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Subject: Notes from the Designer #25 - The Scenarios: Battle of Kalinga rss

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Stephen R. Welch
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The Scenarios: Battle of Kalinga, 261 BC

Bindusara was fortunate in having in his sons, especially Ashoka (“Free of Sorrow”), “proconsuls of exceptional ability” who did much to curb the rebellious princedoms and clans in outlying provinces. With their help it was not difficult to maintain the empire inherited from his father, Chandragupta, and even to extend its boundaries.

Ashoka was the proconsul of Takshashila prior to his ascension to the throne, which he seized – as legend has it – as outcome of a fratricidal struggle that he waged after his father became ill. There is no clear evidence, but some scholars suggest that Ashoka is the son of Bindusara and the Greek princess Helen, daughter of Seleucus.

Chandragupta and Chanakya had been hostile to non-monarchial states. Many such states, quasi-democratic oligarchies as well as republics, had been weakened by the wars with Alexander, and that weakness made possible the eventual hegemony of the Mauryan Empire. Thus, the Mauryans had always kept a wary eye on Kalinga. A large and fiercely independent saņgha (republic), Kalinga had been originally conquered by Ugrasena Nanda, but regained its independence during the rule of Sahalya, and remained so until the reign of Ashoka Maurya.

Eight years after his anointment, Ashoka marched on Kalinga. On a battlefield near the village of Dhauli the Kalingan army was defeated. Records affirm that 100 thousand were slain, 150 thousand were deported (enslaved), and many times that number died thereafter. It is said that the river Daya nearby ran red with the blood of the slain.

After the battle Ashoka ascended the hillocks to survey the field he had won; at twilight he saw heaps of dismembered bodies of soldiers and animals, heard the cries of wounded, witnessed the anguish of women searching the dead for their husbands and sons. As the story is told, the slaughter filled Ashoka with such anguish he changed from Chandashoka (“Ashoka the Terrible”) to Dharmashoka (“Ashoka the Pious”). He became a Buddhist.

There seem to have been no more Mauryan wars after Kalinga. Ashoka codified a civil law for the empire, and expanded its borders – largely through diplomacy, it appears, and through Buddhist missions -- practically over the whole if India except for the extreme south of the peninsula. In the north he built the town of Shrinagari (modern Srinagar) in Kashmir.

The Mauryan Empire collapsed within 50 years of Ashoka’s death. After its collapse, Kalinga briefly enjoyed its own small empire in Southern India.

The names of Kalingan leaders have been lost; names here are taken from prominent Kalingan dynasties that struggled for power when the Mauryan yoke was thrown off a generation later. Names for Ashoka’s subordinates are taken from various sources associated with Ashoka’s regime; Upagupta was Ashoka’s spiritual leader. Since Chanakya is probably retired by now (that rebellion in Takshashila cannot have helped his political career), he is replaced as Ashoka’s second-in-command by Subandhu, who is said to have been Chanakya’s political rival.

The Combatants:
The Mauryan imperial army at its full flower – facing the equally formidable Kalingan army.

The Battlefield:
One full map of flat terrain, with Dhauli hill on a half-map extension. This and the Takshashila scenario are the only battles whose historical location is known. The game map was based upon satellite images of the site provided by Mark Matney.

Special Features:
This is the grand, set-piece battle of the game. A truly huge and bloody battle.

Elephant-pulled chariots were (and still are) well known, but their military use is unclear. Given the ubiquity of Indian war elephant in this era as well as the prestige enjoyed by the chariot, however, we offer the Elephant Chariot (“elCH”). Kalinga was the breeding ground for the best and largest of the beasts that could, presumably, pull a large war-cart (and besides, the Kalingans can use the help).

This is the last of the battles of Chandragupta, and thus the end of our ongoing historical discussion of the Mauryan Empire. Next week, for the last installment of Notes from the Designer, I’ll present an annotated bibliography for the game.

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