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The People's Friend

There have been many emperors in the history of India but few that ruled over such a vast empire as Ashoka's. His empire extended over a large part of India and Afghanistan and Beluchistan beyond the Northwest province and Nepal in the North, as well as the Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and a large part of Karnataka of today. The inscriptions discovered in these parts prove this.

Though Pataliputra was the capital of the vast empire, for the proper administration of his empire, Ashoka divided his empire into four provinces. Malava, Punjab, Dakshinapatha and Kalinga. Ujjain was the capital of Punjab, Taxila of Malava, Suvarnagiri of Dakshinapatha and Kosala of Kalinga. He appointed a representative in each province. The representatives were chosen for their ability and not on the basis of birth or high connections. They enjoyed considerable freedom in the administration of their provinces.

To assist the emperor there was a council of Minsters in the capital. If the emperor wanted to make changes, he used to consult the Minsters. After the council examined the pros and cons of a proposal it was implemented. Usually the emperor accepted the decision of the council of ministers.

Chanakya (kautilya), the Chief Minister of Chandragupta Maurya, has described the daily life of the kings of that age as follows:

'The king gets up at 3 a.m. And till half past four examines various matters relating to the empire and takes decisions. He then receives the blessings of teachers and priests. Then he meets his doctors and the officials of the kitchen. He then goes to the court hall and considers from 6 a.m. to 7 Am. the revenue and the expenditure of the previous day. From 7.30 he grants interviews to persons who have come to meet the emperor on urgent matters, and examines their submissions. He retires to bathe at 9. After bath, prayer andbreakfast, the emperor meets officers of the empire at 10.30 a.m. and issues instructions on many matters. All noon he meets the council of ministers and discusses matters of state. After rest between 1.30 and 3 p.m. he inspects the various divisions of the army. After this he receives reports from messengers and spies who have come from different parts of his empire and from other kingdom.'

Ashoka, who continued the ideal and the tradition of his grandfather Chandragupta, practiced in letter and spirit, the routine set down by Chanakya. Besides, Ashoka believed that the prosperity of his subjects was his prosperity; so he had appointed officers to report to him on the welfare and sufferings of the people. They were to report to him no matter what the hour was. His own order best shows his concern for the people:

"Whether I am dining or in my private apartments, asleep or engaged in some work, setting out on a journey or resting; wherever I may be and whatever the time of the day or night the officers must come and report to me about the people and their affairs. Wherever I may be I shall think about the welfare of the people and work for them." These words are enough to show Ashoka's devotion to the welfare of his people.

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