Group of pictures showing symbols of India    

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In this lesson
-Explore national symbols and their meanings
-Understand the significance of Emperor's Ashoka's reign
-Learn about Buddhism and non-violence
-Prompt discussion about religion and government

Video Resources
Edicts Of Ashoka from the PBS series 'Story of India'
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi from UNESCO
More Extension Activities
-What was happening in other parts of the world such as Greece and China when the Mauryan Empire was at its peak under Emperor Ashoka is the 3rd century BCE?
-Create your own edicts.  Where would you place them and what would they say?


Keywords:  Emperor Ashoka, national symbols, Buddhism, edicts, Maurya, Mauryan Empire, Brahmi Script, dhamma, dharma, Jataka tales, world history, giant empires, religion, non-violence, religion and government, social justice, human rights

Emperor Ashoka (304-232 BCE) was the third king of the Maurya Dynasty.  He ruled a truly massive kingdom that stretched from the Hindu Kush to the Bay of Bengal.  It was India's first great empire.  It is not just that Ashoka ably ruled this huge empire but the quality of social justice that he brought to his already strong administration.
Remorseful after his bloody campaign and conquest of Kalinga, Ashoka embraced Buddhism.  Thereafter reverence for life, tolerance, compassion and peaceful co-existence were the cornerstones of his administration. Under him the earliest know bans on slavery and capital punishment as well as environmental regulations came into place. 

The origins of many symbols of modern India, such as those used in the national flag and on coins and paper money can be traced to his reign.


"Mama, what is this animal on the rupee note that Dada gave me?"
Click here to see a picture of a fifty rupee currency note.

Lion Capital of Sarnath, erected by the Emperoe Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE.This is a carving of four lions and the pictures we see on the currency notes are based on it.

The lions, like the ones above, that we see on the notes and coins have a long history. The picture on the left is the actual stone carving on which the National Emblem is based.  It is called the ‘Lion Capital’ and originally it rested on top of a tall pillar.  It was built in the third century BCE by Emperor Ashoka at Sarnath, near modern day Varanasi, to mark the spot where the Buddha gave his first sermon. 


National Emblem of India

This is the National Emblem of India and the motto ‘Satyameva Jayate’ below the emblem in Devanagri script means ‘truth alone triumphs’.






The wheel from the circular base, the ‘Ashoka Chakra’, today is part of the national flag of the Republic of India.

National Flag of the Republic of India

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Updated March 2012