Books Of The Week - Saturday 07 September 2023

Ashoka : Portrait of a Philosopher King
by - Patrick Olivelle

About the Book
Ashoka, the last great Mauryan emperor, is one of the most iconic figures in Indian history. Under his rule (268-232 BCE) the Mauryan empire extended across almost the entirety of the Indian subcontinent. Apart from his effective reign over his vast kingdom, Ashoka is well known for his renunciation of war, his development of the concept of dhamma, his patronage of Buddhism, and his promotion of religious harmony.
Ashoka has been imagined, and reimagined, many times over. It has been said that there are at least two Ashokas: the historical Ashoka (whom we know mainly through his inscriptions), and the legendary Ashoka, who is largely a construct of the popular imagination. The distinguished scholar Patrick Olivelle's new book resists the temptation to blend the two-a temptation that many writers have succumbed to-as it seeks to gain an insight into the emperor's world. Based primarily on the inscriptions (which is where Ashoka 'speaks for himself'), Olivelle constructs a fascinating portrait of India's first great ruler, where the figure of Ashoka comes vividly alive notwithstanding the elusiveness and fragmentary nature of the sources.

About the Author
Patrick Olivelle received his MA from Oxford University and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a past President of the American Oriental Society and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Olivelle was awarded the honorary doctorate of Humane Letters by the University of Chicago in 2016, the 2017 Prize of Fondation Colette Caillat of the Institut de France, the Career Research Excellence Award by the University of Texas in Austin in 2011 and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996. He is the author of over thirty books, some of which have won awards from the American Academy of Religion and the Association of Asian Studies.
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