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20 Facts About Battle of Kalinga

The Battle of Kalinga was one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in Indian subcontinent. So devastating were the consequences of this battle that the ruthless Mauryan Emporer Ashoka eventually walked the path of peace and adopted Buddhism. He later ruled the vast Mauryan Empire for 40 years with harmony, peace and prosperity. These 40 years of peaceful reign earned him the title ‘Ashoka the Great’. Here are 20 interesting facts about the Battle of Kalinga:

Battle of kalinga

1. It was the bloodiest and the most infamous war ever fought between State of Kalinga (present-day Odisha) and Mauryan Empire.

2. The war was fought in 261 B.C. and was won by the Mauryan Dynasty.

3. The Mauryan army was led by Emperor Ashoka while the Kalinga army was led by Raja Anantha Padmanabhan.

4. The Battle of Kalinga began in 8th year of Ashoka’s rule. Before the battle started, Ashoka sent a letter to King of Kalinga or Kalingaraj where Ashoka asked for complete submission of Kalinga to the Mauryan Empire. This was refused by Kalingaraj.

5. Ashoka’s grandfather, Emperor Chandragupta Maurya tried to conquer Kalinga once but was unsuccessful.

6. Emperor Bindusara, father of Emperor Ashoka, was in a process of territorial expansion but the independent feudal republic of Kalinga was a major hindrance both politically and economically.

7. Emperor Bindusara also made attempts to conquer Kalinga but was defeated.

8. After death of Emperor Bindusara, Emperor Ashoka took a complete charge to annex the State of Kalinga.

9. When Raja Anantha Padmanabhan declined the proposal of complete submission to Mauryan Empire, Emperor Ashoka led an enormous army to Kalinga.

10. The Battle of Kalinga was the only battle in which Emperor Ashoka was present physically.

11. The battle was fought on Dhauli hill and later the whole State of Kalinga was turned into a bloody battlefield.

12. The battle was fierce and claimed the lives of 150,000 warriors of Kalinga and 100,000 Mauryan warriors.

13. It is being said that the battle was so fierce that in aftermath of the battle, Daya River flowing next to the battlefield turned completely red because of the bloodshed.

14. Several thousands of men and women of Kalinga were deported.

15. Emperor Ashoka did win the Battle of Kalinga and the State of Kalinga was eventually annexed by Mauryan Empire but the sheer number of lives lost and the sight of hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded scattered all other the battlefield filled Emperor Ashoka’s heart with remorse and grief.

16. It is said in oral history that one woman of Kalinga came to Ashoka after the war and said that the battle took away her husband, father and son from her and she has nothing to live for. Those words moved Emperor Ashoka so much that he adopted the Buddhism and walked the path of Ahimsa or non-violence.

17. After the Battle of Kalinga, Emperor Ashoka ended his military conquests and completely stopped the territorial expansion policy of Mauryan Empire.

18. Edicts of Ashoka have records of the response of Emperor Ashoka to Kalinga War.

19. After the battle, Ashoka embraced the concept of Dhammavijaya or Victory through Dhamma.

20. Ashoka sent missionaries to Srilanka, Macedonia, Greece and Syria to spread the message of Buddhism and peace.


1. Military History of Orissa. Cosmo Publications, New Delhi ISBN 81-7020-282-5

2. The Edicts of King Ashoka

3. Ashoka the Great, Edicts of Ashoka