Bilingual Edict of Ashoka found in Kandahar. Circa 250 BCE
Major Rock Edict XIII is of paramount importance in understanding the Asokan policy of Dhamma.The text of the Edict reads:
"When he had been consecrated eight years the Beloved of the Gods, the king Piyadassi, conquered Kalinga. A hundred and fifty thousand people were deported, a hundred thousand were killed and many times that number perished. Afterwards, now that Kalinga was annexed, the Beloved of the Gods very earnestly practiced Dhamma, desired Dhamma and taught Dhamma. On conquering Kalinga the Beloved of the Gods felt remorse, for, when an independent country is conquered the slaughter, death, and deportation of the people is extremely grievous to the Beloved of the Gods, and weighs heavily on his mind. What is even more deplorable to the Beloved of the Gods is that those who dwell there, whether Brahmans, Sramans, or those of other sects, or householders who show obedience to their superiors, obedience to mother and father, obedience to their teachers and behave well and devotedly towards their friends, acquaintances, colleagues, relatives, slaves and servants-all suffer violence, murder and separation from their loved ones. Even those who are fortunate to have escaped, and whose love is undiminished(by the brutalizing effect of War), suffer from the misfortunes of their friends, acquaintances, colleagues and relatives. This participation of all men in suffering weighs heavily on the mind of the Beloved of the Gods. Except among the Greeks, there is no land where the religious orders of Brahmans and Sramans are not found, and there is no land anywhere where men do not support one sect or another. Today, if a hundredth or a thousandth part of those people who were killed or died or were deported when Kalinga was annexed were to suffer similarly, it would weigh heavily on the mind of the Beloved of the Gods"
"This inscription of Dhamma has been engraved so that any sons or great grandsons that I may have should not think of gaining new conquests, and in whatever victories they may gain should be satisfied with patience and light punishment. They should only consider conquests by Dhamma to be a true Conquest, and delight in Dhamma should be their whole delight, for this is of value in both this world and the next."
This is Asoka's testament against war. It graphically depicts the tragedy of war and shows why he turned against it. It is a unique event in the annals of the ancient world because we do not know of any other contemporary monarch who renounced war.