The story of Buddha would remain unfinished without the mention of a king named Ashoka. He lived a couple of centuries after the time of Buddha.
Ashoka was a ruthless king. The stories of his cruelty were so popular that people used to call him Chanda Ashoka or “Ashoka the cruel”. As an instrument of oppression, he built a torture chamber known as “Ashoka’s hell”.
His audacity and ambition were boundless. To increase his power, Ashoka subjugated his neighboring kingdoms. His empire extended over the most part of the subcontinent. Ruling of such a vast land by one emperor happened rarely in the past.
And then there was a war that changed his life completely.
Ashoka attacked a neighboring state Kalinga with his big army and brutally killed thousands of people. There was so much bloodshed that the river Daya turned red.
The horror and destruction caused by the war touched the heart of Ashoka. He realized that war only brings suffering and death. He felt great remorse for his action.
The Kalinga war completely changed Ashoka. He quit the path of cruelty and violence.
Subsequently Ashoka adopted Buddhism and rebuilt his kingdom based on compassion and love. This was perhaps the first time in history when a kingdom was ruled by such ideologies.
When Buddha was alive, none of his teachings were written down. Rather they were passed on from the gurus to the disciples orally.
At various parts of his empire, Ashoka installed rocks inscribed with the teachings of Buddha so that people could learn from them. He also sent messengers to many parts of the world carrying the teachings of the Buddha.
Centuries later, as history turned its pages, Hinduism became dominant and Buddhism almost disappeared from the mainland of modern India. Thanks to the effort of Ashoka, Buddhism not only survived but thrived in many parts of east and south east Asia.