The Asokan connection...
Everyday, thousands of Delhiites pass through the site. Yet almost nobody took notice of it till it was decided to impart belated dignity to a forgotten Asokan Edict placed near Srinivaspuri in South Delhi. DIVYANSHU KUMAR reports... .
Asokan Edict due to get a facelift in New Delhi's Srinivaspuri.
TRADITION SAYS that Delhi's history dates back to the days of the Mahabharata, when the Pandavas founded this city, then named Indraprastha. However, not much is known about Delhi till third century BC when the Mauryas ruled over the greater part of India. Most prominent of the Mauryan rulers was Asoka the Great (273 - 236 BC), perhaps the first ruler in the annals of world history who won over his subjects' heart instead of territories.
Asoka became a patron of Buddha's doctrine, after witnessing the colossal loss of lives during Kalinga War, and raised Buddhism from the status of a local sectarian creed of Eastern India to one of the principle religions of the world. However, Asoka's greatest contribution is the Dharma or Dhamma inculcated through edicts. We have three objects related to Asoka and his Dharma in Delhi. Unfortunately, only a few people know about these magnificent objects. Some of us know about the Asokan column, which was taken to Delhi by Tughlaq ruler Feroz Shah (AD 1351 - 1388) and established it at Kotla Feroz Shah. Another was placed in the Northern Ridge in front of Bara Hindu Rao Hospital. The former column was taken from Topara in Ambala district of Haryana and the latter from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.
However, only a handful of people know that there is a minor rock edict of Asoka in Delhi itself. It was a chance discovery in 1966 by some concerned citizens. This edict is engraved on a tilted rock face where children used to slide for fun. This site is sandwiched between Srinivaspuri and East of Kailash in South Delhi. The edict consists of 10 lines in Brahmi script in Prakrit language, the epigraph constitutes one of the versions Asoka's minor rock edicts (Edict No. -I). The Emperor propagates in the edict, "The Gods, who were unmingled with the people ... have now been mingled with them by me. This is indeed the result of my exertion in the cause of Dharma."
He encourages his subjects and "even the people residing in the territories outside the borders of my dominion" to realise Dharma. He believes "people of superior positions like myself; but even a poor is as well able to attain the greatness of heaven if he is zealous in the cause of Dharma". He also directs his officials "cause ye this matter to be engraved on stone wherever an opportunity presents itself."
This edict was one of the earliest, engraved in circa 263 BC, which establishes the fact that Delhi was one of the important places in the empire. Delhi, then, was laid on a trunk route connecting commercial centres and provincial capitals.
A couple of years ago, there was filth and litter all around at the site. There is sea change now. All filth and litter has given way to a nicely pruned garden with lots of vegetation. There was a DDA plan in place to develop this site into a beautiful park with site museum, rest house. However, all these were on paper stage only, for years.
According to Ashok Kumar Sinha, Superintending Archaeologist, Delhi Circle of Archaeological Survey of India, "After becoming Tourism minister it was one of the first places Jagmohan visited in December 2001. He immediately ordered development of the site within a month." Jagmohan also instructed the chief architect of HUDCO to design a cupola in place of existing one, in accordance with the ambience. As instructed, it came up within a short period of time.
The cupola has not yet come up but Sinha maintains that it will not only be designed shortly but will certainly be constructed also in the next financial year. When this cupola is raised, it certainly will be soothing to our eyes.
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