Did Emperor Ashoka Really Become Buddhist After Kalinga War? Twitter Exposes Our History Book

Emperor Ashoka

On Sunday, Twitter erupted in questioning the history books which believe that the Mauryan emperor Ashoka was the one who actually propagated Buddhism which is now the world’s fourth-largest religion.

There has been a notion that our history books have been teaching a lie in the country. According to our history books, emperor Ashoka renounced war after the Kalinga war and embraced Buddhism. However, turns out that there is a lack of clarity.


As per other texts, emperor Ashoka invaded the Kalinga region in 260 BCE and slaughtered over 100,000 residents of Kalinga and drove out 150,000 more. He also looked that many others die of the disease and famine. As Ashoka walked through the battlefield, he had a change of heart as he saw lives crumbling on the streets. He is believed to have given up war and embraced Buddhism and then embarked on the path of peace. An article says that,

“He made himself available to his subjects at all times, addressed what they considered wrongs, and upheld the laws which benefited all, not only the upper class and wealthy.”

A Counter-View

However, author Sanjeev Sanyal says a different story in his book The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History. Sanyal says,

“None of the Buddhist texts link Ashoka’s transformation to any event in Kalinga. It is also fascinating to note none of the Ashokan inscriptions in Odisha mention any regret the emperor may have. If his regret over the tragedy of the Kalinga war led to his conversion at least one place should have mentioned the expression of his emotions. In fact, the inscription where he supposedly expressed his regret is in modern-day Pakistan. Even in those inscriptions he never offered to release those prisoners. Instead, he warned the tribes of the region of dire consequences if they tried to resist his invasion.”

Emperor Ashoka (1)

However, a twitter user started to question history books after he pointed out a lie that has been fed to people. He said,


“When Ashoka became Buddhist: 4th year of his rule. When he invaded Kalinga: 8th year. Ashoka was a BUDDHIST when he waged the Kalinga war. After the war, he killed 18,000 non-Buddhists who allegedly “insulted Buddhism”. Whom do they finally blame? Yes, Hindus and Hinduism. Yes, the great Buddhist emperor Ashoka killed 18,000 Ajivikas & Jains because a Nirgrantha Jain of Pundravardhana (Bengali) named Jnatiputra drew a picture of Buddha prostrating at the feet of Mahavira. Worse, this information comes from a Buddhist source.”

Here are other reactions on Twitter.