Kalinga is now the state of Orissa. Though history is silent as to why the Kalinga war was fought, most likely it was fought over the statue of Jain god “Jina.” In short, the war was over religion. More than hundred thousand were killed and twice that many were enslaved. The Kalinga war, perhaps, gave Asoka a naked view of the destructive power of religion and made him rethink his own religion which was intolerant, incited violence, and glorified wars. This destruction led Asoka to give up wars and become a Buddhist. It made him a big proponent of religious tolerance, secular state, and a believer in peace and human happiness.
But there is more to the story. The statue had been stolen a century earlier from Kalinga and was already installed in Pataliputra when Asoka came to power. When Kharavela, Kalinga’s Jain King, came to power more than a century after Asoka’s death, to avenge the centuries old insult, he attacked and conquered Asoka’s kingdom, and took back the Jina. Even today, Kharavela is a legend in Orissa for restoring Kalinga’s pride.