fourth century BCE . His son Bindusara continued the task of imperial expansion and after his death following a period of warfare over the crown, one of his sons Asoka became king. Buddhist tradition describes him as an evil king ("Chanda Asoka). Asoka completed the task of establishing Mauryan dominion across India but overwhelmed by the death and devastation of his last great campaign in Kalinga, became a pacifist and a Buddhist. Thereafter, he became devoted to non-violence and the propagation of Buddhism. He was now Dhamma Asoka ("Righteous Asoka"). The high moral tone of the emperor is spoken to by his numerous rock and pillar edits which still exist. They speak of the emperor's renunciation of war and belief in conquest by Dhamma (righteousness), his building of public works such as roads, religious buildings, rest houses and hospitals. After his death, however, Asoka's empire disintegrated and the last of the Mauryans ruled about fifty years after Asoka's death until his assassination by an ambitious general. Asoka however remained a figure of admiration and reverence in the narrative that has been passed down over time.

The admiration of Asoka seen in Indian, Chinese and other Asian sources, became something many Western intellectuals also signed on to after they had acquired a familiarity with Indian history. This happened from the nineteenth century onwards. HG Wells wrote that in"the history of the world there have been thousands of kings and emperors who called themselves 'their highnesses,' 'their majesties,' and 'their exalted majesties' and so on. They shone for a brief moment, and as quickly disappeared. But Asoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day."

Romila Thapar's groundbreaking work cuts through the hagiography and reveals a much more realistic and true to life image of Asoka. This she achieves through a close reading of the texts, what Asoka said about himself through his edicts and setting Asoka and his life against the social and political context of his age. The "warts and all" image of Asoka brings to like an Asoka who is in many ways more compelling and interesting than the conventional picture of the emperor. The sudden transformation of Asoka from bad to good following his conversion is typical of conversion stories. Likewise St Paul. The reality though was that Asoka was not really so bad before his conversion. Nor was he really that saintly afterwards. The picture Thapar paints is of an unconventional ruler who rides the waves of change of his age and seeks to place himself within that context as best he can, in this case, by embracing Buddhism and working for its strengthening and propagation. The comparison with the conversion of Constantine to Christianity and his use of this rising force to strengthen the Roman state has been noted more than once. While Asoka may genuinely have become a Buddhist out of commitment even if there was no sudden or miraculous conversion, there was also an element of statecraft in his conversion. By associating in this way with the up and coming religion, Asoka may have intended to hold at bay and balance the forces of traditional brahminism even as he enjoined respect for both brahmans and other religious leaders.

Critical to understanding Asoka in Thapar's view therefore is the context in which he lived and the age of which he was a product. The India in which Asoka lived was undergoing a period of significant change. The old order of self governing republics and kingdoms had given way to a large continental empire. The quickening pace of trade had thrown up new classes of people with greater wealth, influence and aspirations, notably merchants. The old pastoral society had over centuries become transformed into a settled society supporting a large agricultural economy. This was also period of challenge to the old brahmanical order by Buddhists, Jainas and Ajivikas (atheists/materialists) who drew much of their support from the new classes who did not enjoy high status under the old order. Through contact with the Iranians and Greeks, Indians were also becoming interested in foreign ways. Asoka's edicts and those of Darius bear comparison. Asoka's father Bindusara had asked a Greek king in the West to send him a Greek philosopher to join the imperial Court at Pataliputra (today's Patna). The intellectual fluidity of the era found reflection in the imperial family itself. Chandra Gupta Asoka's grandfather retired as a Jain hermit. His father and mother were Ajivikas and Asoka himself eventually became a Buddhist.

This atmosphere of openness and tolerance within the imperial family makes its mark on Asoka as revealed by Thapar. Asoka though a staunch Buddhist, was not a fanatic and appears to have advocated respect for all sects. In seeking to bring together a multi-cultural empire, he advocated the concept of "Dhamma" or righteousness enjoining his subjects to do their duty to their own sect, the State and family and respect other sects. The policy of dhamma becomes of central interest in studying Asoka and his times as the ideology he developed to underpin his rule. Dhamma in its totality was "a policy of social responsibility... It was the building up of an attitude of mind in which social behavior, the behavior of one person towards another, was considered of great importance. It was a plea for the recognition of the dignity of man, and for a humanistic spirit in the activity of society".

The concept of dhamma comes across as a call to civic duty going beyond particular sects or traditions. For his Greek speaking subjects, Asoka presents the concept of Dhamma as the Greek ideal of eusebia or piety. Asoka's efforts to reach out to and bring together in a single polity many disparate peoples on the basis of an articulated civic ideal represents an early (and perhaps one of the first) attempt at such a task. In seeking to bind together a multicultural polity with a civic ideal, the Asokan state appears as an ancient mirror held up to attempts in modern times to build a national ideal on something of universal rather than a narrower ethnically or religiously based appeal - unsuccessfully in the case of the former USSR and thus far successfully in the case of the US and indeed Asoka's contemporary heir, the Indian Republic. Dhamma as shown by Thapar is not just an expression of high ideals by the State but is smart statecraft in its attempt to bring together a vast empire and hold it together under a common civic ideal. As the European Union struggles towards unification, the lessons of Asoka's dhamma may remain relevant. Europeans face a choice between civic ideals based on human rights as the foundation of their enterprise and narrower culturally based criteria. Asoka's choice in favour of the former when facing similar problems was both ethical and practical.

Asoka's regime in this regard was an attempt at social engineering, perhaps one of the first states to do so. He instituted a class of officials know as dhamma mahamattas who traveled throughout the realm to encourage adherence to dhamma. Thapar's description of their role makes them appear almost like political commissars of the early Soviet regime although without the hard force that these particular officials could and did call upon if required. That his successors did not continue with such an approach may also be an early example of the limits of what a State motivated by a particular ideology could do to inculcate it.

Dhamma appears to have gone hand in hand with a programme of public works that Asoka speaks about in his edicts. They included irrigation works, building roads, rest houses, religious buildings and facilities for the care of the sick. Underpinning the state and these achievements was a large bureaucracy with various classes of officials charged with specific responsibilities. Apart from a large military, there were revenue collectors, judges, accountants, surveyors, officials charged with consumer protection, irrigation officials, fire wardens, spies and even "spin doctors". Punishments included capital punishments although Asoka appears to have disliked it.

Asoka urged his officials to equally apply the law. This seems to have been a reference to uniform application of law throughout the realm as well as impartiality in decision making. In our age, we would express this ideal as the rule of law.

The Mauryan super state emerged at a time when similar super states had or were emerging elsewhere, notable the Persian Empire of the Achaemenids and the Chinese empire under the Chin. All grappled with the same problems of holding together large and diverse realms. Asoka's solution like that of the Persians and Chinese depended on a large and sophisticated apparatus of governance but his development of dhamma as a tool of governance is somewhat unique - but not entirely unique. The policy bears a resemblance to the policy of Cyrus of respecting and supporting the diverse traditions of his subjects, exemplified in the permission given to the Jewish people to rebuild their Temple and return to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon. Other similarities with Persia and noted by Thapar.

Thapar's discussion of the decline of the Mauryas does not include the kind of detailed discussion that she devotes to the reign of Asoka himself and her analysis of dhamma. This can be a little frustrating as an interesting question in itself arises as to why the system put into place by Asoka did not last (in contrast say to the relative longevity of the Achaemenid Empire and the durability of the Chinese imperial system). Some answers however are provided. Thapar suggests ovecentralisation and over dependence on the charisma of the emperor as a factor underlying the decline. Asoka's successors appear not to have enjoyed his gifts as a ruler. Contrary to earlier notions of economic decline underlying the end of the Mauryas, Thapar marshals evidence of an economic boom resulting from the stability and infrastructure provided by the early Mauryas as a feature of the period of decline. If the scenario is that of growing regional economic prosperity giving regions the ability to assert their independence from the centre, this does not appear to be that different to the circumstances in eighteenth century underlying the decline of Mughal power and its replacement by strong regional states as studied by scholars such as CA Bayly. Those lessons perhaps remain relevant today in the context of the India's current economic growth occurring as it does at different paces in different parts of the country.

Thapar sees weaknesses in the Mauryan concept of state and rejects the existence of any real concept of state in Mauryan times. She does so on the basis that loyalty to the king and not to an abstract concept of state was how the Mauryans saw things. She also points to the absence of any discussion in the texts of the era of the comparative merits of different forms of government such as monarchy, republics and oligarchy. These viewpoints however may be questioned. The call for loyalty to dhamma for example does arguably point in the direction of loyalty to an abstract concept of society and its governance going beyond loyalty to the person of the king. Secondly, the absence of a discussion of the merits of comparative forms of government (eg republican versus monarchical forms of government) of the kind found in the Mediterranean world at the time is perhaps nothing more than a reflection of the fact that the Mediterranean basin did at the time contain examples of such different forms of government whereas India largely did not. The absence of serious discussion today on the relative merits of dictatorship, monarchy, oligarchy and democracy as forms of government for the United States does not diminish the quality or depth of contemporary writings on politics and governance in the United States. The Indians in Mauryan times like modern Americans studied the existing form of governance known to them and how to make it work optimally. The theory underpinning Asoka's state as well as the express articulation of a theory of political science in the Arathashashra appear as complete and well thought out as any other theory of the State of the same period or even modern theories. Indeed, Asoka seems highly modern in his concerns with the workings of the State, taxation, justice, the rule of law and the provision of public goods by the State. Sharp distinctions between what is regarded as "pre-modern" and "modern" in this regard need to be drawn with some caution.

Nevertheless, despite these minor quibbles, Thapar's work remains a classic study of an outstanding figure even forty years after its original publication. In fairness to Thapar, she says that she has changed her mind on some things since that time. Thapar's careful study of the sources and her close readings of the edicts of Asoka underpin this formidable work of scholarship.
Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas was first published in 1961 and written by the famous Indian historian Romila Thapar. The revised edition was published thirty-six years later and has a new afterword, bibliography and index. The second edition is due to new data (archeological and scriptural) on Asoka and the Mauryas. It is also a result of new interpretation by Thapar herself. Instead of completely revising the earlier text, which does have a few minor changes, Thapar includes most of the new information in the afterword.

The book was considered groundbreaking when it was first published. There is no debate whether it will have lasting value for years to come. Thapar brought a new perspective in analyzing ancient Indian history, which also revolutionized the study of South Asian society. In this book, she takes a sociological approach in trying to understand Asoka's rise to power and his conversion to Buddhism. Thapar believes that Asoka's rise to power was actually due to movements within the Mauryan society during that period instead of Asoka's individual persona.

According to Thapar, most historians relied too heavily on biased Buddhist sources designed to win over converts by exaggerating Asoka's wickedness before conversion and exaggerating his piety after conversion. It is probably more true to say that Asoka was shrewder than he was devout. He used Buddhism as a way to gain more popularity and loyalty from the masses that were turning away from Hinduism. Although Asoka did try to create a more peaceful and tolerant society, he kept it as less radical as possible so as not to offend the powerful Brahman and Kshatriya communities.

Thapar divides the book into four parts. The first part deals with background information, specifically a summary of Asoka's life and a mention of Maurya kings before and after him. Most of the second section recounts basic facts of Asoka's personal life, such as family, accession to the throne, and his conversion to Buddhism. The third part explains politics, economics, demographics and religion in Mauryan society under Asoka. The last section deals with the Mauryan society that came after Asoka. Here Thapar explains how Mauryan society declined after Asoka's death.

This would be an excellent book for people who already have extensive knowledge of South Asian history and have some knowledge of Asoka's reign. Thapar's arguments are very convincing and it is obvious that she has not only considerable knowledge of Indian history, but also has done extensive research on Asoka and the Mauryan Empire. The only exception to this is when Thapar deals with Asoka's death. Surprisingly, she does not give much commentary on Asoka's later life and death. Thapar only states what other sources give on his death and the state of the kingdom at the time.

Another great flaw in the book is that there is no glossary. Thapar mentions many Indian concepts, words, and ancient kingdoms and assumes that the reader understands what they are without explanation. What makes it worse is that Thapar sometimes uses overly complicated language when simple words would have been better suited. It would also have helped if Thapar used better maps and had given a clear chronology of the Mauryan period.

Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas is definitely worth reading even if it was originally written for specialists. A good idea is to read a couple of biographies on Asoka before taking on this work. Thapar, however, does try to give as much information as possible about her subject. In the back, there are appendices that display all the sources she uses and helps the reader gain a better understanding of Asoka and the Mauryan Empire.
This book is a pretty detailed attempt to glorify Asoka without facts, missing certain facts that other authors have caught about Ashoka namely
1) Asoka used most of his life for war and destruction and less for any humanitarian effort ( looks quite the opposite from this book )
2) Pilfering was a landmark of Ashoka as during his times government funds were used for purposes religious (often forcefully) regardless of set rules against it, trying to prove that there are no rules for the king.
The existing picture of Indian society was very biased in this book. Have to read some of the books on Chanakya for the real picture. Event the Greeks exclaimed that Bharat is a land where there is a "satta" or authority which is beyond the king's authority and that was the authority of the people who taught in the gurukuls and did expect money in return. Reading this book does not present that picture of India, infact it looks at India as just an emblem of greed like other western countries of that time.
This basic general history of the first great empire of India was first published in 1961. The 1997 edition is updated primarily with a lengthly 'Afterword' that reviews all the significant new findings of the past three decades. I was introduced to the book in a graduate seminar on Mauryan art history at UCLA. The author is an acknowledged expert on Asoka and the Maurya dynasty, and this is an excellent, solid resource that includes (as an appendix) the full texts of the Asokan edicts. I have not given it 5 stars only because I believe it should have a glossary, and the footnotes often include abbreviations that are never explained. One needs at least some background in Indian history. This is not an introductory text.
Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas: With a new afterword, bibliography and index (Oxford India Paperbacks) download epub
Author: Romila Thapar
ISBN: 019564445X
Category: Other
Subcategory: Humanities
Language: English
Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised edition (May 7, 1998)
Pages: 374 pages