Ashoka was the son of king bindusar of Maurya dynasty and queen Subhadrangi. Queen Subhadrangi named his son Ashoka which means without sorrow (a-shoka). Later, Ashoka changed his name to Devanampiya piyadasi, which means beloved of the god. He was last great king of Maurya dynasty. He tried to spread Buddhism across India and abroad.
The king Bindusara gave Ashoka governorship of taxila. He suppress revolt and improved commercial activities. He worked hard improved prosperity of region under his control. Soon, Bindusara died and power struggle ensued to become next king. After four years of struggle, Ashoka emerged victorious.
Ruler of Magadh
Maurya trade routes pass through resources rich Kalinga. So, Emporer want to conquer Kalinga at all cost. This turn out to be most important decision of Ashoka’s life.
In 260 B.C., Ashoka attacked and conquered Kalinga at great loss of life and property. After witnessing all the bloodshed and carnage, Emperor was filled with guilt and remorse. He changed his policy of conquest and started practicing dharma. He adopted the policy of conquest by piety instead of conquest by weapon.
He studied Buddhist scripture and became devoted Buddhist. He traveled through his empire, preaching people the concept of Buddhism. He also appointed Buddhist scholar as Dharma Mahamatras or religious minster to promote Buddhism. He constructed many palaces, temple, Stupas and Monasteries. He also erected Dharma stambhas or Pillars at various part of his empire to teach people about morality. He wrote in local script like Prakrit and Brahmi so that common people can understand his message.
In 250 BC, he organised meeting of third Buddhist Council at pataliputra, to reorganize Buddhist Sangas. He also built Mahabodhi temple at bodh gaya. Emperor was very tolerant of other religions. He send missionary abroad to spread Buddhism to other parts of world. He send his son Mahindra and daughter Sanghamitra to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism.
State emblem of independent India has been adapted from the Sarnath Lion pillar of Ashoka.
Sham kuan(unfathomable well) in Patna is said to be a place where Emperor killed his 99 half brother so that he can become the king.
Moggaliputta Tissa was Ashoka spiritual teacher.