Paper impression of Edicts V-VI, Asoka Edict Pillar, Lauriya Araraj, Champaran District
Photographer: Garrick, Henry Baily Wade
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a paper impression of the inscriptions, Edicts V-VI, on the Asokan Edict Pillar at Lauriya Araraj, Champaran District, taken by Henry Baily Wade Garrick in the 1880s. Ashoka (reign ca. 272-231 BC) was the most illustrious 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; it symbolised the world's axis, the separation between earth and heaven. The pillar at Lauriya Araraj consists of a polished sandstone shaft which has lost its capital. The first six of the pillar edicts of Ashoka are clearly engraved on the east and west of the shaft.