Pillars of Ashoka

Asoka’s pillars are basically a series of pillars that are spread all over the northern part of the Indian sub continent. These pillars were set up during the time Emperor Ashoka reigned in India. Most of the pillars, though damaged to some extent still stand upright and are protected by the concerned authorities. Out of all the pillars, the most famous is the Ashokan pillar located at Sarnath. Most of King Asoka’s pillars have inscriptions of Ashoka’s Dhamma or philosophies. Read further about the famous Ashoka Pillar.

The pillar at Sarnath is believed to mark the site where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon. It is said to be place where Buddha taught Dharma to five monks. The pillar at Sarnath has an edict inscribed on it that reveals information about Ashoka’s stand against divisions of any sort in the society. When translated, it says “No one shall cause division in the order of monks”. The pillar at Sarnath is made of sandstone and is maintained in proper shape even today.

Asoka PillarsThe appearance of the pillar is quite imposing. At the base of the pillar is an inverted lotus flower which forms a platform for the pillar. At the top of the pillar are four lions sitting back to back facing the four prime directions. Other illustrations on the pillar include the Dharma Chakra (Wheel) with 24 spokes which can be seen on the Indian national flag as well. All illustrations have their own meaning and significance. There are four animals illustrated on the pillar. They stand for the following:

  • The illustration of an Elephant signifies Lord Buddha’s conception. When Buddha was conceived, his mother dreamt that a white elephant had entered the womb.
  • A Bull illustrated on the pillar signifies the zodiac sign of Taurus as it is said that Buddha was born during the month of April – May and also attained enlightenment during this time. The Bull also stands as a symbol of Lord Shiva.
  • The Horse stands for the horse named Kanthaka that Buddha rode when he departed from his palace to practice asceticism and attain enlightenment.
  • The Lion that is illustrated signifies the attainment of enlightenment.
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