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Ancient India
Asoka



Asoka
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.57

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    ahimsa, re-examined, stupas, co-exist, abacus, kingship, conquest, deathbed, subcontinent, aftermath, half-brothers, standing, emancipation, dynasty, patronage, heir
     content words:    Lion Capital, Chandal Asoka, Evil Asoka, Dharma Asoka, Pious Asoka


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Asoka
By Vickie Chao
  

1     The national emblem of India is a replica of the Lion Capital of Sarnath. This symbol features four lions standing atop a circular abacus. (The fourth lion is hidden from view.) At the center of the abacus, beneath each lion, there is a Wheel of the Law. The abacus itself is girded by four smaller animals. They are guardians of the four directions -- the elephant in the east, the bull in the west, the lion in the north, and the horse in the south. This magnificent emblem has a very interesting history. It actually came into existence long before the Republic of India was born. Its original creator was a famous Indian emperor by the name of Asoka (also spelled as Ashoka). He was the third ruler of the Mauryan dynasty. As a devoted Buddhist, Asoka erected the Lion Capital of Sarnath near Varanasi (present-day Benares) to mark the spot where Buddha first proclaimed his gospels of peace and emancipation. During his reign, he went to great lengths to promote Buddhism. He sent monks to faraway places. He built several monasteries and constructed numerous stupas (dome-shaped structures for housing Buddhist relics). Thanks to his patronage, Buddhism was able to spread beyond India. Today, it has more than 350 million followers worldwide.
 
2     Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Asoka and his strong devotion to Buddhism is how he came to embrace it in the first place. For that, we must start from the beginning of his life.
 
3     Asoka was born around 304 B.C. Since very early on, he had made a name for himself as being extremely talented and brave. But no matter how accomplished he was, he did not really have a chance to be the heir apparent of his father, Bindusara, because he was not the eldest son. To get what he wanted, he supposedly killed many of his half-brothers while Bindusara was lying on his deathbed. After eliminating all the competitors, he became the natural candidate for the kingship. He ascended the throne around 272 B.C. At this point in his life, Asoka was downright ruthless. His atrocities earned him a rather unpleasant nickname -- Chandal Asoka or the Evil Asoka.

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