Andhra Pradesh: ASI swings into action to protect Jonnagiri edict

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Mr Chaitanya said that it was the world’s first rock edict with inscriptions that preach love for wildlife.

KURNOOL: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has swung into action to protect and preserve historical monuments in Kurnool district. Their most recent efforts have been towards the preservation of the Jonnagiri Rock Edict, which dates back to the 3rd century BC.

“For 2,300 years, this edict was left to the vagaries of nature. Now we are making use of technology to preserve it and restore it to its pristine glory,” said K. Krishna Chaitanya, deputy director of the Archeological Survey of India in Kurnool.
He said that an amount of Rs 6 lakh had been sanctioned by the Government of India for the current year, to carry out structural restoration work at the site.
Explaining what makes this rock edict unique, Mr Chaitanya said that it was the world’s first rock edict with inscriptions that preach love for wildlife.

He said that after the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, or Piyadasi, had conquered a vast majority of the Indian subcontinent, he grew sick of the violence, turned to Buddhism and adopted a more pacifist worldview.

At several locations across India and Pakistan, he left behind large rock edicts with inscriptions preaching dhamma and justice, which he understood as an amalgamation of much good, little evil, kindness, generosity, truthfulness and purity.

Jonnagiri is one such edict that Ashoka had built. It is located in the Pattikonda mandal of Kurnool district, and contains inscriptions written in Brahmi script. Historical evidence suggests that it boasts the distinction of being the first edict to preach dharma.

Mr Chaitanya said that in order to make the Brahmi writings more intelligible, the archeological department had taken on a project this year to provide gist boards at the site.

A gist board is a reference tool where every letter of the Brahmi script is transliterated into Telugu and Hindi, and the equivalent grammatical connotations are juxtaposed so that the common public may understand and appreciate the text.

He said that a pavilion has also been constructed to protect the edict. The ASI has spent over Rs 4 lakh for the construction of this pavilion that will protect the monument from rain. He said that an approach staircase had also been built.

The Jonnagiri edict reads “Thus sayeth the beloved of the gods you should act as the instructor of the beloved of the gods. You should order the Rajjukas in their turn should order the people of the countryside as well as the local officers called Ratrikas in the following words. ‘Mother, father, elders are to be loved. Living being should be treated with kindness. Truth must be spoken.” Historian Dr Abdul Khader said that this was the first law in the world to be enacted for the welfare of wildlife.

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