In the year 272 B.C. the great Maurya dynasty's legendary king "Ashoka the Great" looked down from over the vast expanse of the battle field of Kalinga (now the area around Dhauli) littered with bodies after a fierce battle. Even after a well-fought victory, the sight of the aftermath of the war, death and destruction horrified him and resulted in Ashoka's transformation.
He channeled his energy, which he spent earlier in winning wars and conquering, in spiritual pursuit. He became a Buddhist and started following Buddha’s teachings and austere ways of leading life. All the destruction made him think about the ephemeral nature of all earthly things and the utter uselessness of running after the earthly possessions which cease after death.
He also pondered about the usefulness of wars which brings in its wake nothing but death, destruction and misery to mankind. So, what was its use or merit-none. It was due to this awakening that Ashoka, the Great Warrior, became a follower of Buddhism and spent the rest of life spreading the teachings of Buddha far and wide in Orrisa, India and beyond.
Carvings of the head and forelegs of an elephant emerging from the rock mark the spot where the change of heart and transformation of Ashoka occurred. It is said to be the oldest rock cut sculpture in India (3rd century B.C.). This image is symbolic and it symbolizes the birth of Buddha (the enlightened) and the emergence of Buddhism.
The rock edicts at the bottom hill (and the other at Jau Gada), dating from 260 B.C., suggest that the conquered area may have had two administrative headquarters. On these rock edicts, instructions to his administrators how to rule his subjects are carved on stones which are as follows—“You are in charge of many (thousand living beings). You should gain the affection of men. All men are my children, and as I desire for my children that they obtain welfare and happiness both in this world and the other world, the same do I desire for all men..."
These edicts shed much light on the miraculous transformation of a Great King from a ruthlessly ambitious warrior to a benevolent and highly evolved soul dedicating his later life to Buddhist way of life. These inscriptions on these rocks are remarkably clear even after 2000 years.