Priyadasi, also Piyadasi or Priyadarshi, was the name of a ruler in ancient India, or simply an honorific epithet which means "He who regards others with kindness", "Humane", "He would glances amiably".
The title "Priyadasi" appears repeatedly in the ancient inscriptions known as the Major Rock Edicts or the Major Pillar Edicts, where it is generally used in conjunction with the title "Devanampriya" ("Beloved of the Gods") in the formula "Devanampriya Priyadasi". Some of the inscriptions rather use the title "Rajan Priyadasi" ("King Priyadarsi"). It also appears in Greek in the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription (c. 260 BCE), when naming the author of the proclamation as βασι[λ]εὺς Πιοδασσης ("Basileus Piodassēs"), and in Aramaic in the same inscription as "our lord, king Priyadasin" (פרידארש pryd’rš).
According to Christopher Beckwith, "Priyadasi" could simply be the proper name of an early Indian king, author of the Major Rock Edicts or the Major Pillar Edicts inscriptions, whom he identifies as probably the son of Chandragupta Maurya, otherwise known in Greek source as Amitocrates.
Prinsep had originally identified Priyadasi with the King of Ceylon Devanampiya Tissa. However, in 1837, George Turnour discovered a Siamese version of the Sri Lankan manuscript Dipavamsa, or "Island Chronicle", associating Piyadasi with the early Maurya dynasty:
"Two hundred and eighteen years after the beatitude of the Buddha, was the inauguration of Piyadassi, .... who, the grandson of Chandragupta, and the son of Bindusara, was at the time Governor of Ujjayani."
It was then supposed that this Priyadasi, being a Mauryan, was probably the Ashoka of Buddhist accounts. Because of the association in the Dipavamsa, the title "Priyadasi" is thought to have been used by the Indian Emperor Ashoka (r.269-233 BCE) in his inscriptions (the Edicts of Ashoka).
In inscriptions, the title "Priyadarsin" is often associated with the title "Devanampriya" ("Beloved of the Gods"). Separately, the title also appears in "Devanampriya" in conjunction with the name "Ashoka" as in the Minor Rock Edict inscription discovered in Maski, associating Ashoka with Devanampriya:
[A proclamation] of Devanampriya Asoka.
Two and a half years [and somewhat more] (have passed) since I am a Buddha-Sakya.
[A year and] somewhat more (has passed) [since] I have visited the Samgha and have shown zeal.
Those gods who formerly had been unmingled (with men) in Jambudvipa, have how become mingled (with them).
This object can be reached even by a lowly (person) who is devoted to morality.
One must not think thus, — (viz.) that only an exalted (person) may reach this.
Both the lowly and the exalted must be told : "If you act thus, this matter (will be) prosperous and of long duration, and will thus progress to one and a half.— Maski inscription of Ashoka.
- Beckwith, Christopher I. (2017). Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia. Princeton University Press. pp. 235–240. ISBN 978-0-691-17632-1.
- The Cambridge Shorter History of India. CUP Archive. p. 42.
- Sircar, D. C. (1979). Asokan studies. p. 113.
- Allen, Charles (2012). Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor. Little, Brown Book Group. p. 79. ISBN 9781408703885.
- The Dîpavaṃsa: An Ancient Buddhist Historical Record. Williams and Norgate. 1879. pp. 147–148.
- Gupta, Subhadra Sen (2009). Ashoka. Penguin UK. p. 13. ISBN 9788184758078.
- Inscriptions of Asoka. New Edition by E. Hultzsch (in Sanskrit). 1925. pp. 174–175.