How a Minor Edict Became a Major Find : Ashoka Edict in Delhi


Who would have thought that these rocks hid a secret from 3rd century BC?
Had it not been for a contractor who was sourcing building material in 1966 we would never have come to know that Delhi too had traces of Buddhist influence.


This park in Sriniwaspuri, opposite the Kalkaji Mandir houses a minor Ahoka stone edict from the the 3rd century BC behind this very ugly looking grill cage.These edicts, inscribed on rocks or on pillars proclaim Ashoka’s reforms and policies and promulgate his advice to his citizens.


Delhi finds no reference in ancient Buddhist texts so this discovery is of great importance. Fahein the famous Chinese traveller came to Mathura but did not mention passing by Delhi so it was always felt that the area had escaped Buddhist influence and it was also not on a major trade route. Most of the major Ashokan edicts and pillars were on a major trade route, important city or commercial centre.


Archaeologists immediately examined it on March 26, 1966 and identified it as representing the Minor Rock Edict I of the Ashokan period in the light of its similarity with edicts in 13 other places in different parts of India, such as Barat in Jaipur division (to which Delhi rock edict has close resemblance) and the two pillars in Delhi. The Delhi edict was recorded as the 14th epigraphic version


The inscription covers an area of size 75 cm (30 in) length and 77 cm (30 in) height of the rock face. There are ten lines of writing of varying length written in Prakrit language in early Brahmi script and lacks uniformity of the aksharas (letters)


One interpretation for the rock edict at Bahapur in Delhi is that it represents the trans-regional trade route of North India as an ancient trade link between the Gangetic Delta and the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. The second view is that it marks the site of a temple since it has been found at the base of a rock exposure near the present day Kalkaji temple. It is claimed that at Kalkaji, where the new Kalka Mandir (temple) exists now, was the old location of a temple (one of the five temples in Delhi) built by Pandavas, heroes of the epic Mahabharata period


The edict is written in Brahmi script was a first person message of Ashoka, which exhorts people to follow the Buddhist way of life. It is inscribed on a rock surface with irregular lines and letter size with a number of lines not clearly decipherable. The edict translated into English reads:

“It is two and half years since I became a Buddhist layman. At first no great exertion was made by me but in the last year I have drawn closer to the Buddhist order and exerted myself zealously and drawn in others to mingle with the gods. This goal is not one restricted only to let the people great to exert themselves and to the great but even a humble man who exerts himself can reach heaven. This proclamation is made for the following purpose: to encourage the humble and the great to exert themselves and to let the people who live beyond the borders of the kingdom know about it. Exertion in the cause must endure forever and it will spread further among the people so that it increases one-and-half fold”

Source of translation and description of the edict is from Wikipedia

Input welcome from readers

Comment List

  • Kompha Seth 29 / 10 / 2015 Reply

    I would like to read Asoka’s inscription, Major Edict #1 in original Brahmi (Ayam Dhammo Lipi ….)

    Where should I find it?

    Thank so much.

    • Rana Safvi 29 / 10 / 2015 Reply

      It should be on the net

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