1. Ashoka: from 273 BC to 232 BC
Asoka was one of the most powerful kings of the Indian subcontinent. A ruler of the Mauryan Empire, Ashoka ruled over the country from 273 BC to 232 BC. The reign of Emperor Asoka covered most of India, South Asia and beyond, stretching from present day Afghanistan and parts of Persia in the west, to Bengal and Assam in the east, and Mysore in the south. However, the Battle of Kalinga changed King Asoka completely. From a power hungry emperor, he turned into a Buddhist follower and started preaching the principles of Buddhism throughout the world. Read on this biography to know more about the life history of ‘Ashoka the Great':
Asoka was born in 304 BC, to Mauryan Emperor Bindusara and a relatively lower ranked queen, Dharma. The legend associated with the emperor goes that his birth had been predicted by Buddha, in the story of ‘The Gift of Dust’. Buddhist Emperor Ashoka had only one younger sibling, Vitthashoka, but, several elder half-brothers. Right from his childhood days Ashoka showed great promise in the field of weaponry skills as well as academics.
Accession to the Throne
Asoka quickly grew into an excellent warrior general and an astute statesman. His command on the Mauryan army started growing day by day and because of this, his elder brothers became suspicious of him being favored by Bindusara as the next emperor. The eldest son of Bindusara, Prince Susima, convinced him to send Asoka to Takshashila province (in Sindh) to control an uprising caused by the formation of different militias. However, the moment Ashoka reached the province, the militias welcomed him with open arms and the uprising came to an end without any fight. This particular success of Asoka made his elder brothers, especially Susima, more insecure.
Susima started inciting Bindusara against Ashoka, who was then sent into exile by the emperor. Asoka went to Kalinga, where he met a fisherwoman named Kaurwaki. He fell in love with her and later, made Kaurwaki his second or third wife. Soon, the province of Ujjain started witnessing a violent uprising. Emperor Bindusara called back Ashoka from the exile and sent him to Ujjain. The prince was injured in the ensuing battle and was treated by Buddhist monks and nuns. It was in Ujjain that Asoka first came to know about the life and teachings of Buddha. In Ujjain, he also met Devi, his personal nurse, who later became his wife.
In the following year, Bindusura became seriously ill and was literally on his deathbed. A group of ministers, led by Radhagupta, called upon Ashoka to assume the crown. In the fight that followed his accession, Ashoka attacked Pataliputra, now Patna, and killed all his brothers, including Susima. After he became the King, Ashoka launched brutal assaults to expand his empire, which lasted for around eight years. Around this time, his Buddhist queen, Devi, gave birth to Prince Mahindra and Princess Sanghamitra.
The Battle of Kalinga
The battle of Kalinga (now Orissa) became a turning point in the life of ‘Asoka the Great’. The exact reason for the battle is not known. However, it is believed that one of Ashoka’s brothers took refuge at Kalinga and this enraged Asoka, who launched a brutal assault on the province. The whole of the province was plundered and destroyed and thousands of people were killed.
Embracing & Spreading Buddhism
It is said that after the battle of Kalinga was over, King Asoka went on a tour of the city. He could see nothing except burnt houses and scattered corpses. This was the first time in his life that Emperor Ashoka realized the consequences of wars and battles. It is said that even after he had returned to Patliputra, he was haunted by the scenes he saw in Kalinga. Even his queen, Devi, who was a Buddhist, left him after seeing the brutality at Kalinga.
It was during this time that he embraced Buddhism under the Brahmin Buddhist sages, Radhaswami and Manjushri. After adopting Buddhism, Asoka started propagating its principles throughout the world, even as far as ancient Rome and Egypt. Infact, he can be credited with making the first serious attempt to develop a Buddhist policy.
Buddhist Emperor Asoka built thousands of Stupas and Viharas for Buddhist followers. One of his stupas, the Great Sanchi Stupa, has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNECSO. The Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath has a four-lion capital, which was later adopted as the national emblem of the modern Indian republic. Throughout his life, ‘Asoka the Great’ followed the policy of nonviolence or ahimsa. Even the slaughter or mutilation of animals was abolished in his kingdom. He promoted the concept of vegetarianism. The caste system ceased to exist in his eyes and he treated all his subjects as equals. At the same time, each and every person was given the rights to freedom, tolerance, and equality.
Missions to Spread Buddhism
The third council of Buddhism was held under the patronage of Emperor Ashoka. He also supported the Vibhajjavada sub-school of the Sthaviravada sect, now known as the Pali Theravada. He sent his missionaries to the following places:
Kashmir – Gandhara Majjhantika
Mahisamandala (Mysore) – Mahadeva
Vanavasi (Tamil Nadu) – Rakkhita
Aparantaka (Gujarat and Sindh) – Yona Dhammarakkhita
Maharattha (Maharashtra) – Mahadhammarakkhita
“Country of the Yona” (Bactria/ Seleucid Empire) – Maharakkhita
Himavanta (Nepal) – Majjhima
Suvannabhumi (Thailand/ Myanmar) – Sona and Uttara
Lankadipa (Sri Lanka) – Mahamahinda
His missionaries also went to the below mentioned places:
Seleucid Empire (Middle Asia)
Epirus (Greece and Albania)
After ruling over the Indian subcontinent for a period of approximately 40 years, the Great Emperor Asoka left for the holy abode in 232 BC. After his death, his empire lasted for just fifty more years.
2. Guru Gobind Singh Ji: the tenth Guru of the Sikhs
Guru Gobind Singh Ji is the tenth Guru of the Sikhs. He was the only son of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji. He was born to Mata Gujri Ji on December 22nd, 1666 at Sri Patna Sahib Ji in Bihar when his father was on a preaching mission to holy places in Assam. Birth name of Guru Ji was Gobind Rai. He was received Guruship at the age of nine after the martyrdom of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji at Delhi.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji was a great warrior and a spiritual leader. He had to spend most of his time fighting against the oppression and suppression committed by the unjust forces. He was a unique nation builder who fought for righteousness. He sacrificed his all for human liberty, equality and fraternity. Two of his youngest sons were bricked alive. Sahibzade Ajit Singh Ji and Jujhar Singh Ji were martyred in the battle of Chamkaur Sahib.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji revealed the order of the Khalsa Brotherhood at Sri Anandpur Sahib Ji.
On the day of Baisakhi in 1699 at Anandpur Sahib Ji, Guru Gobind Singh Ji urged the Sikhs to take a pledge to lead a pure life as taught by the other nine Gurus. Amrit was prepared and the first five Sikhs were initiated into the order of Khalsa Panth. Thereafter, the Guru took initiation from the Panj Pyaras and merged entity of Guru Ji into Panth and entity of Panth into Guru. Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave the name of ‘Singh’ to males and ‘Kaur’ to females respectively to be used after their first name.
The Sikhs were ordained to wear five Kakars and also to lead an exemplary life of Sikh Rehat. They were required to stay away from committing Kurehts, that is, they were ordained not to trim hair, not to use intoxicants, not to eat Kutha meat and never to commit adultery. The above event took presence at a place now called Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib Ji at Anandpur Sahib Ji. Hola Mohalla and Baisakhi are celebrated every year at Sri Anandpur Sahib Ji. Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave enormous importance to the Khalsa Rehat and wearing of five articles of Sikh faith. He specifically stated that so long as Khalsa lives under Rehat and discipline, I am delighted.
“Rehani rahe soi Sikh mera, oh Sahib mein uss ka chera.”
Pir Budhu Shah fought for Guru Gobind Singh Ji in the battle of Bhangani. Guru Gobind Singh Ji had to vacate Anandpur Sahib Ji in good faith during 1704. Army of the enemy attacked him at night when the Guru Ji was crossing rivulet Sirsa. The last battle was fought against tyrant Mughals at Khidrana, Muktsar (Punjab, India). The Guru Ji sacrificed his great grand father, father, four sons and mother for the Khalsa Panth.Guru Gobind Singh advocated,
“When all other means fail to uphold righteousness, it is morally right to take up arms.”
Guru Gobind Singh Ji composed several works, which later were compiled into Dasam Granth Ji by Bhai Mani Singh Ji. Before his death at the hands of an assailant in 1708, the Guru Ji added the writings of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji to the Sikh scriptures. He added Bani of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji into Adi Granth Ji thereby giving a final revision to its form at Damdama Sahib Ji. The Guru Ji declared the lineage of living Gurus finished, and requested his followers to seek spiritual guidance from the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. In essence, the light of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Guru, was to be forever enshrined within the pages of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Guru Ji conferred Guruship upon Guru Granth Sahib Ji in 1708 at Nanded before he demised. To illustrate his point that the Guru Granth Sahib Ji was the final Guru of the Sikhs, and as a sign of humility, Guru Gobind Singh Ji did not include his writings, over 1400 pages worth of gurbani are in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. A separate volume, called Dasam Granth, features the writings of the tenth Sikh Guru. Before his departure from this world, Guru Gobind Singh detailed Banda Singh Bahadur Ji to fight against oppression and suppression. Guru Ji also gave blessing to many institutions of the Khalsa Panth, which are currently preaching the morals of Sikhism to the entire world.
Aryabhata was the first of the major mathematician-astronomers from the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy.
While there is a tendency to misspell his name as “Aryabhatta” by analogy with other names having the “bhatta” suffix, his name is properly spelled Aryabhata: every astronomical text spells his name thus, including Brahmagupta’s references to him “in more than a hundred places by name”. Furthermore, in most instances “Aryabhatta” would not fit the metre either.
Aryabhata mentions in the Aryabhatiya that it was composed 3,600 years into the Kali Yuga, when he was 23 years old. This corresponds to 499 CE, and implies that he was born in 476.
Aryabhata provides no information about his place of birth. The only information comes from Bhāskara I, who describes Aryabhata as āśmakīya, “one belonging to the aśmaka country.” During the Buddha’s time, a branch of the Aśmaka people settled in the region between the Narmada and Godavari rivers in central India; Aryabhata is believed to have been born there.