[INDOLOGY] Was Aśoka an iconoclast?

Artur Karp karp at uw.edu.pl
Fri May 26 06:46:22 UTC 2017

Dear List,

>From B. R. Ambedkar's address to an international gathering at Colombo (on
5 June 1950):

<<In India, like the village deity and national deity, there were family
deities also who were worshipped through the Brahmins. The priests who used
to go for worshipping these deities started influencing the affairs of the
State through the queens. Asoka after embracing Buddhism discontinued this
practice and removed the idols of such deities. Asoka said, "As I venerate
the Buddha, the Enlightened One, there is no need to worship any other

The address is quoted in Lella Karunyakara's "Modernisation of Buddhism.
Contributions of Ambedkar and Dalai Lama-XIV" Gyan Publishing House, New
Delhi 2002, p 225 - without any comment.

It is quoted again - in a different context, but also without comment - in
Himanshu Prabha Ray's "Interpreting the Mauryan Empire: Centralized State
or Multiple Centres of Control", in: Grant Parker and Carla Sinopoli eds.
Ancient India in its Wider World, University of Michigan 2008, footnote 3.

And again in 2015, at:

on 25.V.2017)

Which Aśokan edict could Dr. Ambedkar have had in mind while claiming that
Aśoka "removed the idols of such deities"?


Artur Karp (ret.)

Katedra Azji Południowej

Instytut Orientalistyczny

Uniwersytet Warszawski


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