Inscription on Asoka pillar at Rummindei [Lumbini]
Photographer: Archaeological Survey of India
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the inscription on the Ashokan pillar at Rummindei [Lumbini] taken by an unknown photographer for the Archaeological Survey of India Collections: Northern Circle (North-Western Provinces and Oudh) in 1896-97. Ashoka (reign ca. 272-231 BC) is the most well known king of the Maurya dynasty. After his conquest of the kingdom of Kalinga in modern day Orissa, struck with remorse at the suffering he caused, Ashoka converted to Buddhism and spent the rest of his life propagating his dharma (law). In order to achieve this, he had numerous edicts inscribed on rocks, pillars and caves throughout his vast empire. These are written in various vernaculars and represent the earliest written document from the Indic regions. From these edicts it would appear clear that Ashoka was an extremely tolerant and benevolent monarch. It was originally thought that Ashoka was the first to erect pillars, however recent interpretations have shown that it is more likely that the edicts were inscribed on pillars that had been sculpted in the preceding centuries, and already had religious connotations. The pillars were imbued with cosmological significance; each symbolised the world's axis, the separation between earth and heaven. While the pillar in this view was erected in the 3rd century, it was buried from the 15th to the 19th century until it was unearthed by a group of archaeologists in 1896. Lumbini is the town in Nepal where Prince Siddhartha, the man who became Buddha after enlightenment , was born in 623 BC. This pillar stands at over 22 feet tall and a well preserved inscription in five lines states that it stands in the area where the birth occurred.