Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Jain Ashoka

What Emperor Ashoka was to Buddhism, he was to Jainism. If Ashoka converted to Buddhism, he converted to Jainism. Ashoka built Stupas and Viharas while he built basadis and Jain temples.
If Ashoka sent emissaries to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism,  he sent mission to Afghanistan to teach them the basic tenets of Jainism.
He succeed to the Mauryan throne after Ashoka. A grandson of Ashoka, his name was Samprati and he is the most underrated and misunderstood kings of India.
Samprati was the son of Kunala the son of Ashoka who had been wrongly blinded during the reign of Ashoka. After Ashoka died in 272 AD, the nobles of Pataliputra placed Samprati on the throne.
Samprati’s elevation to the Mauryan throne is the stuff of legends. Ashoka had pledged to give 100 crores to the Buddhist Sangha. He had managed to give 86 crores and he had to pay a further amount of 4 crores to fulfill his promise. Before he could pay the amount, he died.
However, to honor his word, Ashoka had pledged his kingdom to the Sangha. During the period of Ashoka, the Sangha was the most powerful body and it looks like they wielded extra constitutional authority.
When the Sangha insisted on the payment of the rest of the amount, the ministers managed to raise the money, paid it to the Sangha and redeemed the kingdom.
They then placed Samprati on the throne as they did not want the son of Sangamitra, the daughter of Ashoka, a Buddhist, on the throne.
Samrat Samprati, as he is known, reigned from 224 to 215 BC. He was a capable ruler and he ruled the entire present-day Indian sub-continent.
Emperor Samprati is poorly highlighted in Indian history. He is regarded as the “Jain Ashoka” for his patronage and efforts to spreading Jainism in east India.
Samprati, according to Jain historians, is considered more powerful and famous than Ashoka himself. The historical authenticity of Samprati is proved because Samprati Vihär, after the name of Samprati, existed at Vadamänu in the Krishna Valley during the second century BC.
Under the influence of Suhasti (the disciple of Acharya Sthulibhadra), the leading saint of the Jain community, Samprati was again converted to Jainism.
Jain texts say that Samprati built thousands of  jain temples in India, many of which still exist, such as the Jain temples at Viramgam and Palitana in Gujarat and Agar Malwa  in Ujjain. History says within three and a half years of coming to power, Samprati he built one hundred and twenty-five thousand new temples, repaired 36,000 Jain temples, repaired 12,500 Jain idols and consecrated thousands of statues.
He erected Jain temples throughout his empire and founded Jain monasteries everywhere.
According to Jaina tradition, King Samprati had no children. He considered it the consequence of earlier Karma and observed the religious customs more scrupulously
Like his great grandfather Chandragupta Maurya, he too was staunch follower and patron of Jainism. He was disciple of the  Jain ascetic Suhasti.
According to historian Vincent Smith, the Mauryan Emperor Samprati sent Jain monks and scholars to Arabsthan, Iran and Greece for spread of Jainism. He also sent Jain missionaries to south India.
Before the departure of the missionaries, Samprati  sent some spies in form of monks in the territories to clear the routes from any threats. Because of Samprati, Jainism took an aggressive role and  spread to west and Central India, Deccan and Coorg in South India.
A devout Jain, he opened food centers for the poor. He asked his feudatories to prohibit killing of animals. There are several cave temples ascribed to him.
According to the Jain tradition he ruled for 53 years He later shifted his capital to Ujjain. Here, he set about celebrating his transformation as a Jain. He ordered all Jain festivities to be held with gaiety and pomp. Almost everyday, there was a procession or festival in which Suhasti and his brother Mahagiri participated.
Sampriti became such an enthusiastic Jain, that he ensured that the Jain monks in Ujjain were given adequate comfort.
Though Suhasti reluctantly accepted the hospitality of Samprati and even ore reluctantly relaxed the strict norm of good living for Samprati, Mahagiri had revived the naked form of Jainsim and he was a austere ascetic.
Mahagiri did not want any worldly attachments and he remonstrated frequently with Samprati when he was plied with good food. With Suhasti allowing Samprati more leeway, Mahagiri found himself in a difficult position in the Ujjain court.
Meanwhile, Samprati plied the Jain ascetics with good food and  gifts. Both the Jain ascetics found it difficult to refuse for fear of offending the Emperor.
However, Mahagiri had no more stomach for good food. When all remonstrance with the Emperor proved useless, he retired to Dasaranabhadra where he starved himself to death.



  1. east or west- samprati ruled western region from ujjain

  2. Such a pleasant and impressive history.