Inscriptions of Asoka – D C Sircar
Gauthama the Buddha and Maurya emperor Asoka are two of the greatest sons of India and the world, and their lives and achievements stand among India’s best contributions to human civilization.
The present English translation of the Inscription of Asoka, one of the most sincere followers of the Buddha, was undertaken at the request of the Budda Jayanthi Working committee formed by the Government of India in connection with the celebration of the 2500th anniversary of the Lords Maha-Parinirvana. The objective is to carry the message of Asoka’s edict of the public. Although the translation closely follows the test of the epigraphic records, it has been made slightly free so that it would be easily intelligible to the general reader. A sincere attempt has been made to present to the author’s meaning without slavishly adhering to mere expression. It was felt that a strictly literal translation might render the message of Asoka difficult to understand at last for the class of readers for which the book is intended. The same feeling also underlines the use of the Sanskrit forms of proper names, etc, in the translation of inscription, which are couched in Prakrit.
The work has not been burdened with citation of references to authorities in support of any of the points raised, and difference of opinion among scholars on the interpretation of certain difficult words and a passage occurring in the inscription has been indicated only in a few cases. But a small bibliography has been appended to the monograph with a view to helping the more inquisitive among the readers to pursue the study of the subject.
The historical background of Asoka’s career and records has been concisely set forth in a short introduction. The readers are expected to find in the answers to some of the queries that may occur to them while going through the translation of the inscriptions. The classification of the epigraphs in this work has also been explained in it. An annotated list of the personal and geographical names occurring in the records as well as Sanskrit expressions retained in the translation has been supplied in an Appendix for ready reference.
When an edict is found in different versions, generally one of the most well-preserved texts has been selected for translation and its find spot has been indicated in all cases. Only in a few cases, the texts of some other versions have been additionally translated either in whole or in part. This is indented to draw the readers’ attention to important variations in the different texts of an edict. A few records included in the monograph fall outside the category of edicts.
One of the passages in which Asoka explains the reason underlying the incision of his edicts on rock and pillars of stone reads as follows in translation:
“This records relating to Dharma has been caused to be written by me on stone for the following purpose, viz., that people may act according to it and that it may endure for a long time. And he who will act thus will do what is meritorious” – Pillar Edict II.
The book has been carefully revised in the light of recent discoveries, and the present edition is expected to be useful to the readers like its predecessors.
Courtesy: From preface of the book “Inscriptions of Asoka” written by D C Sircar, published by Publication Division, India.