Emperor Ashoka’s legacy stands safe in South Delhi
The sight of Buddhist tourists coming in large numbers to this forgotten monument often surprises onlookers and residents. Many of these visitors are from Myanmar on a tour of Buddhist tourism circuit. Located on the congested Raja Dheer Sen Marg in East of Kailash and quite close to the famous ISKCON temple, the Ashokan Rock Edict is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
According to a plaque installed at the site, this minor rock edict of the great Mauryan emperor Ashoka (273-236 BC) was discovered in 1966 by the ASI. The 10 lines, recorded in Prakrit language and engraved in Brahmi script on rugged Aravalli rocks, represent a shorter version of his minor rock edicts.
The inscription proclaims Ashoka’s adherence to the Buddhist philosophy. It bespeaks of his exertion in the cause of ‘Dhamma’, an earnest attempt to solve problems faced by a complex society. The present rock edict also indicates that during ancient times, Delhi was situated on the trunk route connecting the other main cities.
It holds a special significance for the Buddhist tourists who visit the place throughout the year. Many Buddhist monks also visit this site when special prayer ceremonies are performed in winters.
“We believe Buddhism leads to enlightenment. The inscription speaks about his philosophies and efforts to spread Buddhism,” said Khin Naung, a 38-year-old tourist from Myanmar. She is visiting with her family.
Naung wants her children to learn more about Buddhism and plans a yearly trip here with family.
“Through Ashoka’s message, we learn about living peacefully and maintaining harmony in society. I want my children to know it too,” she said.
Ashoka was the third monarch of the Mauryan dynasty in India. Although he is a major historical figure, little definitive information was known as there were no available records of his reign until the 19th century when a large number of his edicts, inscribed on rocks and pillars, were found in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The inscriptions show his efforts to spread Buddhist dharma throughout his kingdom.
The Problem Of Maintenance
Although the agencies have developed a park around it, there are many locals who have never ventured inside the monument for a quite a few reasons. To begin with, there is no signboard outside to point out its presence. A person crossing it for the first time may confuse the complex with just another park. There are no toilets for the tourists and pilgrims. Also, a garbage dumping has come up next to the monument. The stench certainly irks locals and visitors who are forced to make hurried departure.
“I have been living here for years and crossed the site many times but never went inside the monument. We hardly see any visitors, apart from the Buddhist tourists. People either don’t know about its existence or are unaware about its historical significance,” said Karan Aggarwal, a resident of East of Kailash.
As the monument is largely ignored by locals, children from adjacent slums can be seen at the lush green complex, running around, climbing the rocks and playing football. Besides, groups of men playing cards have also become a regular sight here.