SAVING INDIA'S PRIDE
Times of India
While the Nawab of Junagadh was among the first to bring in regulations to protect lions in the 19th century, the idea first came from Ashoka the Great in 257 B.C. Today, the lions' only home in the wild in Asia is around the Girnar mountain, which is also the site of early Ashoka edicts. From Mahavir to Buddha and from Ashoka to Harsha, Indian history is never complete without references to Gujarat
uch before the apostle of peace Mahatma Gandhi was born, the oldest rock edict of Ashoka in Girnar talks about non-violence. This is also one of the first evidences of written history. Ashoka's emblem is India's official emblem today. And the only trace of the Asiatic lion today is in Junagadh, the place where Ashoka's edict lies.
Located outside Junagadh, the edict says, "Belovedof-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, has caused this Dhamma edict to be written. Here (in my domain) no living beings are to be slaughtered or offered in sacrifice. Until then, hundreds of thousands of animals were killed every day in the kitchen of Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi." After the edict was written, only three creatures, two peacocks and a deer, were killed.
Ashoka's edicts were the first written inscriptions in India after the Harappan period. While the Nawab of Junagadh was among the first to bring in regulations to protect lions in the 19th century, the idea first came from Ashoka the Great in 257 B.C.
Ashoka's rock edict at Girnar talks about preservation over 2000 years back. Had Gujarat killed its lions, the emblem of India would not have been those majestic four Asiatic lions, standing back to back. The symbol is taken from Sarnath, Ashoka's capital. It's a great work of art and a symbol of India's pride, made possible only because Saurashtra protected the prides of lions in a corner of the peninsula.
Ashoka was the third monarch of the Mauryan dynasty in India, anointed as emperor in 274 BC, and is regarded as one of the most admirable rulers in world history. Although he is a major historical figure, little definitive information was known as there were no available records of his reign until the 19th century when a large number of his edicts, inscribed on rocks and pillars, were found in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These edicts, of which Ashoka's major rock edict was the first and most impressive, were concerned with practical instructions in running a kingdom such as the design of irrigation systems and descriptions of Ashoka's beliefs in peaceful moral behaviour. They contain little personal detail about his life. He did not write the inscriptions in formal Sanskrit but used the vernacular spoken form called Prakrit. Ashoka's first edict is the only impressive edict remaining in its original state since most of his other edicts were either dismantled and transported to places of national importance after their discovery or formalised into a national monument.
THE FIRST CAPITAL
The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and the National School of Design came up much later. Gujarat was considered a seat of learning hundreds of years ago. Valabhi, the first independent capital of Gujarat under Maitraka dynasty which ruled Gujarat from 475 to 767 AD, housed a university which was wellknown across the globe. The founder of the dynasty, Senapati Bhatarka, was a military governor of Saurashtra peninsula under Gupta empire, who had established himself as the independent ruler of Gujarat in the last quarter of fifth century.
The Maitrakas ruled from Vallabhi and it was the first independent capital of the large empire of Gujarat. They came under the rule of Harsha in the mid-seventh century, but retained local autonomy and regained their independence after Harsha's death. Maitraka rule ended with the plunder of Valabhi by the barbarians in 524, according to historian James Tod and in second or third quarter of the 8th century by various other scholars.
Two Chinese scholars, Xuanzang and I-Tsing, described Valabhi (present-day Valabhipur near Bhavnagar), as a great seat of learning and business during the seventh century.
Xuangzang writes he saw many millionaires in Valabhi. "Valabhi is a large area. The population is very dense; the establishments rich. There are some hundred or so, who possess a hundred lakhs. The rare and valuable products of distant regions are stored here in great quantities," wrote Xuangzang in his book Si-Yu-Ki. Buddhist monk I-Tsing compared two Indian universities, Nalanda and Valabhi with leading Chinese schools. "These two places are like Chin-Ma and Ling Men where eminent and accomplished men assemble, discuss possible and impossible doctrines, and having been assured of the excellence of their opinions by wise men, become far famed in their wisdom," he wrote. Rich Gujarati businessmen donated generously to the university.
BUDDHA, MAHAVIR AND VALABHI
Valabhi was a famous centre for Jain studies. A Jain conference was held in the fifth century where religious canons were re-compiled and edited. When Chinese traveller Xuangzang visited Valabhi during the second quarter of seventh century, he found its ruler to be a Buddhist follower. When I-Tsing, another Chinese traveller visited Valabhi in the last quarter of 7th century, he found the city as a great centre of learning including Buddhism. Gunamati and Sthiramati are stated to be two famous Buddhist scholars of Valabhi at the middle of seventh century. Valabhi was famous for its open-mindedness and the students from all over the country, including Brahmin boys, visited it to have higher education in secular and religious subjects.
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