Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Rare Ashoka Statues Discovered in India Volume 55 Number 1, January/February 2002
by Anubha Charan

Two sandstone slabs, found during recent excavations in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, could hold the key to a yet undiscovered phase in the life of the warrior-king Ashoka (268-233 B.C.), who brought the Mauryan Empire to its zenith, and then gave it up after renouncing violence for Buddhism.

One slab, which may bear the first known portrait of the king, has an inscription saying it was "unveiled by the auspicious hands of Ashoka." The other shows a royal figure flanked by two women, who may be the emperor's queens. The find follows the recent worldwide release of Ashoka, a Hindi film on the emperor's life. According to Santosh Sivan, the director of the epic, "All we know about Ashoka is from the edicts that depict his administrative policies. So we had to develop the character from legends. Only time, and discoveries like these, will reveal how much of the legend is historically correct."

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America