17 June, 2021

Emperor State Building

A study looks at Ashoka’s extant, physical heritage and celebrates his ideals as essential to the idea of India

Emperor State Building

In contemporary quotidian life, communications can reach far corners of the globalised world within an instant. As we just about begin to make sense of this bewildering reality, Nayanjot Lahiri brings us to ponder upon messa­ges from beyond the last two millennia. Ashoka in Ancient India brings a voice of the past with rare acuity, its mes­sages conveyed within multiple narrati­ves of archaeology, religion, languages and political ideology, all held taut thr­ough the central theme of the life and times of the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka.

Initiating a welcome new genre of books in what could be best des­cribed as an archaeological biography, this book is a worthy successor, albeit in the textual form, of the British Museum’s pioneering exhibition on the Roman emperor Had­rian (AD 117 to 138). While Hadrian was known for his architecture, Ashoka (‘the sorrowless one’) is better known for his edicts carved on stone—strewn across the subcontinent from Afghanistan to Orissa and as far south as Karnataka. Whereas the...

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