India's lost emperor Ashoka Maurya has a special place in history. In his quest to govern India by moral force alone Ashoka turned Buddhism from a minor sect into a world religion and set up a new yardstick for government which had huge implications for Asia. But his brave experiment ended in tragedy and his name was cleansed from the record so effectively that he was forgotten for almost two thousand years. But a few mysterious stone monuments and inscriptions survived, and the story of how these keystones to the past were discovered by British Orientalists and their mysterious lettering deciphered is every bit as remarkable as their author himself. Bit by bit, fragments of the Ashokan story were found and in the process India's ancient history was itself recovered. In a wide-ranging, multi-layered journey of discovery that is as much about Britain's entanglement with India as it as about India's distant past, Charles Allen tells the story of the man who was arguably the greatest ruler India has ever known.
Apart from its clarity and readability another of the book's strengths is the way in which it explains why Ashoka is so important ... Charles Allen nails Ashoka down, while skilfully showing us how he has done it Literary Review It is an inspiring tale, and Charles Allen tells it with the light, unshowy touch that has become second nature to him in his numerous excursions into British India and beyond Spectator An impressively researched, much-needed study, with vaulable period illustrations which should introduce a fascinating historical figues to a new general audience -- Andrew Robinson Independent