Patrick Olivelle, "Ashoka: Portrait of a Philosopher King" (Yale UP, 2024)


Ashoka: Portrait of a Philosopher King (Yale UP, 2024) is the first biography of the great Emperor Ashoka relying solely on his own words. Ashoka sought not only to rule his territory but also to give it a unity of purpose and aspiration, to unify the people of his vastly heterogeneous empire not by a cult of personality but by the cult of an idea—“dharma”—which served as the linchpin of a new moral order. In this deeply researched book, Patrick Olivelle draws on Ashoka’s inscriptions and on the art and architecture he pioneered to craft a detailed picture of Ashoka as a ruler, a Buddhist, a moral philosopher, and an ecumenist who governed a vast multiethnic, multilinguistic, and multireligious empire.

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Raj Balkaran

Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts. He teaches at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and at his own virtual School of Indian Wisdom. For information see

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