What splendour is this ?.............(Battle of Kalinga)

a poem by Rita Joyce Singh, India

Killed cousins, many others,
Returned from exile.
Killed ninety nine half brothers,
Using means of guile.

Not of conscience he was prone,
But goals unending.
To usurp Magadha throne,
He was contending.

He was a great warrior,
Warrior breeding
Upheld, that he strike terror.
Lest, be unheeding.

He would be deemed renegade,
Not worth his own salt.
His life and creed would be trade,
Courting such a fault.

With urge to consolidate,
His great empire.
He did not once hesitate,
To fan desire.

With audacity and stealth,
Spilt blood, set fire.
For this conqueror of wealth,
Means was entire.

Second in line to the throne,
Pruned the first in line.
Called that heir unworthy grown,
Said,”That throne is mine.”

One half brother had escaped,
So it came to pass.
Ruled the neighbour kingdom. Gaped.
Thriving, but Alas!

Gaped , yes, like a thorn-wound wide,
(Good reason to hate).
And pricked dear, emperor’s hide,
Ashoka the Great.

Eight years after ascension,
Kalinga still pricked.
This brave and peaceful nation,
No ruler had licked.

Kalinga was free kingdom,
Good people lived there.
He’d raze it to kingdom come,
That brother beware!

A large army was mounted,
Thrice Kalinga’s score.
More dead than live were counted,
When it was over.

For Kalinga would not yield,
Till he rained hard blows.
And, scorched down the battle field
Ordered, “Take no foes.”

Each standing man, woman or child,
Hacked down to the ground.
Corpses, creatures meek or wild,
Piled up in a mound.

Rivers ran, all shades of red,
He torched homes and huts,
Right before or after dead,
Chopped each, hundred cuts.

When the great battle ended,
Kalinga was gone.
It was razed as intended,
Down to the unborn.

The length of his vast carnage,
Later he surveyed.
Tears sprang hot at the rampage,
Satisfaction swayed.

“Innocent lives have I gored!”
Remorse was wrenching.
He cried till his throat was sored,
Clawing mud, clenching.
“This arm is of my brother,
Could be anyone.
That head is of a mother?
Father? Friend? Or son?

Someone’s hand holds someone’s hand,
Were they newly wed?
Fingers curled around the band,
Oh woe! Bloody red.

What have I done! What have I?
History will tell.
God! Why did I not first die
‘Fore I unleased hell?

Intolerance has free rein,
What splendour is this?
Warriors stomp on the slain,
Everything amiss.

What gain is another’s land?
What prosperity?
Proffered peace, I cut that hand,
What humanity?

They were all good people too,
I killed them, but why?
Once, much loved, given their due,
Unlettered they lie.

Over whelmed! I’m overwhelmed!
This deed, did I seek?
This battlefield is unhemmed,
Store of brave and meek.”

There was worse, for it was worse,
Loud wailings hounded.
Crying for help, giving curse,
Those dying wounded.

Who will forgive from the dead?
Who is left to cry?
Blood-soaked hair, or tails or head
Brutal way to die.

Priest, ascetics, babes gutted,
No place left unfilled.
Fifteen thousand deported,
Hundred thousand killed.

Meaning ‘ one without sorrow’,
Future praised his name.
Peace, he did beg and borrow,
To assuage pain.

Now for close three thousand years,
Ashoka’s words preach.
Stone-writs, recompense of tears,
What that war could teach.

“Women, children and the old,
Men who have good will.
True valour will peace unfold,
Valour does not kill”

Though, lands since are still bloodied,
Fought against or for.
Voices deal words unsteadied,
Let loose Dogs of War.

Note: References: Indian Military History....etc..
Historical records state that Emperor Ashoka said the words “What splendour is this? If this is Dharma what is Adharma. If this is justice what is injustice? What have I done?”

Ashoka ;as a name: Shok =Sorrow, Ashoka =One without sorrow…_

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