Chapter 7: Ashoka the Emperor who Gave up War - Notes, MCQs, and Extra Questions and Answers for Class 6

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Discover comprehensive NCERT class 6 chapter 7 'From a Kingdom to an Empire'  - Ashoka the Emperor who Gave up War notes, carefully crafted to enhance your understanding of the subject. Our in-depth study materials include valuable MCQs and additional questions, along with their well-detailed answers in a downloadable PDF format. Whether you're a student looking to grasp the complexities of this pivotal chapter, or a tutor seeking for the perfect study aid for your pupils, our NCERT notes offer an excellent resource. The content is meticulously designed to promote efficient learning, providing all the required knowledge to excel in this chapter. What's more, the extra questions and answers provided will give you a wider perspective on the topic, preparing you for any surprise that your exam might throw at you. Master the content of class 6 chapter 7 'From a Kingdom to an Empire' with our user-friendly and informative PDF.

The Mauryan Empire

The Mauryan Empire was an ancient Indian empire that existed from approximately 322 BCE to 185 BCE. It was the first empire to unify most of the Indian subcontinent under one administration, making it one of the most extensive empires in India's history.

The Mauryan Empire was founded by Chandragupta Maurya with the help of his advisor, Chanakya (also known as Kautilya). Together, they overthrew the Nanda Dynasty and established the Mauryan Dynasty. Chanakya also authored the Arthashastra, a treatise on statecraft, economic policy, and military strategy, which influenced the administration of the empire.

Chandragupta Maurya, the first Mauryan emperor, expanded the empire across northern India and into parts of the western and eastern regions. He eventually abdicated in favor of his son, Bindusara, who extended the empire further south, except for the extreme southern tip of India.

The Mauryan Empire reached its zenith under the rule of Ashoka the Great, Chandragupta's grandson. Ashoka initially followed in his ancestors' footsteps with a policy of military conquest, but after a brutal war in Kalinga (present-day Odisha), he embraced Buddhism and became a proponent of dhamma (righteousness or duty). Ashoka implemented policies of non-violence, tolerance, and welfare throughout the empire, and he sent Buddhist missionaries to regions outside of India, including Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

The Mauryan Empire is known for its architectural and cultural achievements. Ashoka erected many stupas (Buddhist commemorative monuments) and pillars, the most famous being the Ashoka Pillar, which carries his edicts. The lion capital of an Ashoka Pillar in Sarnath is the national emblem of India.

After Ashoka's death, the empire began to decline, and it eventually disintegrated around 185 BCE. Despite its relatively short existence, the Mauryan Empire left a lasting legacy, setting precedents for governance, culture, and philosophy in the Indian subcontinent.

How are empires different from kingdoms?

Empires and kingdoms are both political entities and forms of government, but they differ in terms of their scale, diversity, and structures of governance.

  1. Scale and Reach: One of the primary differences between an empire and a kingdom lies in their size and the expanse of their territories. An empire typically spans larger territories than a kingdom. While a kingdom generally consists of a nation or a region ruled by a monarch (a king or queen), an empire often includes multiple nations or regions, which can be geographically dispersed and culturally diverse.

  2. Diversity: Empires are usually multicultural, encompassing a variety of ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups, whereas kingdoms are more likely to be homogeneous or include fewer cultural groups. The Roman Empire, for example, included people from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, all under Roman rule.

  3. Governance: In an empire, the emperor or empress exercises power over the constituent nations or regions, which may be governed by local rulers or leaders who owe their allegiance to the emperor. These local leaders might be kings or queens in their own right, but they are subordinate to the imperial ruler. In a kingdom, by contrast, the king or queen is the ultimate authority, and power is not typically shared or delegated to rulers of constituent regions in the same way.

  4. Method of Expansion: Empires often grow through conquest, incorporating other kingdoms, tribes, or territories into their sphere of influence. Kingdoms, on the other hand, tend to expand through alliances, such as marriages between royal families, or through the colonization of less-populated regions.

    The Empire under Ashoka - Ashoka, the Emperor who Gave up War

    The Mauryan Empire under the rule of Ashoka the Great, who reigned from approximately 268 BCE to 232 BCE, represented one of the high points of ancient Indian civilization. Ashoka is considered one of India's greatest emperors, known for his administrative skills, military prowess, and most importantly, his turn towards peace and dharma (righteousness or duty) following the bloody Kalinga war.

    Expansion: Ashoka inherited an empire that stretched across the Indian subcontinent, from the Hindu Kush mountains in the west to the Bay of Bengal in the east. However, the region of Kalinga (modern-day Odisha) resisted Mauryan control. In response, Ashoka waged a war to conquer Kalinga, which resulted in devastating loss of life and suffering.

    Conversion to Buddhism: The Kalinga war was a turning point in Ashoka's life. Horrified by the violence and bloodshed, he embraced Buddhism and committed himself to principles of non-violence (ahimsa), compassion, and peace. This change was significant, as he became one of the foremost patrons of Buddhism, promoting its principles both within and beyond his empire.

    Policy of Dharma: Following his conversion to Buddhism, Ashoka established a policy of Dharma, which involved the moral and ethical treatment of all beings and the observance of Buddhist teachings. He created a system of moral laws, promoting values such as kindness, generosity, truthfulness, and respect for all life. He sent envoys teaching dharma to far-off lands and had edicts inscribed on pillars and rocks throughout his empire.

    Ashoka's Edicts: These inscriptions represent some of the oldest deciphered writings in India and offer insights into Ashoka's thoughts and the society of his time. The edicts reveal his commitment to non-violence, tolerance of all religions, respect for animal life, and efforts to improve the welfare of his subjects.

    Buddhist Missions: Ashoka also sent Buddhist missions to various parts of Asia, including present-day Sri Lanka and regions of Southeast Asia, which helped Buddhism become a world religion.

    Ashoka's reign is known for its significant cultural and historical contributions. However, following his death, the Mauryan Empire declined and eventually fell apart in 185 BCE. Despite this, Ashoka's influence continues to be felt, particularly in his promotion of Buddhist principles and his model of a ruler who sought to govern with wisdom, compassion, and justice.

    Ashoka's Policy of Dhamma

    Ashoka the Great, after witnessing the terrible suffering caused by his conquest of Kalinga, converted to Buddhism and adopted a policy of Dhamma (or Dharma), which he sought to integrate into his rule and spread among his subjects.

    The Policy of Dhamma did not involve the propagation of Buddhism alone. Instead, it represented a broad ethical and moral code designed to promote social harmony and personal morality. While influenced by Buddhist teachings, it was generally non-sectarian and encompassed respect for all religious traditions.

    Key principles and components of Ashoka's Dhamma included:

    1. Ahimsa (Non-Violence): Ahimsa, or non-violence, is a fundamental tenet of many Indian religions, including Buddhism and Jainism. As part of his Dhamma policy, Ashoka promoted peace and non-violence throughout his empire, even regulating the slaughter of animals and promoting vegetarianism.

    2. Respect for All Sects: Ashoka encouraged respect for all religious sects and promoted tolerance and understanding between different faiths. His edicts advise people to respect their elders and teachers and to treat all creatures with compassion.

    3. Social Welfare: Ashoka established hospitals for humans and animals, and he had wells dug and trees planted along roadsides for the comfort of travelers. His policies aimed at the welfare of his subjects, reflecting a strong sense of social responsibility.

    4. Moral Duties: Ashoka's edicts laid out what he saw as the moral duties of his subjects, including obedience to parents, respect for elders, generosity towards priests and ascetics, and kindness to servants and animals.

    5. Public Communication: Ashoka communicated his Dhamma policy to the public through a series of edicts inscribed on pillars and rocks throughout his empire. These Edicts of Ashoka, written in the local language using the Brahmi script, are one of the earliest examples of written communication from a government to its people.

    Ashoka's Policy of Dhamma had a significant impact on his empire, promoting ethical conduct, social responsibility, and religious tolerance. While it's debated how effective the policy was in creating a moral society, it stands as an early example of a ruler attempting to govern according to ethical and religious principles.

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