The pillars of Ashoka are a series of columns dispersed throughout the northern Indian subcontinent. Originally, there must have been many pillars of Ashoka although only ten with inscriptions still survive.
The inscriptions on the pillars described edicts about morality based on Buddhist tenets. Legend has it that Ashoka built 84,000 Stupas commemorating the events and relics of Buddha’s life.
Averaging between forty and fifty feet in height, and weighing up to fifty tons each, all the pillars were quarried at Chunar, just south of Varanasi and dragged, sometimes hundreds of miles, to where they were erected.
The most celebrated pillar is the pillar with the lion capital at Sarnath, where four lions are seated back to back. The pillar at Sarnath is believed to mark the site where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon. It is said to be place where Buddha taught Dharma to five monks.
The pillar at Sanchi also has a similar lion capital.
There are two pillars at Rampurva, one with bull and the other with lion as crowning animal.
The pillar at Sankissa has an elephant as crowning animal.
Five of the pillars of Ashoka (two at Rampurva, one each at Vaishali, Lauriya-Areraj and Lauryia-Nandangarh were possibly marked the course of the ancient Royal highway from Patliputra to the Nepal valley.