Ashoka the Great was the emperor of the Mauryan Empire from 273 BC to 232 BC. After a number of military conquests, Ashoka reigned over most of South Asia and beyond, from present-day Afghanistan to Bengal and as far south as Mysore. An early supporter of Buddhism, Ashoka established monuments marking several significant sites in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha, and according to Buddhist tradition was closely involved in the preservation and transmission of Buddhism.
The use of Buddhist sources in reconstructing the life of Ashoka has had a strong influence on perceptions of Ashoka, and the interpretations of his edicts. Building on traditional accounts, early scholars regarded Ashoka as a primarily Buddhist monarch who underwent a conversion to Buddhism and was actively engaged in sponsoring and supporting the Buddhist monastic institution.
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