Nayanjot Lahiri

That Mountain Echoes’ sixth edition, which coincides with the celebrations of the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck reminds me of another monarch in whose reign royal and public events coincided in an amazing way.

I am thinking of Ashoka (‘the sorrowless one), the third emperor of the dynasty of the Mauryas who is the subject of my book – ASHOKA IN ANCIENT INDIA. This will appear just before the Mountain Echoes’ begins. This monarch prohibited the killing of various classes of animals and fish as also cruelty to them on certain days every year. Two of these were the ‘Tishya’ and ‘Punarvasu’ constellations which were supposed to signify the birth star and the consecration star of the emperor. Basically, the provisions were instruments of control for reducing animal slaughter and cruelty. What makes them extraordinary is that the purpose of stipulating such days for protective measures endowed moral meaning to what had, till then been auspicious days in the calendar of kingship and ritual.

The 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk will be celebrated in many ways but he would no doubt be surprised to know that many centuries before his time, a morally credible monarch of India had used the important anniversaries of his kingship in a somewhat similar fashion.

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