Emperor Ashoka’s 12th Major Rock Edict

By Justice Markandey Katju-

Justice Markandey Katju

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

”Thus, saith his Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King: The beloved of the Gods (Devanaam Priya) King Piyadassi, honors all religions. Religions other than one’s own should also be honored, and the essentials of all religions should be promoted. If one acts thus, he promotes his own religion and benefits other religions too.If one acts otherwise, he hurts his own religion and hurts other religions too. One should not extol and glorify his own religion while disparaging the religion of others, for by doing so he diminishes the value of his own religion. Whoever disparages the religion of others while extolling and glorifying his own, harms his own religion grievously. Therefore, concord is commendable.”

This Edict of the great Emperor Ashoka (304-232 B.C. ) was found in Girnar, Junagarh, Gujarat.



The edict is very relevant in India today when some people are trying to spread religious hatred in a country of great diversity for political gains.



It is also relevant in Pakistan where minorities are often persecuted in various ways.




It is unfortunate that despite a secular Constitution, religion plays a pivotal role in Indian politics. It has rather become the easy route to electoral victory.

In India when most people go to vote they only see the religion or caste of the candidate ( or the religion or caste which a party claims to represent ), but rarely see the merit of the candidate, whether he is a good man or bad ( that is why there are so many persons having a criminal background in our legislatures ) and of course, widespread poverty, unemployment, price rise, malnutrition, lack of healthcare etc are all ignored.

In India, even many educated and sober people have become highly polarized. My own experience is that it is very difficult to discuss present-day politics with Hindu friends or relatives, for they often spout venom against minorities (particularly Muslims). Therefore it is unlikely that the above edict of the great Emperor Ashoka will find favor among many Hindus in India ( who are 80% of India’s 1400 million people ) for quite some time.

However, I am confident that the day will come in India when the dark clouds of communalism will disappear when the present passions and fears subside, and India again becomes a land where the policy of ‘suleh-e-kul’ proclaimed by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar becomes state doctrine, and the great Emperor Ashoka’s words in his 12th Major Rock Edict gets embedded in the heart of every Indian.




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