Rajesh Thankappan

Rookie - 301 Points (Guwahati)

The Victorious Emperor


The mural painted on the wall
Depicts a famous victory and a fall
The victorious emperor mounted on his regal horse
Surveys the battleground in deep remorse.

Orphaned children, widowed women,
Lamenting parents, bodies devoid of life,
Unclaimed weapons, maimed men,
Were seen strewn all over the battleground.

Emperor Ashoka of the Kalinga war
Shall never from our consciousness stray afar
For his was a victory that did not celebrate a fall
As depicted by the painter on the wall.

Submitted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Edited: Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Topic of this poem: history


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Poet's Notes about The Poem

Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from ca.269 BC to 232 BC. One of India’s greatest emperors, Ashoka reigned over most of present-day India. After the conquest of Kalinga in the Kalinga war which caused the death of more than 100,000/- soldiers, the emperor was filled with a great sense of remorse. He renounced war and embraced Buddhism.

As the legend goes, one day after the war was over, Ashoka ventured out to roam the city and all he could see were burnt houses and scattered corpses. This sight made him sick and he cried the famous monologue:

What have I done? If this is a victory, what’s a defeat then? Is this a victory or a defeat? Is this justice or injustice? Is it gallantry or a rout? Is it valor to kill innocent children and women? Do I do it to widen the empire and for prosperity or to destroy the other’s kingdom and splendor? One has lost her husband, someone else a father, someone a child, someone an unborn infant…. What’s this debris of the corpses? Are these marks of victory or defeat? Are these vultures, crows, eagles the messengers of death or evil?



Words on Ashoka

For eight and twenty years Asoka worked sanely for the real needs of men. Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Asoka shines, and shines, almost alone, a star. From the Volga to Japan his name is still honoured. China, Tibet, and even India, though it has left his doctrine, preserve the tradition of his greatness. More living men cherish his memory to-day than have ever heard the names of Constantine or Charlemagne.
H. G. Wells, in The Outline of History (1920)

Comments about this poem (The Victorious Emperor by Rajesh Thankappan )

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  • Gold Star - 11,883 Points Valsa George (4/14/2014 11:52:00 PM)

    This poem is more powerful than a hundred poems that may be written against violence. An emperor who was shaken from head to foot by the sad spectacle of what he witnessed on the war front after the battle, resolves to stop all violence against man. Kalinga war was a turning point in his life. We see the transformation of a man who regretted his action and saw utter defeat in victory. History there after is replete with stories of what he did to atone his sins and beautify the lives of thousands of his subjects and their progeny! Enjoyed! (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,032 Points Kanav Justa (3/19/2014 3:12:00 AM)

    , , it is believed that he killed 99 of his brothers to get to the throne, , , but he was still wise enough to realize his mistakes and the dark side of the war after the kalinga war, sure we can learn from him, , atleast from the last phase of his life, , , a beautiful poem (Report) Reply

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