A Battle That Turned A Brutal War Machine Into A Buddhist Monk

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If the problem can be resolve by communication, there should not be any thought for the battle. But still, thousands of battles have been fought till now. Some time with the spirit of revenge, sometimes due to ambition and dreams and sometimes by evilness.

The war of the Kalinga is a great example of ambition and dream which lead to a death toll of 150,000 people. This war changed ancient Indian politics completely and converted the one brutal war machine to the Buddhist follower.


As per the record of greek philosopher Megasthenes[Gold Digger Ants of India From the Records of Historian Megasthenes], the vast country on the eastern shore of the Bay of Bengal, which extended from the Delta of the Ganges to that of Godavari was called Kalinga in ancient times. Over 60,000 foot-soldiers, 1,000 horsemen, and 700 elephants keep watch and guarding the land against the foreign invasion.


Maurya Empire

The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive Iron Age historical power based in Magadha and founded by the great emperor  Chandragupta Maurya which dominated the Indian subcontinent between 322 and 185 BCE and its capital city was located at Pataliputra (modern Patna).

Mauryan Empire

The empire was the largest political entity that has existed in the Indian subcontinent, extending over 5 million square kilometers (1.9 million square miles) at its zenith under Ashoka which had an army of 600 thousand men.

Battles Mentioned in Indian Scripture

Where did this war happen?

Dhauli is located on the banks of the river Daya, 8 km south of Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India. It is a hill with vast open space adjoining it. Dhauli hill is presumed to be the area where the Kalinga War was fought. The Daya river is said to have turned red with the blood of the many deceased after the battle.

Reason Behind the War

Political Reason

The reasons for invading Kalinga were both political and economic. They were the first from the region who traveled offshore to the southeast for trade. For that reason, Kalinga had important ports and a powerful navy.

Kalinga was a strategic threat to the Maurya empire. It could interrupt communications between Maurya capital Pataliputra and Maurya possessions in the central Indian peninsula. Kalinga also controlled the coastline for the trade-in bay of Bengal.

Without Kalinga in the Maurya empire, it might have been an incalculable difficulty for the Magadhan army to reach so far as Tinnavelli through some difficult and circuitous route.

Sentimental Reason

When Chandragupta Maurya succeeded to the vast Nanda empire, he succeeded to the whole of it except only one country, Kalinga. That Kalinga was a part of the Nanda Empire and while every inch of that empire passed into the hands of Chandragupta but Kalinga did not, must have been an itching problem and an eye-sore to Chandragupta.

According to Plutarch “Chandragupta traversed India with an army of 600,000 men and conquered the whole.” But still, Chandragupta could not conquer the Kalinga. Was Kalinga very powerful in terms of Army?

An emperor of the caliber of Chandragupta Maurya, who could conquer the whole of India and beyond India, Kabul, Kandahar, and Hirat, who could for the first time in the political annals of India cross the Vindhyas and conquer as far as Cape Comorin, who could defeat the Greek Emperor Seleukos, could have also defeated and conquered a country like Kalinga.

[How did Goddess Athena Look like with 200 Pounds of Gold in the Temple Parthenon?]

Perhaps Chandragupta was prudent enough to conceive of such a catastrophe in case of a war with the Kalingans and he was not ready to take up such a war immediately after the foundation of the Maurya empire. Leaving Kalinga as she was, the emperor conquered the western and the southern Indian states which were undoubtedly small and weak; and which submitted to the Maurya army without determined resistance. Possibly Chandragupta gave up his dream to establish a strong foundation of the Maurya empire.

The son of a great father and father of a great son, Bindusara was not as great as Chandragupta or Asoka. But he was probably capable enough to maintain the empire of his father if not powerful enough to accomplish what his father had left accomplished.

Thus Kalinga was left unconquered during the reign of Bindusara which covered approximately from 300 B.C. to 273 B.C. History certainly meant something great and noble in postponing the Kalingan war till the reign of Asoka Maurya. When Ashoka wore the crown then it was his primary goal and true condolence towards his grandfather.

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Army Strength


From the earlier accounts of the Greek Ambassador Megasthenes[10 Interesting Facts About Ancient India – Records of Greek Ambassador 300 B.C] who came to the court of Chandragupta Maurya from Selcukos Nikator and left that invaluable piece of historical literature, Indika, it is gathered that “the king of Kalinga was protected by a standing army, numbering 60,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry, and 700 war elephants”.


From the ‘Life of Alexander’ written by the classical Greek writer Plutarch, we come to know that Chandragupta Maurya ‘was able to overrun and subdue the whole of India with an army of six lakhs only. This statement of Plutarch has been corroborated by other evidence.

The course of the War

Asoka, son of Bindusara and grandson of Chandragupta, ascended the throne of Magadha about 273 B.C. and his formal coronation took place four years later in 269 B.C. In the 12th year of his reign and the 8th year of his coronation, Asoka launched the invasion of the hitherto uninvaded country of Kalinga. It seems as that accumulated anger of two previous reigns of Magadha against Kalinga burst forth in the shape of unprecedented war.

What Chandragupta and Bindusara could not, their more illustrious successor Asoka ventured to do. The war machine of the first two Mauryas was ready for operation under the third Maurya and perhaps during the first twelve years of the reign of Asoka the war-lords of Magadha labored hard to set into motion the roaring roller of the northern imperialism in direction of Kalinga.

Casualties and losses

Ashoka, Rock Edict No. 13

The story of the destruction in Kalinga due to the war was inscribed on stone  that was built by Ashoka. According to that Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Priyadarsi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes).

—Ashoka, Rock Edict No. 13

After the War

On the Political Ground

After the war and successful conquest of Kalinga territory Asoka annexed Kalinga to his great empire, the innumerable ports of Kalinga came to be used as gateways for his missionaries to over-sea lands. The maritime trade and traffic of the Maurya empire were equally destined to pass through the Kalinga outlets. Asoka’s own sister Sanghamitra being allowed to travel by sea to Ceylon. The routes were well known and voyages must have been frequent for the emperor to have permitted such a journey.

On the Personal Ground

After the Kalinga war, Ashoka’s heart got to change and he started his journey on the path of Dharma and compassion. He promoted Dharma until his last breath 232 B.C. As per Major Rock Edict 13

Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Priyadarsi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dharma, a love for the Dharma, and for instruction in Dharma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas.

The truth which Chandragupt could realize about the Kalanga’s, probably Ashoka had failed to realize. After the war probably Asoka was also aware of what he had done to ruin the peace and prosperity of a great people and how he had crippled a nation’s very existence.

To apply a healing balm over the wound of the Kalingans the repentant emperor did all that he could and in a humane and paternal disposition for the welfare of the conquered he ordered all his officials in Kalinga, to the viceroy, to mahamantras, to the law officers and to other employees of the crown, to discharge their duty with honesty and sincerity, and above all, with kindness.

There are two Major Rock Edict in Dhauli which explain about above actions of Ashoka.

Dhauli Rock Kalinga

The First Separate Major Rock Edicts mainly addresses local officials referring to the requirements of a fair judicial system, and the system of control established by Ashoka through.

The Second Separate Edict asks the local officials to try to convince “unconquered bordering tribes” that the intentions of Ashoka towards them are benevolent.

After the war, Ashoka completely devoted himself to the path of dharma for promoting and teaching the Dharma. Stone Edict at Khalsi, which presented the highlighted names of the Greek kings Antiochus, Ptolemy, Antigonus, Magas, and Alexander as recipients of his teachings.

Khalsi Rock Kalinga


The solution to every problem is always associated with the problem. In the same way, the ray of the new world rises with every apocalypse. The outcome of this battle is extraordinary which promoted an extraordinary peaceful religion to the entire world and established peace at the time of chaos.

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