Asoka took a number of measures for the propagation of Dhamma throughout his empire. He adopted the doctrines of Dhamma as a governing principle of his personal life and public policies. Among the significant measures he took in this connection were:
1. Issue of Dhamma Lipis, and Dhamma- stambhas respectively in the form of Rock and Pillar Edicts describing the attributes of Dhamma.
2. Appointment of Dhamma-mahamatras.
3. Dhamma-yatras, royal tours for the propagation of Dhamma.
4. Dhamma-mangala, public welfare activities in accordance with the spirit of Dhamma;
5. Preaching of Dhamma by regulations and persuasions
6. Administrative measures suited to the principles of Dhamma.
Welfare Measures and Administrative Reforms Introduced by Asoka: From the 14 Major Rocks
Edicts and Pillar Edicts of Asoka, we learn of the welfare measures and administrative reforms introduced by Asoka.
Some of the measures and administrative reforms introduced by Asoka are listed below, with references to the concerned epigraphs, wherever necessary:
1. Banning of samaja or pleasure festivals, slaughter of animals for the royal kitchen except two peacocks and a deer (Rock Edict
2. Institution of quinquennial circuits or Inspection Tours by officers for missionary as well as administrative work (Rock Edict III).
3. Appointment of Dhamma mahamatras for ‘ the propagation of Dhamma redressing wrongs and public grievances and organising charitable gifts among own subjects as well as among foreigners (Rock Edict V).
4. Appointment of Stri-adhyaksha- mahamatras for the welfare of women and the propagation of Dhamma amongst them.
5. Institution of Pious Royal Tours for preaching Dhamma and distribution of charities to ascetics, old and disabled persons.
6. Regulations restricting slaughter and mutilation of animals and birds like parrots, mainas, red-headed ducks, swans, pigeons, bats, tortoises, boneless fish, deer, domesticated animals, and all quadrupeds which are of no utility and are not eaten. Slaughter, catching, branding and castration of some animals were also banned on certain specified days of the month (Pillar Edict V). Banning of sacrificial slaughter of animals in the capital (Rock Edict I)
7. Premature Release of Prisoners on humane considerations on Anniversaries of Asoka’s Coronation (Pillar Edict V).
8. Grant of Reprieve of three days to convicts sentenced to death, so as to provide them with the last opportunity to express repentance for their sins, to make donation or undertake fast for “a better rebirth in the next life”.
9. Judicial Reforms relating to fair justice, uniformity in judicial procedure and punishment. Measures for checking abuses of justice
10. Works of Public Utility, opening of hospitals for human beings and animals, botanical gardens for the culture of medicinal plants, including “herbs, roots and fruits”, digging of wells and planting of trees on the roads for the comforts of travellers and animals (Rock Edict II).
11. Programme of Public Works which comprised of planting of shade-giving banyan trees and groves of mango-trees on the roads, digging of wells at every half-kos of the roads, construction of rest-houses, providing water-huts for use of human beings and animals, etc. (Pillar Edict VII).