This classic provides a comprehensive account of the history of the Mauryas with a special emphasis on the reign and activities of Asoka it examines he sources, socio-economic conditions, administration, Dhamma, foreign relations, and the decline of Mauryas. This edition comes as the most pre-word which updates research on the subject.
This Oxford India Perennials edition is testimony to the book’s status as the most authoritarian work on the Mauryas as since its first publication in 1961.
Romila Thapar is Professor Emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is a Fellow of the British Academy. In 2008, she was awareded Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities.
The reign of Asoka began to attract the attention of historians well over a century ago. In 1837, James Prinsep first published his work on the Asokan inscriptions in a series of papers. The first monograph on Asoka did not however appear until 1901, when Vincent smith considered the subject I greater detail.
Rapeated aditions of Smith’s monographs brought popularity to the subject, and in 1925 D.R. Bhandarkar published his Carmichael Lectures on the history of the reign of Asoka. A small study by J.M. Mc Phail followed in 1926: 1928 saw a further study by R. K. Mookerji. Louis de la vallee Poussin published a book on the Mauryas in 1930. From then until the 1950s there was no single monograph in English on Asoka, axcept thay of B.M. Barua in 1946. This is not to suggest that historian’s los interest in this particular period of Indian history. On the contrary a considerable amount of research was being done but it was largely confined to particular aspects of the Asokan age, as for edicts, etc.; Barua’s book was a compilation of all this research bringing the study up to date.
Nilakantha Sastri and his collaborators brought out an able study of the Nandas and Mauryas in 1952. In 1955, B.G. Gokhale brought out a study of Asoka relationship to Buddhism. 1956 saw an onrush of books on the subject, the most useful being by P. Eggermont. A study by F. Kern appeared in the same year. A small introductory study was published by A.C. Sen to Celebrate the Buddha Jayanti, the 2,500th anniversary of the death of the Buddha. More recently, D.C. Sircar has published a work on the Asokan inscriptions. Despite this formidable list of publications on the subject, I believe (for reasons which I have discussed in detail in the introductory chapter), that there is still scope for a reinterpretation of existing material. It is this reinterpretation that I have attempted in the present study.
The reader may find a lack of consistency in the use of diacritical marks in place names. I have tried as far as possible to transliterate the lesser known names from Sanskrit or Pali, whichever is the more common form. But in the case of modern and more familiar spelling (even when this is not consistent with the use of diacritical marks), in order to make them easily recognizable. Sanchi, for instance, spelt as Sanci, seems to me to be unduly pedantic. In the case of Sanskrit and Pali words, I have kept largely to the original forms, without attempting to reduce all the words to one of the two languages.
Financial assistance in the form of scholarships and studentships from various institutions was primarily responsible for my being able to complete this study. I should like to express my appreciation for this to the international Federation of University Women (for the Crosby Hall Scholarship), the University of Landon (for the William Lincoln Shelley Studentship in history), and University College, London (for the sir William Meyer studentship.
I have been assisted during the course of my research by various scholars and colleagues, both in discussions and in the translation of certain source materials. I should like in particular to thank Dr.Allchin, Prof. Dave. Dr. Goodakumbara, and Dr. Marr. For reading through the typescript of the book and suggesting improvements, I should like to thank my parents, and my friends, Prof. J.D. Denial, Dr. Sergei Horwitz, Dr. Anthony Michaelis and Mrs. Gertrude Wengraf. I am happy to thank Mr. J.F. Horrabin for drawing the maps in this book. My thanks are also due to the librarian and staff of the school of Oriental and African studies, the commonwealth Relations Office Library, and the British Museum Library. I wish to acknowledge my gratitude to Prof. A.L. Basham for his guidance and sympathetic help throughout the period of my writing this book.
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