The Story of India (2007) s01e02 Episode Script

The Power of Ideas (500 BCE - 200 BCE)

In "The Story of India," we've reached the Fifth Century B.
C.
, the time of the ancient Greeks.
In India, this was an age that gave birth to vast empires and to thinkers who changed the world from that day to this.
Like the Greeks, the Indians were driven by great ideas, by the search for knowledge and truth.
But their world is still alive.
Here in the south India, the people of the Jain religion still pay homage to an ancient king who renounced his kingdom seeking enlightenment.
From the Fifth Century B.
C.
, driven by great thinkers like the founder of the Jain religion, Mahavira, but above all by the Buddha, these ideas shaped one of the most revolutionary times in history.
The next chapter in "The Story of India.
" Myjourney and search of ancient India began with one of those all-too-common acts of terror that scar our modern age.
Good morning.
"Times of India," please.
We humans are still a competitive species, fighting for power, resources, and ideas.
Well, we're heading to Varanasi on the river Ganges.
Tempered slightly because last night there was a terrible series of bombings in the city, the railway station and in one of the temples.
Nobody knows quite why it happened, but we think the trains are still running, so we'll see what happens.
There are over 6 billion people in today's world compared with the 100 million in the Fifth Century B.
C.
And the fulfillment of our desires has become a goal of civilization.
Every person has his own identity, his own needs.
Mr.
Wood Mr.
Woodah, yes, here.
Indian Railwayswonderful.
All the great ancient civilizations meditated on these big questions.
How to live life, sharing the planet with other people, how to find happiness.
For Indian people, the traditional goal of life is to live with virtue, dharma; to gain wealth and success, artha; to find pleasure, kama; but in the end, to seek enlightenment, moksha.
My journey led me first down the plain of the river Ganges.
Here in the Fifth Century B.
C.
, a series of kingdoms grew up with cities.
And in history, cities are always vehicles for change.
The most famous was Varanasi, India's greatest sacred city.
It's the most important center for Hinduism, India's majority religion.
And in Varanasi, you can find living continuities with ancient India, especially the core of Hindu religion, the caste system, into which all Hindus are born, marry, and die.
The caste system divides people from birth to death.
It fixes theirjobs and their place in society, from Brahman priest at the top to the outcasts and untouchables at the bottom, who clean the waste and dispose of the dead.
But it's a mutually sustaining system.
Everybody has a place and everyone needs somebody else.
We're gonna meet one of the family of the Dom Rajas, the lords of the dead.
They are the only people who can perform the funeral pyres here in Benares.
When family comes to have cremation of family member, the fire can only come from, from your family? Yes, because if they could not take the fire from us, it means it could not be burned, the body, even prime minister die.
Even the prime minister? Even prime minister die.
- Is it allowed to see? - Yes, allowed to see.
May we come? We follow you.
- Yes.
- OK.
The sacred fire from which all funeral pyres must be lit has been kept burning here continuously for thousands of years.
So is this the fire here? There's a fire here, and it's a fire momently keeping here since three and a half thousand years.
In all societies in history, religions offer a path to salvation, but in practice, religions create bonds, both physical and mental.
The essence of India's ancient system was that salvation only came by the precise performance of the right rituals in the right time and place.
Before he start burning he must walk around five times because of the five elements.
Earth, water, wind, fire, ether.
Fire, water, air, earth, ether.
In the ritual universe, order is vital.
And so it was with society in the Fifth Century B.
C.
Know your place in the order, perform the necessary rituals, fulfill your dutywhatever caste you're born into.
You and your family are very, very important people in India.
In a way, in a way of thinking.
In a way of thinking, but in a way of naturality, if you say people think us, we are the very low caste, we cannot touch him, we cannot go with him You are low caste, you are We are untouchable; we are paria when we walk in the street, people don't like to touch us, there is a bigger thing.
Really, so even though because you perform, you do the rituals for the dead and you touch the dead, you are very low caste.
But everybody needs you.
Without us they cannot do.
From ancient times, that was the Indian way, and it's lasted thousands of years.
A system of power from the Iron Age, now being renegotiated in modern democratic India.
But it was challenged before.
People first started to question the old order in the Fifth Century B.
C and not just in India.
In China, there was Confucius and Lao Tzu, across in the Mediterranean the Greek philosophers, in Israel the Old Testament prophets.
It was a revolutionary time for humanity: the birth of conscience, putting ethics at the center of the world.
And nowhere were these questionings more intense than in India.
Speculation about the nature of the universe and the nature of the self and the connection between the two is one of the oldest obsessions of Indian civilization they were at it even in the Bronze Age.
But in the cities of the Ganges plain here in India in the Fifth Century B.
C.
, a host of thinkers arose: rationalists, skeptics, atheists.
There were those who denied the existence of the after life and reincarnation, there were those, like the Jains, who believed that all living creatures were bonded together in a chain of being across time.
There were scientists, very closely resembling their contemporaries in the Ionian islands in Greece, the Greek philosophers, who suggested that the world was composed of atoms and that everything was change.
And there were those who said there were immutable laws of the cosmos and all change was illusory.
But the most influential of these thinkers, in the history of India and in the history of the world, was the Buddha.
The Buddha's story is the stuff of fairy tales.
He came from a world of princely magnificence, and nowhere does princely better than India.
Young, newly wed, high caste, he had everything.
But then in a sudden bolt of lightning he saw reality of human life for everyonesuffering and death.
So there and then young Gautam left behind his wife and family and set out on the road, seeking truth.
6 years he wandered, a longhaired drop out, until he finally came here to Bodhgaya.
Hi.
Today nearly 400 million people are Buddhists, from Burma and Korea to China and now the West.
Young Gautam will reshape history but at this moment when he first comes here, he's another ragged renouncer.
The Buddha had come here to do what Indian holy men did, practicing almost unbelievable austerities, "I ate so little those days," he said later, "that my buttocks looked as knobbly as a camel's hoof.
"The bones of my spine stuck out like a row of spindles, "and my ribs looked like a collapsed old shed.
"And much good did it do me.
" And that's his voice, a vivid, realistic turn of phrase, not holier than thou.
His years on the road had taught the ex-prince to speak the common language.
So he sits here under a pipal tree seeking enlightenment.
It's one of the great moments in history.
And this is the very place.
This is the Diamond Throne.
The throne.
The Diamond Throne.
This is the place where the Buddha is believed to have sat and attained enlightenment.
No, not "believed.
" This is the place where he sat and attained enlightenment.
This is also called the Navel of the Earth.
So for all Buddhists a most sacred place.
For all the Buddhists from all over the world this is the most sacred place for worship and veneration.
Some of his devotees wanted a statue of the Buddha to be made.
He then and there rejected the idea, the proposal.
And he said "that if at all people need something "then it should be the bodhi tree, "which has given me shelter underneath to sit and meditate "and attain the supreme bliss that I had experienced; "and it will also give shelter to thousands and thousands "of people who are in search of truth.
" How often we make our history the story of the great conquerors, the men of violence: Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler.
That's what we teach our children in their history books, isn't it? But here's one man who sits under a tree thinking and changes the world.
But this is an Indian story By the morning, the Buddha had crystallized in his mind what he called The Four Noble Truths.
In essence the idea was very simple: the nature of the human condition, he thought, is suffering.
And suffering is caused in the end by human desire, by attachment, by covetousness in the inner life and in the outside world.
"Free yourself from those desires," the Buddha thought, "and you can become a liberated human being "but it can only come from within.
" Ultimately, inner happiness, inner satisfaction must create by one's self.
You could be a billionaire, but deep inside very lonely person, very lonely feeling.
So therefore, as a human being, regardless believer or non-believer, these inner human value is very essential in order to have happier individual, happier family, happier society, or happier nation.
the core of the Buddha's ideas was The 8-fold Path.
Respect for living things, compassion, truth, and non-violence.
It sounds obvious, but it had a revolutionary aim, to free Indian people from their ancient and unjust cycle of caste and rebirth.
The Buddha travels a couple of hundred miles from Bodhgaya to Sarnath just outside Varanasi.
Here in the deer park he picks up five old friends from his time on the road.
They become his first disciples and he tries his ideas out on them and on this spot now marked by the Great Stupa, he gives what becomes known as the first sermon.
This first sermon is called "Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta.
" it means setting the wheel of doctrine on motion.
Setting the wheel of doctrine or lawin motion.
The wheel, yes.
The teaching of Buddha is not only for monks.
It is for all.
Huh? It means for the well-being of many.
And for the next more than 40 years the Buddha journeyed and preached 45 years.
45 years journeyed and preached.
He walked.
He never stay at one place.
And now the real journey begins: he wanders, no possessions, on foot, begging through the small world of the Iron Age kingdoms of the Ganges plain.
But the thing to remember is he's a protester.
Through the whole of Indian history there's a tension between the rulers and those who fought for social justice.
From the wandering medieval saints to the freedom fighters, and the flood of modern poets and agitators, he's the first of India's million mutineers.
Then he comes here to Rajgir, invited by the king who saw something in him.
The king gave him some land on which to build a hut, a bamboo grove it's still here.
This was a place where there were monks living all the time.
We know places in the scroll, like Karanda Katang, which is still here, the squirrel's nesting place, the peacock's dancing place so you can imagine what it was like.
Every year he went back to the same place.
So people knew where he was.
It was a good time for monks to re-gather and if anybody wanted to be with the Buddha, for example, they could come to the same place.
It's quite impressive, you know, he's got a 1,250 disciples by that time.
The king comes to meet him as was tradition and even tradition now.
Kings or powerful politicians go and meet religious leaders, not the other way round.
The king says "I had five wishes, "the first was to be king, "the second was to be able to receive an enlightened person, "the third was to able to hear him speak, "the fourth was to be able to understand that, "and the fifth was to be able to be grateful for that.
" In the hills above Rajgir there's a little cave where the Buddha lived through the monsoon seasons.
The Buddha really loved this place; it was a little higher than the surrounding area.
It was one of his favorite places for meditation, he even says so.
He loved watching the sunset from here.
And he just came again and again just for the sheer pleasure of it.
This cave actually is lovely because you can know the Buddha is in this cave.
As you go into the cave, it's a little sort of lower in height in the beginning and then it gets deeper so you can stand up inside.
And you can just sit here and meditate for hours and hours and just be with the Buddha.
You can really feel the breath of the Buddha even though he was 2,500 years ago you can really feel his presence in this cave now.
And again that realistic voice, "Be your own lamp," he said, "seek no other refuge but yourselves.
"Let truth be your light.
" The Buddha has often been called the greatest Indian.
But though his teachings conquered half the world, they largely died out at home but India never forgot his ethical message, for it was embraced by thinkers in mainstream Hindu religion in later times.
And in a land teeming with images of the divine, perhaps the reason for its ultimate rejection here is not hard to see.
Buddhism is a system based on pure morality, what we would call universal values: trust, truthfulness, non-violence, that sort of thing.
And those ideas were very attractive to the rising class of merchants and traders in the cities of the Ganges plain.
But it's also atheistic; the logic of the Buddha's message is that belief in god itself is a form of attachment, of clinging, of desire.
And in the land of 33 million gods, or is it 330 million that eventually would prove a step too far.
"But all things must pass," as he would say.
No one in history was clearer about that.
The year of the Buddha's death is still not sure.
The traditional date is 486 B.
C.
He was an old man now, around 80, on his last journey among the scavengers and the dispossessed with their unending struggle for mere survival.
Towards the end the Buddha made his way back across the plain towards the Himalayas.
Now he's heading north, back to the land of his childhood.
Perhaps he was consciously heading home.
He knew he was going to die.
The Buddha's story ends in an endearingly scruffy little town on the Ganges plain: Kushinagar.
On the stalls, India's deities old and new and he's become one of them, against his wishes of course.
One of the Buddha's faithful disciples begged him to hold on a bit longer and not die here.
"It's a miserable wattle and daub little place, "stuck in the jungle in the middle of nowhere," he said, "couldn't you die in a famous place where they could give you a great funeral?" And the Buddha said, "A small place is fitting.
" He took some food in the house of a black smithpork.
Like most ancient Indians the Buddha was a meat eater.
And he fell ill.
Again the tradition marks the very spot on the edge of Kushinagar.
At the end his disciples can't bear to let him go.
"What more do you want of me?" he says.
"I have made known the teaching.
"Ask no more of me.
You're the community now.
"I have reached the end of my journey.
" There are several versions of the Buddha's last moments, one of them said that he made a gesture and exposed the upper part of his body to show how age and sickness had wasted it, to remind his followers of the human condition.
But all versions agree that his last words were these: "All created things must pass.
Strive on, diligently.
" At the time of the Buddha's death, tremendous events were transforming the old world.
The greatest power on Earth then was the Persian empire, stretching from Greece to India but a new age was dawning.
In the Fourth Century B.
C.
, a new power, the Greeks, marched east to attack what they saw as the evil empire.
And Europe faced Asia in the perennial battleground of Iraq.
What happened here would change the story of India.
Great ideas in history don't always spread beyond their own country.
The ideas of the Buddha remained a local cult in the Ganges plain for 200 years after his death.
And the catalyst for change, as so often in history, was war.
On the First of October 331 B.
C.
, the greatest battle of antiquity was fought here near the little village of Gaugamela.
A true war of the worlds.
It was waged between the might of the Persian Empire, which ruled as far as the Indus valley and the plains of India, and an army which had marched from Greece under an extraordinary young general, the 25-year-old Alexander the Great.
Alexander's invasion of the East was a true a clash of civilizations.
A different model for history, one that we in the West have always be seduced by: the East as the other.
The heroic leader as superman.
The man whose giant ego literally overwhelms the Persian divine king Darius and subdues history itself to his will.
Alexander was a globalist.
Alexander would thoroughly understand the world today.
The thing that unifies all armies is the will of the commander.
Even in a battlefield like this which comprised at that stage maybe 150,000 to 200,000 individuals on this plain at that time, this all came down to a contest of wills between two individuals.
And they both understood that, did they? Oh, I think they entirely And they can see each other, they actually see each other Exactly, and the spears thrusting into the faces of the Persians, at which point Darius takes flight and drives his chariot out and away back down to the river.
The Persians were defeated, but Alexander didn't stop there.
Alexander's teacher Aristotle, another seeker after truth, had a very different take on the world from the Buddha: "The Greeks have strength and reason," he said, "so it's right they should rule the world.
" At this point the Greeks didn't know how big the world was.
They thought you ought to be able to see the end of the Earth from the top of the mountains of Afghanistan.
Soon they would be amazed by India's size and riches.
So Alexander pressed on over the mountains his battle-hardened veterans tramping through the Khyber Pass and then down into the plains of India.
It was the first meeting of India and the West.
Alexander finally stopped in the Punjab near today's Amritsar.
The Greek army reached the River Beas here in the beginning of September, 326 B.
C.
But it wasn't any Greek army that you've imagined before.
Some of them are wearing central Asian clothes, Persian trousers, Indian cotton tunics.
This isn't a classical Greek army; it's close to a science fiction army, an ancient Greek version of "Mad Max.
" and in the middle of them, Alexander the Great in his parade uniform with his ram's horn helmet with its great white plumes and on his armor the head of a gorgon, which was supposed to turn to stone anybody who gazed into its eyes.
Well, there was one person here who wasn't turned into stone.
A young Indian had come to Alexander's camp.
He was deeply impressed by this spectacle of imperialism, by the glamour of Alexander's violence.
And he would become one of the greatest figures in Indian history, who would create the greatest Indian empire before modern times.
His name: Chandragupta Maurya.
In time, Chandragupta seized power, drove Alexander's successors out of India and ruled from the Khyber to Bengal, and his state is the first forerunner of today's India.
In 300 B.
C.
, the Greeks sent their ambassadors to him bearing gifts and they give the first ever account of India from the outside.
From stone age tribes in the Himalayas to the cities of the plains.
A land of a 118 nations, rich and fertile with rivers so wide they couldn't see the other side.
One of them, the Greeks said, worshiped by all Indians the Ganges.
The embassy eventually arrived at Chandragupta's capital, Patna.
The Greek ambassadors were amazed by what they saw: the city stretched 9 or 10 miles along the bank of the Ganges.
And all along the river frontage, they saw palaces, pleasure gardens the Greek ambassador Megasthanese said, "I've seen the great cities of Asia, "I've seen Susa in Persia, "but nothing compares with this.
" And if Megasthanese's description is accurate, this was indeed the greatest city in the world.
The city stood at the junction of 4 rivers and measured 22 miles in circuit.
In the king's camp were over 400,000 men with 3,000 war elephants and he never traveled in state except with his bodyguard of female warriors, Indian Amazons loyal only to him.
Good morning.
What must the Greeks have thought? The ambassador came ashore beneath giant defenses studded with 570 towers and 64 gates.
Fantastic.
There's the edge of old Patna.
Of course in the days when the Greek ambassadors came, you've got to remember it was a new city then, a new imperial city.
There would have been brick kilns everywhere that would be needed in a great city like this.
Since then Patna has seen 7 Indian capitals built on top of each other, the last of them the medieval Muslim city you see today, a decaying metropolis left behind by history.
It's an amazing city, Patna, because you've got the layers of the past sort of superimposed here.
Tombs of Muslim saints sit on ancient Buddhist mounds.
It's a city where all India's communities have mixed over centuries; and left the tangled roots of history, as so often in India, all still alive.
With its crumbling palaces and merchants' mansions it's like wandering through an Indian version of ancient Rome.
What a beautiful building.
Hello.
How old is the house? 105 years.
Right, right, it's a lovely house anyway.
But what about the very earliest layer of Patna, the imperial city of Chandragupta, visited by the ancient Greeks? In a forgotten corner of the city is the last pleasure lake of Chandragupta's capital.
And here on a little island is an ancient shrine of the Jain religion, whose founder Mahavira was a contemporary of the Buddha and preached non-violence to all living thingsbar none.
Tucked away here, um, the remains of a temple going back to the time of Chandragupta himself.
The shrine is dedicated to Chandragupta's guru, and it holds the key to the incredible tale of how at the height of his power the king renounced his empire.
India, so the story goes, was ravaged by famine.
The powerless king turned to a Jain guru and bowed to him as in the end all Indian rulers must.
And so he left his throne and headed south in penance to the mountain of Sravanabelgola, where in the myth the ancient king Bahubali had also renounced his kingdom for mokshasalvation.
His mother had a dream in which the goddess told her, you have to go and seek the blessings of Lord Bahubali.
Chandragupta Maurya, he took a bow and an arrow, and then he shot the arrow only where he could see that just, he could see the impression of the statue.
And then he got the artists who could carve this statue of Lord Bahubali.
So Chandragupta Maurya, the most powerful man in the world, became a naked holy man on a windy mountaintop, seeking moksha liberation through knowledge.
Chandragupta Maurya, when he came here, he wanted to renounce everything.
And for himself he wanted to get into the penance and then moksha.
They say he stood there renouncing his whole kingdom, everything.
While he is doing penance nobody eats anything.
Finally, they attain moksha.
Not one or two.
And that means they die? They die, yes.
The first great king of India starved himself to death in this cave, witness to the age-old injunction: to pursue knowledge and liberation above all other things.
Chandragupta made the first great Indian state, a template of all future Indias right down to today.
A religious renouncer at the end, but what he bequeathed the future was the idea of secular authority, a universal king who was the source of power and of law.
Chandragupta was a great figure in world history, not just in India, but what happened after his death is an even more incredible story, and all the more so because it was lost for centuries.
The story was only rediscovered in modern times and the tale takes us to Calcutta in the days of the British empire.
It was here that the lost script of the Mauryan Empire was deciphered in 1837 in the Asiatic Society.
A young Briton with a talent for codes and ciphers became fascinated by mysterious inscriptions on great pillars in Delhi and Allahabad.
His name was James Princep.
Princep's attention was drawn to a carved boulder, which turned out to be India's Rosetta Stone.
The decipherment came like so many great examples of code breakingby a hunch.
Princep guessed that this unknown script contained a form of early Sanskrit.
He began to put two and two together.
He realized that this strange squiggle with an inverted "T" and a dot next to it was probably the sign for a giftdanam, in Sanskrit the gift of somebody, of something.
He realized that this strange hooked "C" was a possessive: so and so's gift.
And then he cracked an absolutely crucial phrase, which occurred over and over again in these inscriptions and on the great pillars in Delhi and Allahabad.
The phrase begins this inscription here.
"The raja Piadarsi, beloved of the gods, says this.
" It was a king, and a king who, judging by the inscriptions, had ruled from the Himalayan foothills almost to the south of India, from the bay of Bengal almost across to Afghanistan.
And a king whose memory had completely vanished from the historical record in India.
The name of the beloved of the gods was non-other than Chandragupta's grandson Ashoka.
And back in Patna, the capital of his empire, he'd never been forgotten.
And here I was expecting a dry as dust archaeological site.
That's India for you.
The place is an ancient sacred well still used by the people of Patna in there thousands for their marriage ceremonies.
It's now an auspicious place, but it's remembered in legend as a place of torture, a living hell.
And the name of the king who built it? Namaste.
Ashoka.
This is the well? This is the Agam Kuan.
- Can we have a look? - Yeah.
According to the legend told here, Ashoka decided to build what was called a "hell on earth," which was on this spot, a kind of prison with great high walls within which terrible tortures were devised for people who went against his rule.
The legends of Ashoka the Cruel had been told for centuries but the inscription deciphered by James Princep gave real history.
It tells of Ashoka's brutal attack on the eastern kingdom of Kalinga, today's Orissa.
So if Ashoka is going to invade Kalinga, this river he must cross, is that right? Yes, so this was the entry point for the Mauryan army? Yeah.
So the real story begins with a brutal war of aggression.
And only in the last year have archaeologists in Orissa found the first evidence for the fighting.
Wow, that's very clear, isn't it? And what does it say? It is clearly written: "To sa li na gar" Na gar.
We know that Tosali is the name of the capital of Kalinga at the time of Ashoka.
This Tosali, it is the name appears in holy inscription.
This is a weapon.
This is your arrowhead.
This is metallurgically resembling with Mauryan iron instruments.
So this kind of thing has been found in the Ganges valley.
So all this metal work has come from a very small area of excavation? Very small, yes.
A host of spear heads, arrowheads, bits of weaponry.
This is only a tiny sample that the Mauryan army fired an immense amount of weaponry at the people of Kalinga.
The king, the beloved of the gods, attacked Kalinga, says the inscription; 150,000 people were carried away captive, a hundred thousand were killed in the fighting, and almost as many died afterwards.
"But after the Kalingas had been crushed," it continues, "there arose in the king a great conflict, "a regret for his conquest, and a yearning forjustice.
" "In war," said Ashoka, "everyone suffers.
"There is killing and injury, "people are cut off forever from the ones they love.
"War is a tragedy for everyone.
" Ashoka had hit on one of the most dangerous ideas in history: non-violence.
Ashoka now renounced war and turned to Buddhism.
On the battlefield he built domed stone memorialsstupas in atonement.
"All we human beings," says Ashoka, "whatever our station in life, "share the same human values: "love of parents, respect for our elders, "kindness and attachment to friends and neighbors, "even to servants and slaves.
" "From now on," says Ashoka, "I desire non-violence for all creatures, "and I resolve to conquer by persuasion alone.
" Of course, one should always take the words of politicians and leaders with a pinch of salt, especially when they've waged an aggressive war.
But in this case Ashoka's words are so personal, so self-recriminating, and so idiosyncratic that it's hard not to think that it's his voice speaking to us.
When the war in Kalinga was over, he says, and the people conquered, he felt inside him a great crisis, a striving for meaning and remorse.
So like his grandfather, Ashoka goes on pilgrimage across India, seeking a guru, a teacher.
And by the riverbank, he met the son of perfume seller from Varanasi, a Buddhist monk.
And the monk told him to go and sit beneath the bodhi tree, where the Buddha had found enlightenment.
And there the power of ideas and the power of the state came together in a uniquely Indian way.
A rejection of the path of violence, indeed of a whole way of understanding history.
While he was here, Ashoka gave rich gifts to the poor and the sick of this part of Bihar.
He consulted with the local communities about proper governance, about good conduct citizenship I suppose we'd call it today.
Forming in his mind now was an idea for a political order such had never been conceived of before in the history of the world.
All over India he carved his edicts on rocks and great stone pillars, and he erected stupas where he enclosed portions of the ashes of the Buddha, symbols of the source of his moral authority.
Copies of the edicts are still being discovered, 20 of them in the last 40 years.
This one's near the battle site in Orissa.
One of the great documents in the history of the world.
One of the great ideas in the history of the world.
The forerunner, the first forerunner of the U.
N.
Declaration of Human Rights.
This amazing outpouring of ideas all boils down to one idea: all humans are one family.
As Ashoka says, "All men are my children.
" Does that make Ashoka's state sound suffocatingly controlling? Well, maybe.
But as Ashoka himself admitted, it's "hard to persuade people to do good.
" His edicts didn't just cover humans: his are the first animal rights laws in world.
He even had police to enforce them, as they still do today.
As a result, India today has the world's oldest animal hospitals in the world.
So this is This is Raja.
This is Raja, who is the oldest inmate here.
Almost the oldest inmate, yes.
Hi, Raja! Hello, Raja.
There's a fantastic passage in one of Ashoka's edicts where he says, "I have made these provisions, "which are to ban the killing of certain animals.
"But the greatest thing we could do is to protect "all living things.
" He talks about practical things, but then the ideal.
He understood if you're cruel to animals, you will be cruel to humans as well.
Since animals are powerless, it shows your true nature in your interaction with them because since they can't do anything back to you and you don't have to be worried about anybody reacting, you can be your true self.
In history there have been many empires of the sword but only India created an empire of the spirit.
And from the edicts we learn that Ashoka didn't even stop there.
He sent embassies to the kings of Greece and Macedonia, North Africa, Syria, Babylonia.
All part of his project for the brotherhood of man and world peace.
Ashoka also insisted on toleration between India's many religions.
It's fitting then that here at the sacred confluence of the river Ganges where Indian kings traditionally made greats acts of charity to all faithshis greatest pillar edict still stands today.
A testimony to India's eternal quest for dharma: a just law of life.
There's a key idea that lies behind all these edicts of Ashoka.
And simply it's this: the message isn't from god.
What Ashoka's doing is taking the ideas of the Buddhists, The 8-fold Path truthfulness, compassion, right-conductand the teachings of the Jains on non-violence, and making them, not only the core of personal morality, but of politics.
The social welfare legislation, the teachings on religious toleration and even the ecological measures on the conservation of species and plantsfrom the rhino to the Ganges porpoise the conservation of forests, preservation from needless destruction.
It's moving the sphere of politics away from the sanctions of religion and magic to the rule of reason and morality.
What's on that pillar is an extraordinary product of an extraordinary time.
And when the time came to free India from British rule, what better symbol for the national flag than Ashoka's Wheel of Law.
As for the man himself, his last days are a mystery.
But the legends tell of an old man stripped of everything.
All things must pass even Buddhism itself.
It became the greatest religion of the ancient world.
It's still a power in Asia, but in middle ages it died in the heartland of India.
In the 18th Century when British explorers came seeking its lost history, they dug in the jungle here at Kushinagar, where he died.
And under the forest they found an astonishing image of the Buddha in the moment death, the moment of nirvana.
And that would begin the next cycle of the story.
Spreading the Buddha's message to new lands of the West and to continents the Buddha had never dreamed of.
All across the world now there is a big interest in the Buddha, in Western people also.
Why do you think this is? Buddha message true.
So all people accept.
The Buddha's message is true.
Yes.
Next in "The Story of India" silk roads and spice routes and china ships.
Epics of the south, and lost empires of the north.
And the happiest time in the history of the world.