Source Name : HarperCollins Publishers India

Category Name : General

HarperCollins presents the 3rd edition of The Lecture on 'Ashoka' by Patrick Olivelle, in conversation with Ramachandra Guha | IIC, New Delhi | 6 October 2023

Updated: 18/09/2023

The Lecture
A series of talks by writers and thinkers from around the world brought to Indian audiences.

NEW DELHI, Sept. 18, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- HarperCollins today announced that the third edition of their flagship 'The Lecture' series—Ashoka by Patrick Olivelle—will be based on the celebrated scholar's new book that constructs a fascinating portrait of India's first great ruler, where the figure of Ashoka comes vividly alive, notwithstanding the elusiveness and fragmentary nature of the sources. Keenly awaited and also being published in eight other languages around the world, Ashoka is the first book in the Indian Lives series, edited and curated by Ramachandra Guha.

Ashoka is releasing on 20 September 2023 under HarperCollins' prestigious Fourth Estate imprint.

The inaugural lecture – 'Vivekananda, Guru to the World' by Ruth Harris - was based on her definitive biography of Swami Vivekananda, the Indian monk who shaped the intellectual and spiritual history of both East and West. The second lecture – 'Smoke and Ashes' by Amitav Ghosh – depicted his journey through opium's hidden histories.

Delhi's iconic India International Centre will host the event in the Seminar Hall – 1, 2, 3 on Friday, 6 October 2023, 6:00 p.m. Register here:


A Fourth Estate Book

Hardback | Non-Fiction | History | 400 pp | INR  799

Ashoka, the last great Mauryan emperor, is one of the most iconic figures in Indian history. Under his rule (268–232 BCE) the Mauryan empire extended across almost the entirety of the Indian subcontinent. Apart from his effective reign over his vast kingdom, Ashoka is well known for his renunciation of war, his development of the concept of dhamma, his patronage of Buddhism and his promotion of religious harmony.

Ashoka has been imagined, and reimagined, many times over down the centuries. It has been said that there are at least two Ashokas: the historical Ashoka (whom we know mainly through his inscriptions) and the legendary Ashoka, who is largely a construct of the popular imagination. The distinguished scholar Patrick Olivelle's new book resists the temptation to blend the two — a temptation that many writers have succumbed to — as it seeks to gain deeper insights into the emperor's world.

Based primarily on the inscriptions (which is where Ashoka 'speaks for himself'), Olivelle constructs a fascinating portrait of India's first great ruler, where the figure of Ashoka comes vividly alive, notwithstanding the elusiveness and fragmentary nature of the sources.

Patrick Olivelle says, "For a biographer, Ashoka presents a unique problem. Contemporary accounts of Ashoka are few to none, while he left behind a relatively large corpus of writings. I have attempted to make a virtue of necessity and to draw a portrait of Ashoka — his personality and mindset, his thoughts, and aspirations — as it emerges from his own writings. I seek to make Ashoka come alive to make the readers feel they have had an intimate encounter with the ancient king. I do this under four major spheres of his life and activities: king, Buddhist, moral philosopher, and ecumenist. My hope is that readers will come away as fascinated as I with this philosopher king unique in world history."

Ramachandra Guha says, "As the editor of Indian Lives, it is a great privilege to have Patrick Olivelle's Ashoka as the inaugural volume in the series. In this wonderful book, subject and author are perfectly matched. Professor Olivelle is arguably the greatest living scholar of ancient India, while Ashoka was one of the most remarkable figures in world history, an unusually self-reflective emperor whose ideas have had an enduring legacy. Professor Olivelle's narrative seamlessly juxtaposes the ruler's intentions and actions against the wider political and social background of his times. Ashoka's revolutionary moral philosophy, and his innovations in the practice of kingship, are elaborated with sensitivity and authority. With the rigour of its research, the subtlety of its judgments, and the elegance of its prose, Patrick Olivelle's Ashoka sets new standards in biographical writing."

Udayan Mitra, Executive Publisher, HarperCollins says, "We at HarperCollins are immensely excited to launch a new series of biographies – called Indian Lives – where leading writers and scholars will focus on the life and legacy of important figures from India's history. The series is curated and edited by Ramachandra Guha and will feature biographies of extraordinary individuals who may be separated in time sometimes by centuries but whose impact on shaping the India we live in is indisputable. The first book in the Indian Lives series is a fascinating study of Ashoka by Patrick Olivelle, which to my mind is one of the strongest works of non-fiction publishing this year. I'm particularly pleased that Professor Olivelle will be with us in person to launch the book and deliver The Lecture based on his work."


Patrick Olivelle was born and raised in Sri Lanka. He received his MA from Oxford University and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a past president of the American Oriental Society and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Olivelle was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996, the Career Research Excellence Award by the University of Texas in 2011, the honorary doctorate of Humane Letters by the University of Chicago in 2016 and the Prize of Fondation Colette Caillat of the Institut de France in 2017. He is the author of over thirty books, some of which have won awards from the American Academy of Religion and the Association of Asian Studies.


HarperCollins is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, having begun publishing in India in 1992. HarperCollins India publishes some of the finest writers from the Indian Subcontinent and around the world, publishing approximately 200 new books every year, with a print and digital catalogue of more than 2,000 titles across 10 imprints. Its authors have won almost every major literary award including the Man Booker Prize, JCB Prize, DSC Prize, New India Foundation Award, Atta Galatta Prize, Shakti Bhatt Prize, Gourmand Cookbook Award, Publishing Next Award, Tata Literature Live! Award, Gaja Capital Business Book Prize, BICW Award, Sushila Devi Award, Sahitya Akademi Award and Crossword Book Award. HarperCollins India also represents some of the finest publishers in the world including Harvard University Press, Gallup Press, Oneworld, Bonnier Zaffre, Usborne, Dover and Lonely Planet. HarperCollins India has won the Publisher of the Year Award four times at Tata Literature Live! in 2022, 2021, 2018 and 2016, and at Publishing Next in 2021 & 2015. HarperCollins India is a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers.




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