|Asoka, the illustrious son of our
sacred Bharat, hailed from the imperial Maurya dynasty that ruled Magadha, for about a
century and a half. He was born to Subhadrangi, one of the sixteen queens of
Bindusara, surnamed 'the Slayer of Foes'. He was baptised as 'Asoka
Vardhana', but was called Asoka, for short. Subhadrangi bore another
son named Vitasoka, who was different from Asoka in every respect, but was great in his own
way. Legends credit him with having atleast 99 brothers, born to the rest
of the fifteen queens. Chief among them was one called Sumana. He was the eldest, and hence the legal
heir to the throne. He figures prominently in the war of succession following his father's
death, but came to no success.
Nothing extraordinary attended the
birth of Asoka, nor were there signs portending the superman in him.
His birth and boyhood were quite common as that of any royal prince.
As a matter of fact, he was just like any other prince of his day, gaily
participating in sports and bouts, and enjoying all the comforts of court life without any reservation,
whatsoever. He never missed any gay company, or festive assembly, spiced with drinking and dancing,
nor did he neglect the learning of skills in swordsman ship and horseman ship, the real marks of a
growing Kshatriya prince of the Aryavartha fame. He ate sumptuously and played jubilantly.
Merry-making and jolly-outings marked his boyhood. He was tempestuous and
boisterous. His pluck and dash were ardently desired and earnestly emulated by
the youth of his time; for, he was like no one else.