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HISTORY OF PSYCHIATRY
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 57  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 95-97

Emperor Ashoka: Did he suffer from von Recklinghausen's diseases?


1 Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India
2 Consultant Dermatologist, Chhuttani Medical Centre, Chandigarh, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. N N Wig
279, Sector 6, Panchkula - 134 109, Haryana
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0019-5545.148536

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Emperor Ashoka is widely regarded as one of the greatest rulers of India. This paper mainly deals with his medical condition as recorded in the Buddhist texts of Sri Lanka as well as in the Buddhist texts of North India and Nepal. These sources mention his skin disorder which is described as very rough and unpleasant to touch. He is also known to have episodes of loss of consciousness at various times in his life. One of the earliest representations of Ashoka, about 100 years after his death at one of the gates of Sanchi Stupa, shows Ashoka fainting when visiting the Bodhi tree and being held by his queens. In this sculpture, Emperor Ashoka is shown as a man of short height, large head and a paunchy abdomen. In this paper, it is speculated that Emperor Ashoka was probably suffering from von Recklinghausen disease (Neurofibromatosis Type 1), which could explain his skin condition, episodes of loss of consciousness (probably epilepsy) and other bodily deformities.



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