C. 268-232 BC: Ashoka and the first declaration of religious tolerance

Ashoka’s iconic pillar of Sarnath, c. 250 BC (Public Domain)


In the 3rd century BC, the Mauryan king Ashoka inscribes a number of edicts in stone in present day India. The inscriptions include one of history’s first ‘declarations of religious tolerance’:


“Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as their root restraint in speech, that is, not praising one’s own religion, or condemning the religion of others without good cause. And if there is cause for criticism, it should be done in a mild way.”
– The Edicts of King Ashoka

Read Ashoka’s edicts in full here.