THE EDICT PROJECT
Through this project, we hope to reimagine Ashoka's edicts in musical form. The project aims at creating vibrant academic, socio-political and aesthetic conversations around the edicts.
WHAT ARE ASHOKA'S EDICTS?
Ashoka, Emperor of the Mauryan empire, reigned from 268 BCE to 232 BCE. As with his father Bindusara (often conflated with Bimbasara) and grandfather Chandragupta, he believed in expanding, consolidating and ruling his empire centred around Pataliputra (modern Patna) through the traditional means of imperial kingship. After the violent annexing of Kalinga, King Ashoka underwent a transformation and dharma became the pivot of his royal policy and personal belief. He disseminated these ideas through a novel medium: a series of inscriptions incised on natural rock-faces and on pillars. These can be seen across India from 'up-north' to 'down-south', and also in modern-day Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Known as 'Edicts', the inscriptions are, in the central and eastern parts of India, in Prakrit using the Brahmi script and in the north-west, in Kharoshthi, Greek and Aramaic.
The edicts are addressed to his subjects who, he says in his edict in Kalinga, are to him as his own children.
WHY ASHOKA'S EDICTS?
Ashoka's edicts are simple, brief and personal. But yet are profound, abiding and universal. They have been translated, published and quoted as signals of the soul. Sung in the original Prakrit in a garland of ragas drawn from the Karnatik tradition, with their meaning given in English sub-titles, they now carry the philosopher-emperor's vision of a humane society into the realm of the arts.
The first set of 4 edicts taken from different locations have been set to music and shared on October 14th, the day Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism.