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Mahanayak Kharvel Ep. 2

( In a time of religious and political change, Jainism and Buddhism flourished in India, with Emperor Ashoka expanding Buddhism through his empire. However, the unconquerable kingdom of Kalinga stood firm, revered their deity Lord Kalingajin, and resisted Ashoka's attempts at conquest. Despite a fierce battle, Ashoka's heart softened upon witnessing the suffering, leading him to reconsider his ambitions for expansion and initiate a new era in Kalinga. )

Ashoka spent the last four years of his life seeking repentance and peace. He revisited the texts of his beloved religion, Buddhism, and sought the interpretations from Buddhist monks. Realizing that for a religion to shine, the soul, like a garment, must be pure, Ashoka Priyadarshi  cleansed the garment of his own soul and embraced the colour of religion. As he delved deeper, he understood that some spiritual principles were unanimously accepted across all religions without any conflict. Ashoka propagated these vital principles among his people, erected stupas, inscribed edicts, and propagated the Wheel of Dharma. This would eventually lead to the fame of the "Ashoka Chakra" in the future. The philosophical principles he initiated also spread as a form of Buddhism. Thus, Buddhism took on a new form.


Finally, the end of this 'Ashoka era' came in verse 243. Ashoka's life was filled with numerous struggles and changes. Despite being the capable heir to the Magadha Empire's throne, he had to face many challenges along the way. Even in matters concerning his successor, nature did not favor him. 


Ashoka's capable heir was his son, Kunala, who earned several epithets for his valour. Ashoka sent him to Takshashila, a renowned city with a famous university, to receive an education. However, there he fell victim to the intrigues of his stepmother. Kunala lost his eyesight and became blind. 


When Ashoka learned of this news, he was consumed by anger like never before. He could not tolerate such a tragedy befalling his capable heir and beheaded  the queen who plotted against him and the unworthy, deceitful, and ambitious prince. He knew the extent of damage such incompetent and power-hungry individuals could cause to the empire, having experienced such situations himself. Consequently, fear spread throughout the royal lineage, and conspirators began to tremble.


Taking care of his blind son Kunala and his grandson Samprati, Ashoka entrusted him to the Avanti Janapada, Kumārabhūti.


Ashoka seated his left and Kunala to his left and  Samprati to his right. He took the hand of his  beloved  blind son in his own, and cradled his dear grandson Samprati in his lap, gently stroking his head. Then he declared, "I, Ashoka, the Mauryan Emperor, beloved of the gods, protector of the Himalayas to the ocean, declare Samprati as my successor to the throne of the vast empire extending to the western shores of Kalinga."


With cheers, the entire populace approved of this declaration, but on the other hand, the faces of Ashoka's other sons, Punyarath, and others became crestfallen. Ashoka was also aware that he hadn't become such an emperor for nothing.


"And I advise Samprati to go to the city of his coronation, Ujjain, to rule over the entire land of India," he continued. Speaking with such selflessness, Ashoka began, "The city on whose throne Emperor Chandragupta, Emperor Bindusara, and King Ashoka ruled has now fulfilled its destiny. Pataliputra now belongs to Lord Buddha. Who knows what its future holds? O my great ancestors! Forgive me. I could not uphold your throne. But your empire will remain united."


Then Ashoka looked towards Samprati. Their eyes met, and in that moment, it seemed as if everything was communicated through their gaze. As Samprati  stood up,Ashoka handed him the pure iron sword of their ancestors. Samprati took the sword in his hand, lifted it towards the sky, and proclaimed, "May the Mauryan Empire flourish, may the Mauryan Empire remain united."


The entire assembly applauded these words wholeheartedly. At that moment, Punyarath and his general also spoke words of congratulations in a loud voice. They believed that Samprati would go to Ujjain. If not today, then tomorrow, Pataliputra would be theirs. Once Pataliputra was in their hands again, how long would it take to conquer the whole of Magadha and then the entire Indian subcontinent? Then, the entire India and millions of people would chant in unison, "Long live Emperor Punyarath, victory be upon him."


Punyaraths hidden dreams of  hope and desire were not hidden from the eyes of  Ashoka. He began to laugh with pity and disdain towards him. On one side was Samprati, shining like a  sun for the bright future of India, and on the other side were weak heirs like twinkling stars...


In reality, Samprati did not feel secure in Pataliputra. His personal opinion was also that he should govern the Mauryan Empire while residing in Avanti. He had to work very hard to convince his grandfather Ashoka of this, and finally, Ashoka agreed to it. 


And then, rising from the magnificent throne of Patliputra's Sugangeya Mahaprasad, Ashoka seemed as if the entire empire rose with him. The central administration of India, which was in Rajgriha during the time of Lord Mahavira, then moved to Champapuri for a while and had been governed from Patliputra for the past approximately 200 years during the reigns of Udayi,nine Nandas and three Mauryas; was now relocated. For almost a century the center of the unified Mauryan rule over India was to be  Ujjain in Avanti.


Although what difference would it make to the Kalingvasis? Whatever dynasty of the Mauryan dynasty would be, what benefit would they get from it? However, it was known worldwide that Samprati had a special affection for Jainism. If Samprati were in Pataliputra, would the Kalingavasis be ready to regain Kalinga as a donation of their sovereignty, their heartbeat, as a gift or as a favor? They believed that by defeating Pataliputra, they would take control with authority. They believed that someone would come to the throne of Kalinga who would invade Pataliputra and bring back Kalinga. Their faith was boundless, their patience immense. And King Kshemaraj of Kalinga, who had previously defeated Ashoka but had won even in defeat, was now in a position of defeat after victory. He faced many immediate questions, many problems. There were many questions from the public, from the city, questions about rivers, lakes, fortresses, treasures, trade, state administration, etc. Ashoka had inflicted a wound that would take a long time to heal. Before the solution to these questions, King Kshemaraj succumbed to the lap of time.


Their successor Maharaja Vriddhraj inherited a fractured and dependent empire from his father. Such an empire where numerous questions and problems abounded. Only God knew when their end would come? The blows of these questions had aged the Maharaja prematurely according to his name. How could any other thought be considered without resolving these questions? When questions arise within the household, how can one contemplate matters outside the home? In such a situation, every resident of Kalinga eagerly awaited the arrival of the Kalingjin, but the hour of arrival kept slipping away. The generation that recited the rosary of Kalingjin had become a victim of time. Now a new generation had arrived. But it was surprising that even today the story of Kalingjin and its allure was as strong as ever. The incredible devotion of the people towards Kalingjin was astonishing. Along with the pride of the country, the reverence for Kalingjin was also inherited in this people's legacy. The honour and respect for Kalingjin flowed in the veins of this populace. Kalingjin were the national deities here, and like the national flag, they were the recipients of all Kalingvasis' respect.


At that time, there were two different things: religion and lineage. The city of Upkeshpur, which was in Rajasthan, Mewar, and Marwar regions, was inhabited by powerful Kshatriyas. They all followed Kshatriya customs. Demonstrating power, warfare, and public welfare were the traditional customs of their lineage. Even though warfare was violent, it was naturally accepted. In such regions, the influential Acharya Ratnaprabhasuri came. Their ancestors were followers of Lord Parshvanath and after the establishment of Lord Mahavir's Dharma Chakra, they became part of Lord Mahavir's Sangha. In 70 AD, Acharya Bhagwant enlightened one lakh eighty thousand Kshatriyas of Upkeshpur with the Jain religion, and the Upkesh dynasty began from here. Today, they are known as the Oswal dynasty. All these Kshatriyas also followed their lineage customs and also followed the Jain religion.


At that time, a person who had become a Buddhist from his ancestors' tradition was also free to follow the Jain religion as per his wishes. Many Brahmins also followed the Buddhist religion. Even though the great scholar Chanakya himself belonged to a Brahmin family, and after following the traditions of his lineage such as the sacred thread, sacred thread, saffron robes, etc., he still followed the Jain religion from the heart. Lineage and religion were both independent of each other and were followed independently.


During the time of Lord Mahavir Swami, a wandering ascetic named Ambad accepted the religion of Lord Mahavir along with his 700 disciples, but he did not give up asceticism. Even while adhering to the rules of asceticism, he diligently followed Jain practices.


This was the time when the people of Kalinga, according to the traditions of their lineage, the customs of their lineage, had learned to respect, love, and worship the Acharya Jain Munis of Achelak and the Jain Munis residing on the mountains of Kumargiri, who were indifferent to the world and engaged in intense penance. This was their family duty. And today, for almost two centuries, they had been living in the absence of Kalingjin, their eyes longing for its sight.


In this regard, in VS 243, Emperor Samprati became the founder of the Maurya Empire. He also faced many challenges. He had to overcome many internal and external conspiracies and wars.


However, Emperor Samprati came with the extraordinary merit of his past lives.  Just as Ashoka had received blessings from the Buddhist monk Upagupta, Emperor Samprati also received abundant blessings from the Jain Acharya Arya Suhastisuriji. As a pure Jain, the only desire in the heart of this emperor was, "The Jain religion has given me so much glory, such a great empire, such noble gurus, and spiritual consciousness, why shouldn't all of this be available to the entire world?" And for this reason, he made extensive efforts to spread the Jain religion throughout India and beyond, to Burma, Ceylon, and China. He sent his ministers, generals, and guards dressed as Jain monks for the propagation of the faith. The goal of Samprati was very different from that of Emperor Ashoka. There was no expectation of gaining anything in return for spreading the religion.His only feeling was that what I have received should be available to everyone, for the welfare of all living beings in the world.


Just as Ashoka propagated a new religion, Samprati made no attempt whatsoever to do such a thing. He spread the Jain religion in its ancient and eternal form both in India and abroad. He attracted the attention of the entire Jain community towards himself, and until the end of his life, this virtuous emperor kept his influence over the entire Maurya Empire. During the time of Emperor Ashoka, the empire expanded due to the virtuous influence of Emperor Samprati, and stability also came. Even great rulers considered it an honour to be part of the Maurya Empire. Many rulers had either come under Samprati's protection or were afraid of him.


However, some people from within were attempting to destabilize the empire. After Ashoka's death, the throne of Pataliputra remained vacant for three years because its administration was being conducted from Avanti Ujjaini, so there was no question of filling the throne of Pataliputra.


However, after three years of continuous power struggles, Ashoka's son Punyarath finally ascended the throne of Pataliputra in VS 243. He was also a devotee of the Sugata Dharma like his father, and the Buddhist monks also contributed significantly to his accession to power. While Emperor Samprati could confront external adversaries, what could he do in front of his own people? And Punyarath, who was Samprati's uncle, sitting on the throne of Pataliputra, pondered day and night when he would get the opportunity to seize the entire Maurya Empire. Emperor Samprati had now left Pataliputra. Ashoka's prophecy seemed to be coming true. Now, Avanti was becoming the center of power instead of Magadha. Meanwhile, the entire Magadha was coming under the control of Punyarath. On the surface, Samprati's rule was in Magadha, but internally, it was Punyarath who was running the state.

 In VS 250, Punyarath's power weakened. None of his plans worked, and eventually, he departed from this world. His son Vriddharath, also known as Brihadrath, ascended the throne in his place. At that time, amidst inequality, there was one equality – Magadha was ruled by Brihadrath, and Kalinga was ruled by Vriddharaj.


In VS 275, Kalingajin, the pride of Kalinga, hoping to bring it back, leaving King Kshemaraj exhausted, died in despair,. His desires remained unfulfilled, and Punyarath's desires also remained incomplete. However, there was a difference in their aspirations. While one harbored a desire for power and importance, the other's heart overflowed with love and devotion for the nation.


Brihadrath didn't seek to expand his power but to indulge in the pleasures of kingship. He desired to immerse himself in royal luxuries. At that time, Greek rulers from Takshashila began to assert their influence. Since the time of Chandragupta, they had been eyeing to subjugate Magadha, and now, after more than 150 years, they saw an opportunity. With a weak king ruling over Magadha, Emperor Samprati was not concerned about Magadha or Pataliputra. He was not inclined to intervene in Magadha, as doing so could be detrimental to his own interests. However, as long as Emperor Samprati reigned, the entire India remained secure and united. The Greeks were still fearful because the sun of the Maurya dynasty, Emperor Samprati's vigour, was shining brightly.


During that time, while Takshashila was under Greek influence, the Mauryan Empire was divided into five regions. The first was Uttarapath, which included Kamboj, Gandhara, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Punjab, with Takshashila as its capital. The second division was Paschim-chakra, consisting of Saurashtra, Gujarat, Malwa, and Rajasthan, with Emperor Samprati himself overseeing its governance. The third division was Dakshinapath, encompassing the entire southern region from the Vindhyachal range, with Suvarnagiri as its capital. The fourth division was Kalinga, ruled by Vriddharaj under the authority of the Mauryan dynasty. The fifth division was Madhyadesh, comprising Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Bengal, with its capital at Pataliputra, which was governed by a weak ruler named Brihadrath. His grip over the region was gradually weakening.


During that period, the Satavahana dynasty was rising in Andhra. Simukha and his brother Krishna had already ruled, and at that time, Satkarni I was on the throne. From Kalinga to the island of Sri Lanka, various small kingdoms and republics were being governed, all either directly or indirectly under Emperor Samprati's authority. By then, 276 years had passed since Lord Mahavira's nirvana. King Vriddharaj had been ruling for only a year, and during his reign, a child was born in his kingdom. This child is the main character of our story - the future King Kharavela. He is also known as Bhikshuraj, Mahameghavahana, and Maharaja Kharaveladhipati.


Now that we've set the stage, let's delve into the story of his life.


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