Doon Valley Diary; The Rock Edict of Ashoka at Kalsi

Ashoka Pillars guarding the entrance

A replica of Ashoka Pillars guarding the entrance (twitter: @satravell is now @gobnomadic)

As we were heading to Chakrata in the spring of 2013, an Information Board by the highway, near Herbertpur, announced the location of an Asokan Rock Edict at Kalsi still a few kilometres ahead. Honestly speaking, none of us had any idea that the approach to the historical site was on this particular stretch of the highway in the Vale of Doreen.  Even the guidebook we used to rely upon failed in its purpose to provide any useful information about the site. The next thing I knew we were at the spot looking for clues to be captured.

The entrance-lane to the site lies towards the right side at the end of the main market of Kalsi town. Located near the confluence of Yamuna and Tons, Kalsi is about 50 km from Dehradun on the road to Chakrata via Herbertpur. The military barricade on the road to Chakrata is positioned just ahead of the market of Kalsi after which foreigners are required to furnish a permission from the Home Ministry to venture beyond.

The paved entrance to the site

The paved entrance to the site at Kalsi

The Great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (273 – 232 BC) got his fourteenth edict inscribed on a rock at Kalsi. However, the site was brought to light by John Forest in 1860. Considered to be one of the most important monuments in the field of Indian epigraphy, the rock edict is looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Representing the times when Ashoka had vowed himself to be a Buddhist, after having conquered a substantial chunk of the globe, the 10 x 8 ft-rock edict is identified in Prakrit language and Brahmi script.

The fourteenth rock edict of Ashoka

The fourteenth Rock Edict of Ashoka

Having embraced Buddhism, Ashoka is known to have got 14 rocks inscribed, spread across his empire, with a unique religious message on each. The edicts reflect Ashoka’s humane approach towards his administration and his commitment to non-violence as well as abandonment of warfare. The inscriptions are believed to be a testimony to the fact that what Ashoka preached also practiced.

The small garden around the dome appeared to be a reasonable place to picnic. The landscape from the site presented with a rich frame comprising fertile fields spread on successive ledges till the bank of Yamuna against the backdrop of shallow hills. I wondered what the scene would have been back in the Ashokan times.

In its heyday, the region surely must have been the best of tarai forests full of wildlife. Even as recently as the late 1940s, the valley of Jungle Princess Doreen, Dehradun was full of tigers and other big cats. On a sadder note, the current state of wildlife appears to be very gloomy despite the presence of two national parks – Rajaji National Park and Kalesar National Park – in the vicinity of Dehra Valley. Nevertheless, the vale continues to be popular with birding enthusiasts.

The dome was constructed in 1912 by the then government to protect the rock

This building, the dome, over the Rock Edict was constructed by the Government of the United Provinces in March 1912 to protect the inscription

Kalsi can be visited round the year albeit if you are okay with the idea of spending a hot summer afternoon at an average altitude of 750 m. Apart from a lone FRH at Kalsi, the nearest appreciable accommodation options are at Dakpathar (just four km) or Asan barrage.

23 Comments on “Doon Valley Diary; The Rock Edict of Ashoka at Kalsi

    • Thanks maryshoobridge for dropping by. And showering it with appreciation. Hope you’d want to visit again.

  1. Hi Bnomadic,
    I was going through your blogs. I am from Uttarakhand.
    I must say very weoll presented blogs, brilliant photography.Nice to have such bloggers

    • Thank you for visiting and appreciating the blog Ankit. Which part of Dev Bhoomi you belong to? Look fwd to exchanging notes on the region.

      • I am from haldwani ,uttarakhand,studied in nainital and then shifted to Delhi..currently in Hyd..however my hometown is still haldwani..I really liked your blog…did u see our..
        Inandouttravel.WordPress.com

  2. Interesting. One of the Ashokan edicts is in my hometown, at the place where the Mauryan Court used to be centuries ago 🙂

  3. Pingback: Garhwal Diary: The ancient temple of Lakhamandal | bNomadic

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