Posts Tagged ‘gangapuputaka’


by Bhavani Prakash

Emperor AshokaEmperor Ashoka, the famed Indian ruler (ca. 304–232 BC), converted to Buddhism and was instrumental in the spread of the religion in the Indian subcontinent and beyond.  It’s interesting to see the protection he conferred on several species of animals including the gangapuputaka or the Gangetic Dolphin.

From The Edicts of King Ashoka:

King Asoka, the third monarch of the Indian Mauryan dynasty, has come to be regarded as one of the most exemplary rulers in world history. The British historian H.G. Wells has written: “Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history … the name of Asoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star.” Although Buddhist literature preserved the legend of this ruler — the story of a cruel and ruthless king who converted to Buddhism and thereafter established a reign of virtue — definitive historical records of his reign were lacking. Then in the nineteenth century there came to light a large number of edicts, in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These edicts, inscribed on rocks and pillars, proclaim Asoka’s reforms and policies and promulgate his advice to his subjects.

The Edicts of Ashoka are a collection of 33 inscriptions on the Pillars of Ashoka, as well as boulders and cave walls, made by the Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty during his reign from 269 BCE to 231 BCE. These inscriptions are dispersed throughout the areas of modern-day India, Nepal and Pakistan and represent the first tangible evidence of Buddhism  (Wikipedia)

The Vth Pillar Edict says:

Ganga on vahana (Goddess Ganga on her vehicle, Puputuka) Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ganga.jpg

Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, speaks thus: Twenty-six years after my coronation various animals were declared to be protected — parrots, mainas, //aruna//, ruddy geese, wild ducks, //nandimukhas, gelatas//, bats, queen ants, terrapins, boneless fish, //vedareyaka//, //gangapuputaka//, //sankiya// fish, tortoises, porcupines, squirrels, deer, bulls, //okapinda//, wild asses, wild pigeons, domestic pigeons and all four-footed creatures that are neither useful nor edible.[42] Those nanny goats, ewes and sows which are with young or giving milk to their young are protected, and so are young ones less than six months old. Cocks are not to be caponized, husks hiding living beings are not to be burnt and forests are not to be burnt either without reason or to kill creatures. One animal is not to be fed to another. On the three Caturmasis, the three days of Tisa and during the fourteenth and fifteenth of the Uposatha, fish are protected and not to be sold. During these days animals are not to be killed in the elephant reserves or the fish reserves either. On the eighth of every fortnight, on the fourteenth and fifteenth, on Tisa, Punarvasu, the three Caturmasis and other auspicious days, bulls are not to be castrated, billy goats, rams, boars and other animals that are usually castrated are not to be. On Tisa, Punarvasu, Caturmasis and the fortnight of Caturmasis, horses and bullocks are not be branded.

The Gangetic Dolphin is the National Aquatic Animal of India and is a protected species. However, despite many national committees to clean up River Ganga,  multiple threats exist along the various river systems where the dolphin inhabits – such as intentional killing for dolphin meat and oil, unintentional killing due to entanglement in fish nets, multiple dams and barrages along the rivers that reduce water levels, fish poison and other chemicals, industrial effluents and sewage.

There are only about 2,000 Gangetic Dolphins left. We need to protect them through legislations, but even more through real time action on the ground, if we have to honour the wisdom of the great king of yore.

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