Edicts of Ashoka

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Timings : 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Time Required : 1-2 hrs

Entry Fee : Indian Tourists: INR 5,
Foreign Tourists: INR 100

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Edicts of Ashoka, Junagadh Overview

Edict? You may be wondering what an edict is. An edict quite literally means an order or decree issued by an official authority. King Ashoka is one of the most revered figures in Indian history. After a lifetime of war and violent pursuits, he renounced his throne and took up the virtues of Buddhism in spirit. Mindfulness, meditation, kindness, and gratitude became his new mantra, along with the renunciation of greed and animal sacrifice. To spread this message of peace, he inscribed edicts across the region, from the coasts of India to Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. One such edict is at the foot of Girnar Hill in Junagadh, Gujarat.

Dating back to 250 BC, there are 14 Edicts of Ashoka inscribed in large granite stones at the Western end of India. The edicts are written in Brahmi script preaching the ideas of love, peace, and tolerance, and apply to persons of any faith, not just Buddhism. The scriptures were carved into stone by an iron pen, and enclose knowledge of significant historical importance. Today, the rock edicts are protected by a modern white building, guarding the age-old wisdom in its original form.

Ashoka's rock edicts are an off the beaten track tourist spot, which would be mainly of interest to history buffs. The edicts are a gem from the past, symbolic of ancient wisdom and virtues that form the foundation of India which makes it a must-visit for almost every Indian as well as any enthusiast who truly wishes to absorb the knowledge legacy of India.

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History of Edicts of Ashoka

Discovered by renowned British historian Colonel James Todd in 1822, the rocks of Junagadh embed inscriptions from wise rulers of all time. The earliest are those of the Maurya emperor Ashoka, originating in the 3rd century BC. Two Sanskrit inscriptions from Rudradaman and Skandgupta kings were added in 150 AD and 450 AD respectively. Their scripts are the earliest known Sanskrit texts, which also contain knowledge of the ancient water body that is Lake Sudarshan. It talks about the dam built by Chandragupta Maurya (none other than Ashoka's grandfather) and the irrigation system that was built around it.

To preserve this timeless piece of history, the Nawab Rasool Khan of Junagadh State constructed a protective structure around the rocks in 1900. The building was repaired in the years 1939 and 1941 by local rulers, until its most recent collapse in 2014. A smaller version of the Ashokan Edicts has been showcased outside the National Museum in Delhi.

Inscriptions at Ashoka's Rock Edicts

The edicts written in Ashokan Brahmi script mainly deliver a message of non-violence, dharma, tolerance, and secularity. But the scripture is far more important in the historical context.

The Ashokan edicts were a gateway for the British to understand the historical legacy of India. A well-known British scholar, James Princep, first discovered edicts carved on stone in the state of Orissa and spent years trying to decode the script. It was only after another British historian Colonel James Todd uncovered a similar inscription in Junagadh that Princep was finally able to crack the code. Through his research, Princep not only proved the story of King Ashoka but also pioneered the line of work that led to the development of nine stages behind the Devnagiri script. Nowadays, the Devanagari script is said to have been born out of three distinct stages - 

1. Ashoka Brahmi - the original script
2. Gupta Brahmi - a slightly undeveloped cut through the script
3. Kutila - the rounded script from which Devnagiri was derived

The 14 Edicts of Ashoka of Junagadh are uneven rock structures, about seven meters wide and ten meters in height. James Todd, who found the Ashokan Edicts, said the following about his discovery:

"The memorial in question, evidently of some great conqueror, is a huge hemispherical mass of dark granite, which like a wart upon the body has protruded through the crust of mother earth, without fissure or inequality, and which by the aid of 'iron pen', has been converted into a book. The measurement of the arc is nearly ninety feet; its surface is divided into compartments or parallelograms, within which are inscriptions in the usual character."

Sightseeing at Edicts Of Ashoka

The Edicts of Ashoka are housed in a small white building at the foothill of Mount Girnar. Junagadh was the capital of the Gujarat region at the time these emperors were making their inscriptions. The soil is rich in its religious inheritance of Buddhist and Jain values and philosophies. Several Jain complexes constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries can be found in the surrounding locale. You may climb a thousand steps to the top of Mount Girnar, paying a visit to the Jain abode of Lord Neminath on the way.

Best Time To Visit Edicts of Ashoka

Ashoka's rock edicts are situated in a dry, mountainous area, which makes winter the ideal time to visit. Summers bring about soaring temperatures which makes it inconvenient for sightseeing, whereas the rainy season creates slippery rocks.

Tips For Visiting Edicts of Ashoka

1. Do remember to wear loose but lightly warm clothes if visiting during winters.
2. Sports shoes may be the most comfortable for traversing this area.
3. Carry binoculars and a camera for getting the best out of the experience.

How To Reach Edicts of Ashoka

The best way to reach Junagadh is by train. Junagadh junction is located on the Ahmadabad – Veraval line, making it easily accessible from across a variety of cities across the region and country. By road, it is situated on the National Highway 8B, which connects Ahmadabad to Junagadh via Rajkot. Junagadh is about 327 km from Ahmadabad. As for air travel, the nearest airports are at Porbandar, Rajkot and Jamnagar, each at a distance of about 100 km.

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