Royals For Religion
Religion has always united sects and communities throughout the history of mankind. Although there have also been wars waged in the name of religion, religion has usually acted as a binding factor which brings people together and helps them connect on a religious and spiritual level. Here are some powerful and famous rulers who believed in the power of religion to unite the world and therefore promoted or even created a religion with the motive to bring about a societal change aid their quest for world peace.
Prince Siddhartha: Prince Siddhartha was an Indian prince who belonged to the Shakya clan which ruled over a kingdom, now in modern-day Nepal. At his birth itself, a sage had predicted that the new-born prince would either become a great emperor or a great philosopher. Due to this prophecy, his father always kept him confined within his palace and away from the society since childhood, so that the young Siddhartha would know no suffering and misery and aspire to become a famous ruler instead of a philosopher. However, fate had other plans. One day, the young prince ventured out of the palace and was greatly troubled when he witnessed instances of aging, sickness and death. It was the sight of a wandering ascetic which convinced him finally that the only way to avert life’s miseries was to renounce worldly comforts in the quest for knowledge and truth. As the legend goes, this young prince went on to become Gautama Buddha, the founder of one of the greatest religions of the world, Buddhism.
Ashoka: A Hindu by birth, Ashoka was an Indian emperor who lived in the fourth century BC. After witnessing the bloodshed and the loss of countless lives during the Kalinga War, Ashoka suffered so much anguish and grief that he discarded his violent ways and turned to Buddhism for solace and comfort. He adopted it as the state religion and began to promote Buddhist thoughts and practices throughout his vast empire. His strong connections with foreign empires allowed him to extend the reach of Buddhism till as far as Greece, Egypt and Syria, which strengthened the roots of Buddhism and made it a world religion.
Constantine: If Christianity is the largest religion of the world today, huge credit goes to Roman emperor Constantine. At a time when different religious sects were engaged in a major conflict of interest, and numerous Christians were being persecuted by powerful emperors such as Diocletian and Maximian, Constantine united them under one religion, Christianity, to reduce bloodshed and promote harmony among his subjects. Although he did not adopt Christianity as the state religion, he issued the Edict of Milan in February 313 AD and gave Christianity a legal status. He also gave Christians special benefits over other religions, thereby encouraging conversion to Christianity. Christians were allowed to practise their religion openly and their properties seized during Diocletian’s reign were returned rightfully to them. During his reign, the Council of Nicaea too was held, which instituted the Nicene Creed, the basis of the faith of every Christian all over the world.
Jahangir: The fourth emperor of the Mughal Empire and the son of Akbar, Jahangir was an avid patron of Islamic thought who readopted Islam as the state religion after he succeeded the throne. Like his father, he too practised religious tolerance and allowed believers of other sects to live and practise their faith freely. But he also promoted Islam wherever possible. His court comprised a vast majority of different Muslim sects such as Persian Sh’ia, Sufis and local Muslims. Jahangir also promoted Islamic art and built many gardens and monuments in the Islamic style of architecture. Like his predecessors and successors, Islamic architectural elements such as domes, muqarnas, mosaics and Islamic calligraphic designs characterised his architectural commissions and set the stage for further work by his son Shah Jahan.