Karnataka is one of the important repositories of the rock edicts of Ashoka in India. They demarcate the southern boundaries of the empire of Ashoka, the third king of the Mourya dynasty who ruled between 272-232 B.C. His inscriptions in Karnataka are located in Brahmagiri, Siddapura and Jatinga Rameshvara in Chitradurga district, Koppala in Koppala district, Udeogolam and Nittur in Bellary district and Maski in Raichur district. In all, there are eleven rock edicts found in Karnataka. All of them are written in the Prakrit language and Brahmi script. The inscription at Maski is one of the two in the whole country that mention Ashoka by name. He is called ‘Devanam Priya’ in others.

The edicts in Koppal are found on hillocks called Gavimatha and Palkigundu where as the one at Siddapura is found on ‘Emmetammana Gundu’.

These inscriptions are essentially meant to propagate the tenets of Buddhism and share the experiences of the King. However they have become important documents that delineate contemporary life and the conflicts faced by king Ashoka. They contain many mores and taboos that relate to our behaviour with our elders, relatives and friends. Therefore they assume cultural significance.

The comments made bay Romila Thaper the famous historian about the rock edicts of Karnataka are very interesting: “The edicts inscribed on rock surfaces in Karnataka were many, for it was a gold-bearing area that appears to have been worked by the Mauryan state. Curiously this was a Dravidian-speaking area with no prior script, yet the edicts are all composed in Prakrit—at this time a north Indian Indo-Aryan language—and engraved in Brahmi. The officers were expected to read out the edicts and translate them to the local population. No attempt was made to render the edicts into the local language as was done in the north-west with Greek and Aramaic, perhaps because there was no local script. In the political assessment of the region it was probably less important than the north-west, being an area of clans and chiefdoms rather than states and kingdoms. The intention may have been to make literacy a statement of power in an oral society and this perhaps is how the inscriptions were also viewed.”


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