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Ashoka the Great

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the emperor Ashoka the Great, one of the most celebrated rulers in Indian history.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Indian Emperor Ashoka. Active in the 3rd century BC, Ashoka conquered almost all of the landmass covered by modern-day India, creating the largest empire South Asia had ever known. After his campaign of conquest he converted to Buddhism, and spread the religion throughout his domain. His edicts were inscribed on the sides of an extraordinary collection of stone pillars spread far and wide across his empire, many of which survive today. Our knowledge of ancient India and its chronology, and how this aligns with the history of Europe, is largely dependent on this important set of inscriptions, which were deciphered only in the nineteenth century.


Jessica Frazier
Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent and a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

Naomi Appleton
Chancellor's Fellow in Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh

Richard Gombrich
Founder and Academic Director of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies and Emeritus Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 5 Feb 2015 21:30


Reading list 

Charles Allen, Ashoka: The Search for India’s Lost Emperor (Little Brown, 2012).

Harry Falk, Asokan Sites and Artefacts: A Source-book with Bibliography (Von Zabern, 2006).

N. A. Nikam and Richard McKeown (eds.), The Edicts of Asoka (University of Chicago Press, 1959)

Patrick Olivelle (ed.), Asoka: In History and Historical Memory (Motilal Banarsidass, 2010).

Anuradha Seneviratna (ed.), King Asoka and Buddhism: Historical and Literary Studies (Buddhist Publication Society, 1994).

John S. Strong, The Legend of King Asoka: A Study and Translation of the Asokavadana (Princeton University Press, 1983).


Useful websites

Pillars of Ashoka – Wikipedia 

Edicts of Ashoka - Wikipedia


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Jessica Frazier
Interviewed Guest Naomi Appleton
Interviewed Guest Richard Gombrich
Producer Thomas Morris


  • Thu 5 Feb 2015 09:00
  • Thu 5 Feb 2015 21:30

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