Ashoka the Great, Buddhist Mauryan king, erected a series of pillars in different states of North India around the third century B.C. These pillars are mainly found in the states of Utter Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, etc, which were part of the Mayura dynasty those days.
Pillar at Sarnath is the most famous among such pillars of Ashok. This pillar has four lions in standing posture with Ashoka Chakra (wheel) at the center. There is also an elephant, galloping horse, a bull and a lion; these being separated by the wheels of the chariot over the bell-shaped lotus. Each of these four animals has great significance in Gautama Buddha‘s life. This pillar was carved out of a single block of sandstone.
Ashoka Chakra has much significance to Indians and India. It is the official emblem of the Government of India. The Ashoka Chakra (chakra means wheel) is there at the center of India’s national flag.
19 pillars are surviving currently at different parts of North India; more were said to have been damaged. These pillars were erected by the great Ashoka, who was attracted to Buddhism, to propagate the teachings of the Lord Gautama Buddha.
Each of these pillars is 40 to 50 feet in height. These pillars were quarried from Chunar near Varanasi and dragged and erected at the current sites.
Emperor Ashoka is estimated to have build 33 Edicts, which included minor rock edicts, major rock edicts and pillar edicts. These rock edicts are spread across India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Where are the other Ashoka Pillars located?
Apart from the pillars at Saranath, there are 2 Ashok pillars in Delhi. There are Ashok pillars at Vaishali, Lauriya-Areraj and Lauriya-Nandangarh (all in Bihar state). Another Ashoka pillar is there at Allahabad (in Utter Pradesh state).