Ashoka became the lord of Kalinga as
he had wished. But the victory brought him not joy but grief. The sights
of grim slaughter he had seen dimmed the pride of victory. Whether Ashoka
was resting, sleeping or awake, the scenes of agony and death he had seen
on the battlefield haunted him at all times; he could not have peace of
mind even for a moment.
Ashoka understood that the flames of
war not only burn and destroy on the battlefield but spread to other fields
and destroy many innocent lives.
The suffering caused by war does not
end on the battlefield; it continues to poison the minds and lives of the
survivors for a long time. At this time Ashoka was at the height of his
power; he was the head of a vast empire; he had no equal in wealth or armed
strength. And yet the Kalinga war, which was his first war, also became
his last war! The power of arms bowed before the power of Dharma (righteousness).
Ashoka swore that he would never again
take to arms and that he would never again commit such a crime against
humanity. And it proved to be the oath of a man of iron would.
In the history of the world, many kings
have sworn not to fight again, after they had been defeated.
But how many kings have been moved
by pity in the hour of victory and laid down arms?
Perhaps there has been only one such
king in the history of the whole world-Ashoka.