The Various Historical and Modern Torture Techniques

Discussion in 'Members Corner' started by OrangeFlorian, Apr 30, 2016.

  1. OrangeFlorian

    OrangeFlorian Anon Supreme Senior Member

    Apr 29, 2016
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    In this thread we will be discussing the various torture techniques and killing methods that were used in the before time as well as today and whether or not they should be used against enemies of the state and prisoners of war to make an example of them as well as whether or not we should encourage our armed forces to employ them on Pakistan civilians/armed forces (with gusto) to pay them back for what they made us go through however unhindu it might be.

    The truth Johnny Depp wants to hide about the real-life Tontos: How Comanche Indians butchered babies, roasted enemies alive and would ride 1,000 miles to wipe out one family

    Comanche Indians were responsible for one of the most brutal slaughters in the history of the Wild West

    The 16-year-old girl’s once-beautiful face was grotesque.

    She had been disfigured beyond all recognition in the 18 months she had been held captive by the Comanche Indians.

    Now, she was being offered back to the Texan authorities by Indian chiefs as part of a peace negotiation.

    To gasps of horror from the watching crowds, the Indians presented her at the Council House in the ranching town of San Antonio in 1840, the year Queen Victoria married Prince Albert.

    ‘Her head, arms and face were full of bruises and sores,’ wrote one witness, Mary Maverick. ‘And her nose was actually burnt off to the bone. Both nostrils were wide open and denuded of flesh.’

    Once handed over, Matilda Lockhart broke down as she described the horrors she had endured — the rape, the relentless sexual humiliation and the way Comanche women had tortured her with fire. It wasn’t just her nose, her thin body was hideously scarred all over with burns.

    When she mentioned she thought there were 15 other white captives at the Indians’ camp, all of them being subjected to a similar fate, the Texan lawmakers and officials said they were detaining the Comanche chiefs while they rescued the others.

    It was a decision that prompted one of the most brutal slaughters in the history of the Wild West — and showed just how bloodthirsty the Comanche could be in revenge.

    S C Gwynne, author of Empire Of The Summer Moon about the rise and fall of the Comanche, says simply: ‘No tribe in the history of the Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan, and American occupations of this land had ever caused so much havoc and death. None was even a close second.’

    He refers to the ‘demonic immorality’ of Comanche attacks on white settlers, the way in which torture, killings and gang-rapes were routine. ‘The logic of Comanche raids was straightforward,’ he explains.

    ‘All the men were killed, and any men who were captured alive were tortured; the captive women were gang raped. Babies were invariably killed.’

    Not that you would know this from the new Lone Ranger movie, starring Johnny Depp as the Indian Tonto.

    For reasons best know to themselves, the film-makers have changed Tonto’s tribe to Comanche — in the original TV version, he was a member of the comparatively peace-loving Potowatomi tribe.

    And yet he and his fellow native Americans are presented in the film as saintly victims of a Old West where it is the white settlers — the men who built America — who represent nothing but exploitation, brutality, environmental destruction and genocide.

    Depp has said he wanted to play Tonto in order to portray Native Americans in a more sympathetic light. But the Comanche never showed sympathy themselves.

    When that Indian delegation to San Antonio realised they were to be detained, they tried to fight their way out with bows and arrows and knives — killing any Texan they could get at. In turn, Texan soldiers opened fire, slaughtering 35 Comanche, injuring many more and taking 29 prisoner.

    But the Comanche tribe’s furious response knew no bounds. When the Texans suggested they swap the Comanche prisoners for their captives, the Indians tortured every one of those captives to death instead.

    ‘One by one, the children and young women were pegged out naked beside the camp fire,’ according to a contemporary account. ‘They were skinned, sliced, and horribly mutilated, and finally burned alive by vengeful women determined to wring the last shriek and convulsion from their agonised bodies. Matilda Lockhart’s six-year-old sister was among these unfortunates who died screaming under the high plains moon.’

    Not only were the Comanche specialists in torture, they were also the most ferocious and successful warriors — indeed, they become known as ‘Lords of the Plains’.

    They were as imperialist and genocidal as the white settlers who eventually vanquished them.

    Real-life: White Wolf, a Comanche Chief, pictured in the late 19th century

    When they first migrated to the great plains of the American South in the late 18th century from the Rocky Mountains, not only did they achieve dominance over the tribes there, they almost exterminated the Apaches, among the greatest horse warriors in the world.

    The key to the Comanche’s brutal success was that they adapted to the horse even more skilfully than the Apaches.

    There were no horses at all in the Americas until the Spanish conquerors brought them. And the Comanche were a small, relatively primitive tribe roaming the area that is now Wyoming and Montana, until around 1700, when a migration southwards introduced them to escaped Spanish mustangs from Mexico.

    The first Indians to take up the horse, they had an aptitude for horsemanship akin to that of Genghis Khan’s Mongols. Combined with their remarkable ferocity, this enabled them to dominate more territory than any other Indian tribe: what the Spanish called Comancheria spread over at least 250,000 miles.

    They terrorised Mexico and brought the expansion of Spanish colonisation of America to a halt. They stole horses to ride and cattle to sell, often in return for firearms.

    Other livestock they slaughtered along with babies and the elderly (older women were usually raped before being killed), leaving what one Mexican called ‘a thousand deserts’. When their warriors were killed they felt honour-bound to exact a revenge that involved torture and death.

    Settlers in Texas were utterly terrified of the Comanche, who would travel almost a thousand miles to slaughter a single white family.

    The historian T R Fehrenbach, author of Comanche: The History Of A People, tells of a raid on an early settler family called the Parkers, who with other families had set up a stockade known as Fort Parker. In 1836, 100 mounted Comanche warriors appeared outside the fort’s walls, one of them waving a white flag to trick the Parkers.

    ‘Benjamin Parker went outside the gate to parley with the Comanche,’ he says. ‘The people inside the fort saw the riders suddenly surround him and drive their lances into him. Then with loud whoops, mounted warriors dashed for the gate. Silas Parker was cut down before he could bar their entry; horsemen poured inside the walls.’

    Survivors described the slaughter: ‘The two Frosts, father and son, died in front of the women; Elder John Parker, his wife ‘Granny’ and others tried to flee. The warriors scattered and rode them down.

    ‘John Parker was pinned to the ground, he was scalped and his genitals ripped off. Then he was killed. Granny Parker was stripped and fixed to the earth with a lance driven through her flesh. Several warriors raped her while she screamed.

    ‘Silas Parker’s wife Lucy fled through the gate with her four small children. But the Comanche overtook them near the river. They threw her and the four children over their horses to take them as captives.’

    So intimidating was Comanche cruelty, almost all raids by Indians were blamed on them. Texans, Mexicans and other Indians living in the region all developed a particular dread of the full moon — still known as a ‘Comanche Moon’ in Texas — because that was when the Comanche came for cattle, horses and captives.

    They were infamous for their inventive tortures, and women were usually in charge of the torture process.

    The Comanche roasted captive American and Mexican soldiers to death over open fires. Others were castrated and scalped while alive. The most agonising Comanche tortures included burying captives up to the chin and cutting off their eyelids so their eyes were seared by the burning sun before they starved to death.

    Contemporary accounts also describe them staking out male captives spread-eagled and naked over a red-ant bed. Sometimes this was done after excising the victim’s private parts, putting them in his mouth and then sewing his lips together.

    One band sewed up captives in untanned leather and left them out in the sun. The green rawhide would slowly shrink and squeeze the prisoner to death.

    T R Fehrenbach quotes a Spanish account that has Comanche torturing Tonkawa Indian captives by burning their hands and feet until the nerves in them were destroyed, then amputating these extremities and starting the fire treatment again on the fresh wounds. Scalped alive, the Tonkawas had their tongues torn out to stop the screaming.

    The Comanche always fought to the death, because they expected to be treated like their captives. Babies were almost invariably killed in raids, though it should be said that soldiers and settlers were likely to murder Comanche women and children if they came upon them.

    Comanche boys — including captives — were raised to be warriors and had to endure bloody rites of passage. Women often fought alongside the men.

    It’s possible the viciousness of the Comanche was in part a by-product of their violent encounters with notoriously cruel Spanish colonists and then with Mexican bandits and soldiers.

    But a more persuasive theory is that the Comanche’s lack of central leadership prompted much of their cruelty. The Comanche bands were loose associations of warrior-raiders, like a confederation of small street gangs.

    In every society, teenage and twenty-something youths are the most violent, and even if they had wanted to, Comanche tribal chiefs had no way of stopping their young men from raiding.

    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
  3. OrangeFlorian

    OrangeFlorian Anon Supreme Senior Member

    Apr 29, 2016
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    Execution by elephant
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Illustration from the Akbarnama, the official chronicle of the reign of Akbar, the third Mughal emperor
    Execution by elephant was a common method of capital punishment in South and Southeast Asia, particularly in India, where Asian elephants were used to crush, dismember, or torture captives in public executions. The animals were trained and versatile, able to kill victims immediately or to torture them slowly over a prolonged period. Most commonly employed by royalty, the elephants were used to signify both the ruler's absolute power and his ability to control wild animals.

    The sight of elephants executing captives both horrified and attracted the interest of European travelers, and was recorded in numerous contemporary journals and accounts of life in Asia. The practice was eventually suppressed by the European empires that colonised the region in the 18th and 19th centuries. While primarily confined to Asia, the practice was occasionally adopted by Western powers, such asAncient Rome and Carthage, particularly to deal with mutinous soldiers.


    Cultural aspects[edit]
    The intelligence, domesticability and versatility of elephants gave it considerable advantages over other wild animals such as lions and bears used as executioners by the Romans. Elephants are more tractable than horses: while a horse can be trained to charge into battle, it will not willingly trample an enemy soldier, and will instead step over him. Elephants will trample their enemies, hence the popularity of war elephants with generals such as Hannibal. Elephants can be trained to execute prisoners in a variety of ways, and can be taught to prolong the agony of the victim by inflicting a slow death by torture or to kill the condemned quickly by stepping on the head.

    Historically, the elephants were under the constant control of a driver or mahout, thus enabling a ruler to grant a last-minute reprieve and display merciful qualities.[1] Several such exercises of mercy are recorded in various Asian kingdoms. The kings of Siam trained their elephants to roll the convicted person "about the ground rather slowly so that he is not badly hurt". The Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great is said to have "used this technique to chastise 'rebels' and then in the end the prisoners, presumably much chastened, were given their lives".[1] On one occasion, Akbar was recorded to have had a man thrown to the elephants to suffer five days of such treatment before pardoning him.[2] Elephants were occasionally used in trial by ordeal in which the condemned prisoner was released if he managed to fend off the elephant.[1]

    The use of elephants in such fashion went beyond the common royal power to dispense life and death. Elephants have long been used as symbols of royal authority (and still are in some places, such as Thailand, where white elephants are held in reverence). Their use as instruments of state power sent the message that the ruler was able to preside over very powerful creatures who were under total command. The ruler was thus seen as maintaining a moral and spiritual domination over wild beasts, adding to their authority and mystique among subjects.[1]

    Geographical scope[edit]
    Geographical scope of executions by elephant
    Execution by elephant has been done in many parts of the world, by both Western and Eastern empires. The earliest records of such executions date back to the classical period. However, the practice was already well established by that time and continued well into the 19th century. While African elephants are significantly larger than Asian elephants, African powers were not known to make as much use of the animals in warfare or ceremonial affairs compared to their Asian counterparts.

    Asian powers[edit]
    South Asia[edit]
    Sri Lanka[edit]
    A condemned prisoner being dismembered by an elephant inCeylon. Illustration from An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon by Robert Knox (1681).
    Elephants were widely used across the Indian subcontinent and South Asia as a method of execution. The English sailor Robert Knox, writing in 1681, described a method of execution by elephant which he had witnessed while being held captive in Sri Lanka. Knox says the elephants he witnessed had their tusks fitted with "sharp Iron with a socket with three edges". After impaling the victim's body with its tusks, the elephant would "then tear it in pieces, and throw it limb from limb".[3]

    The 19th century traveler James Emerson Tennent comments that "a Kandyan [Sri Lankan] chief, who was witness to such scenes, has assured us that the elephant never once applied his tusks, but, placing his foot on the prostrate victim, plucked off his limbs in succession by a sudden movement of his trunk."[4] Knox's book depicts exactly this method of execution in a famous drawing, "An Execution by an Eliphant" (see right).

    Writing in 1850, the British diplomat Henry Charles Sirr described a visit to one of the elephants that had been used by Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, the last king of Kandy, to execute criminals. Crushing by elephant had been abolished by the British after they overthrew the Kandyan kingdom in 1815 but the king's execution elephant was still alive and evidently remembered its former duties. Sirr comments:[5]

    During the native dynasty it was the practice to train elephants to put criminals to death by trampling upon them, the creatures being taught to prolong the agony of the wretched sufferers by crushing the limbs, avoiding the vital parts. With the last tyrant king of Candy, this was a favourite mode of execution and as one of the elephant executioners was at the former capital during our sojourn there we were particularly anxious to test the creature's sagacity and memory. The animal was mottled and of enormous size, and was quietly standing there with his keeper seated upon his neck; the noble who accompanied us desired the man to dismount and stand on one side.

    The chief then gave the word of command, ordering the creature to 'slay the wretch!' The elephant raised his trunk, and twined it, as if around a human being; the creature then made motions as if he were depositing the man on the earth before him, then slowly raised his back-foot, placing it alternately upon the spots where the limbs of the sufferer would have been. This he continued to do for some minutes; then, as if satisfied that the bones must be crushed, the elephant raised his trunk high upon his head and stood motionless; the chief then ordered him to 'complete his work,' and the creature immediately placed one foot, as if upon the man's abdomen, and the other upon his head, apparently using his entire strength to crush and terminate the wretch's misery.

    Elephants were used as executioners of choice in India for many centuries. Hindu and Muslim rulers executed tax evaders, rebels and enemy soldiers alike "under the feet of elephants".[1] The Hindu Manu Smriti or Laws of Manu, written down around AD 200, prescribed execution by elephants for a number of offences. If property was stolen, for instance, "the king should have any thieves caught in connection with its disappearance executed by an elephant."[6] For example, in 1305, the sultan of Delhi turned the deaths of Mongol prisoners into public entertainment by having them crushed by elephants.[7]

    During the Mughal era, "it was a common mode of execution in those days to have the offender trampled underfoot by an elephant."[8] Captain Alexander Hamilton, writing in 1727, described how the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan ordered an offending military commander to be carried "to the Elephant Garden, and there to be executed by an Elephant, which is reckoned to be a shameful and terrible Death".[9] The Mughal Emperor Humayun ordered the crushing by elephant of an imam he mistakenly believed to be critical of his reign.[10] Some monarchs also adopted this form of execution for their own entertainment. Another Mughal ruler, the emperor Jahangir, is said to have ordered a huge number of criminals to be crushed for his amusement. The French traveler François Bernier, who witnessed such executions, recorded his dismay at the pleasure that the emperor derived from this cruel punishment.[2] Nor was crushing the only method used by the Mughals' execution elephants; in the Mughal sultanate of Delhi, elephants were trained to slice prisoners to pieces "with pointed blades fitted to their tusks".[1] The Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta, visiting Delhi in the 1330s, has left the following eyewitness account of this particular type of execution by elephants:[11]

    Upon a certain day, when I myself was present, some men were brought out who had been accused of having attempted the life of the Vizier. They were ordered, accordingly, to be thrown to the elephants, which had been taught to cut their victims to pieces. Their hoofs were cased with sharp iron instruments, and the extremities of these were like knives. On such occasions the elephant-driver rode upon them: and, when a man was thrown to them, they would wrap the trunk about him and toss him up, then take him with the teeth and throw him between their fore feet upon the breast, and do just as the driver should bid them, and according to the orders of the Emperor. If the order was to cut him to pieces, the elephant would do so with his irons, and then throw the pieces among the assembled multitude: but if the order was to leave him, he would be left lying before the Emperor, until the skin should be taken off, and stuffed with hay, and the flesh given to the dogs.

    Other Indian polities also carried out executions by elephant. The Maratha Chatrapati Sambhaji ordered this form of death for a number of conspirators, including the Maratha official Anaji Datto in the late seventeenth century.[12] Another Maratha leader, the general Santaji, inflicted the punishment for breaches in military discipline. The contemporary historian Khafi Khan reported that "for a trifling offense he [Santaji] would cast a man under the feet of an elephant."[13]

    Louis Rousselet described this execution in Le Tour du Monde in 1868
    The early 19th century writer Robert Kerr relates how the king of Goa "keeps certain elephants for the execution of malefactors. When one of these is brought forth to dispatch a criminal, if his keeper desires that the offender be destroyed speedily, this vast creature will instantly crush him to atoms under his foot; but if desired to torture him, will break his limbs successively, as men are broken on the wheel."[14] The naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon cited this flexibility of purpose as evidence that elephants were capable of "human reasoning, [rather] than a simple, natural instinct".[15]

    Such executions were often held in public as a warning to any who may transgress. To that end, many of the elephants were especially large, often weighing in excess of nine tons. The executions were intended to be gruesome and often were. They were sometimes preceded by torture publicly inflicted by the same elephant used for the execution. An account of one such torture-and-execution atBaroda in 1814 has been preserved in The Percy Anecdotes:

    The man was a slave, and two days before had murdered his master, brother to a native chieftain, called Ameer Sahib. About eleven o'clock the elephant was brought out, with only the driver on his back, surrounded by natives with bamboos in their hands. The criminal was placed three yards behind on the ground, his legs tied by three ropes, which were fastened to a ring on the right hind leg of the animal. At every step the elephant took, it jerked him forward, and every eight or ten steps must have dislocated another limb, for they were loose and broken when the elephant had proceeded five hundred yards. The man, though covered in mud, showed every sign of life, and seemed to be in the most excruciating torments. After having been tortured in this manner for about an hour, he was taken to the outside of the town, when the elephant, which is instructed for such purposes, was backed, and put his foot on the head of the criminal.[16]

    The use of elephants as executioners continued well into the latter half of the 19th century. During an expedition to central India in 1868, Louis Rousselet described the execution of a criminal by an elephant. A sketch depicting the execution showed the condemned being forced to place his head upon a pedestal, and then being held there while an elephant crushed his head underfoot. The sketch was made into a woodcut and printed in "Le Tour du Monde", a widely circulated French journal of travel and adventure, as well as foreign journals such as Harper's Weekly.[17]

    The growing power of the British Empire led to the decline and eventual end of elephant executions in India. Writing in 1914, Eleanor Maddock noted that in Kashmir, since the arrival of Europeans, "many of the old customs are disappearing – and one of these is the dreadful custom of the execution of criminals by an elephant trained for the purpose and which was known by the hereditary name of 'Gunga Rao'."[18]

    Southeast Asia[edit]
    Elephants are widely reported to have been used to carry out executions in Southeast Asia, and were used in Burma and Malaysia from the earliest historical times[19] as well as in the kingdom of Champa on the other side of the Indochinese Peninsula.[20] In Siam, elephants were trained to throw the condemned into the air before trampling them to death.[1] Alexander Hamilton provides the following account from Siam:[21]

    For Treason and Murder, the Elephant is the Executioner. The condemned Person is made fast to a Stake driven into the Ground for the Purpose, and the Elephant is brought to view him, and goes twice or thrice round him, and when the Elephant's Keeper speaks to the monstrous Executioner, he twines his Trunk round the Person and Stake, and pulling the Stake from the Ground with great Violence, tosses the Man and the Stake into the Air, and in coming down, receives him on his Teeth, and making him off again, puts one of his fore Feet on the Carcase, and squeezes it flat.

    The journal of John Crawfurd records another method of execution by elephant in the kingdom of Cochinchina (modern south Vietnam), where he served as a British envoy in 1821. Crawfurd recalls an event where "the criminal is tied to a stake, and [Excellency's favourite] elephant runs down upon him and crushes him to death."[22]

    West Asia[edit]
    During the medieval period, executions by elephants were used by several West Asian imperial powers, including the Byzantine, Sassanid, Seljuq and Timurid empires.[1] When the Sassanid king Khosrau II, who had a harem of 3,000 wives and 12,000 female slaves, demanded as a wife Hadiqah, the daughter of the Christian Arab Na'aman, Na'aman refused to permit his Christian daughter to enter the harem of a Zoroastrian; for this refusal, he was trampled to death by an elephant.

    The practice appears to have been adopted in parts of the Muslim Middle East. Rabbi Petachiah of Ratisbon, a twelfth-century Jewish traveler, reported an execution by this means during his stay in Seljuk-ruled northern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq):[23]

    Ottoman miniature depicting the execution of Serbian rebels inBelgrade.[24]
    At Nineveh there was an elephant. Its head is not protruding. It is big, eats about two wagon loads of straw at once; its mouth is in its breast, and when it wants to eat it protrudes its lip about two cubits, takes up the straw with it, and puts it in its mouth. When the sultan condemns anyone to death, they say to the elephant, "this person is guilty." It then seizes him with its lip, casts him aloft and slays him.

    Western empires[edit]
    The Romans, Carthaginians and ancient Macedonians occasionally used elephants for executions while also making use of war elephantsfor military purposes, most famously in the case of Hannibal. Deserters, prisoners of war and military criminals are recorded by ancient chroniclers to have been put to death under the foot of an elephant. Perdiccas, who became regent of Macedon on the death ofAlexander the Great in 323 BC, had mutineers from the faction of Meleager thrown to the elephants to be crushed in the city of Babylon.[25]The Roman writer Quintus Curtius Rufus relates the story in his Historiae Alexandri Magni: "Perdiccas saw that they [the mutineers] were paralyzed and at his mercy. He withdrew from the main body some 300 men who had followed Meleager at the time when he burst from the first meeting held after Alexander's death, and before the eyes of the entire army he threw them to the elephants. All were trampled to death beneath the feet of the beasts...".[26]

    Similarly, the Roman writer Valerius Maximus records how the general Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus "after King Perseus was vanquished [in 167 BC], for the same fault (desertion) threw men under elephants to be trampled ... And indeed military discipline needs this kind of severe and abrupt punishment, because this is how strength of arms stands firm, which, when it falls away from the right course, will be subverted."[27]

    There are fewer records of elephants being used as straightforward executioners for the civil population. One such example is mentioned by Josephus and the deuterocanonical book of 3 Maccabees in connection with the Egyptian Jews, though the story is likely apocryphal. 3 Maccabees describes an attempt by Ptolemy IV Philopator (ruled 221–204 BC) to enslave and brand Egypt's Jews with the symbol of Dionysus. When the majority of the Jews resisted, the king is said to have rounded them up and ordered them to be trampled on by elephants.[28] The mass execution was ultimately thwarted, supposedly by the intervention of angels, following which Ptolemy took an altogether more forgiving attitude towards his Jewish subjects.[29][30]
  4. OrangeFlorian

    OrangeFlorian Anon Supreme Senior Member

    Apr 29, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Ashoka's Hell
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Ashoka's Hell was, according to legend, an elaborate torture chamber disguised as a beautiful palace full of amenities such as exclusive baths and decorated with flowers, fruit trees and ornaments. It was built by King Ashoka (304–232 BCE) in Pataliputra (modern Patna, India), the capital city of the Maurya Empire. The legend of the torture palace is detailed in the Ashokavadana, the text that describes King Ashoka's life through both legendary and historical accounts.

    According to legend, the palatial torture chamber was artfully designed to make its exterior visually pleasing and was referred to as the "beautiful gaol". Beneath the veneer of beauty, however, deep inside the exclusive mansion, torture chambers were constructed which were full of sadistic and cruel instruments of torture including furnaces producing molten metal for pouring on prisoners.

    The narrative mentions that the architect of the chamber was inspired by descriptions of the five tortures of the Buddhist hell for the design of the torture chamber and of the torture methods he inflicted upon his victims. The text of the Ashokavadana, describes how the torture chamber was so terrifying, it caused people to believe that Ashoka had visited hell itself in his quest to perfect its evil design. Through a pact made between Ashoka and the official executioner of the torture chamber anyone entering the palace, even by chance as a visitor, was not allowed to come out alive.


    According to the narrations of Ashokavadana, King Ashoka, prior to his conversion to Buddhism, was a fierce and sadistic ruler, known as Ashoka the Fierce, or Candashoka (Ashoka the Cruel),[1] who sent his minions on a quest to find a vicious man to work as his official executioner.[2][3]

    After some searching, Ashoka's men found a suitable candidate by the name of Girika who was so vicious that he killed his own parents because they did not want him to become Ashoka's executioner. Girika was introduced to Ashoka who soon appointed him as the official executioner of his Empire.[2][3]

    According to legend, Girika persuaded Ashoka to design the torture chamber based on the suffering endured by people reborn in Buddhist hell.[4] The Ashokavadana documents a long list of torture acts Girika designed and planned to force upon his prisoners including "prying open their mouths with an iron and pouring boiling copper down their throats".[2] Innocent persons were not exempt from such treatment.[5]

    In the narrative of Ashokavadana, Ashoka asked Girika to disguise the torture chamber as a beautiful and "enticing" palace full of amenities such as exclusive baths and to decorate it with flowers, fruit trees and many ornaments. The palatial torture chamber was artfully designed to make people long to just look at it, and even attract them to enter, and was referred to as the "beautiful gaol".[1][2][6]

    According to the mythology, beneath the veneer of beauty, inside the exclusive mansion, torture chambers were constructed which were full of the most sadistic and cruel instruments of torture including furnaces producing molten metal for pouring on the prisoners.[2][4][7][8]

    In the narrative, Ashoka made a pact with Girika that he would never allow anyone who entered the palace to exit alive, including Ashoka himself.[2][4][7][9][10] The torture chamber was so terrifying, that King Ashoka was thought to have visited hell so that he could perfect its evil design.[11] In the Biographical Sutra of King Ashoka the palace is described by the sentence: 'King Ashoka constructed a hell'.[12]

    Ashokavadana refers to Girika as Chandagirika or Girika the Cruel. It appears that Girika overheard a Buddhist monk recite the Balapanditasutta which contains vivid descriptions of the five tortures of hell, such as:[1]

    Finally, there are beings who are reborn in hell whom the hell-guardians grab, and stretch out on their backs on a fiery floor of red-hot iron that is but a mass of flames. Then they carry out the torture of the five-fold tether; they drive two iron stakes through their hands; they drive two iron stakes through their feet; and they drive one iron stake through their heart. Truly, O monks, hell is a place of great suffering

    and got his ideas of how to torture prisoners from there. The text describes Girika's attitude toward punishment as follows: "Such are the five great agonies, Girika reflected, and he began to inflict these same tortures on people in his prison". In addition the Balapanditasutta compares the King's torture methods to the tortures of hell.[1]

    Miracles in the chamber[edit]
    The Ashokavadana further mentions that sometime later a Buddhist monk by the name of Samudra happened to visit the palace and upon entering he was informed by Girika that he would be tortured to death,[10][13][14] and was subsequently led into the torture chamber. His torturers however failed to injure him and he appeared able to neutralise their torture methods by realising that the suffering of the other prisoners is part of the Buddhist dogma of suffering and attaining arhatship.[2][3][10]

    A particular narration detailed how Samudra, while tortured in a cauldron full of boiling water, human blood, bone marrow and excrement, caused the contents of the cauldron to cool down and then sat meditating cross-legged on a lotus sprouting from the fluid.[2][3][10]

    The narrative further describes that when Ashoka heard of these miracles, he was overcome with curiosity and decided to enter the chamber to verify for himself the veracity of the stories. After arriving there he witnessed Samudra levitating with half his body on fire and the other half raining water.[2][3][10] Intrigued he asked Samudra to identify himself.[10]

    Samudra replied that he was a disciple of Buddha and adherent to the Dharma. Samudra then chastised Ashoka for having built the torture chamber and further instructed him to build eighty four thousand stupas according to Buddha's prophecy, and to guarantee the security of all beings. To those demands, Ashoka acquiesced. Further he confessed to his crimes and accepted Buddha and the Dharma.[10][15]

    The Ashokavadana describes the events leading to the demolition of Ashoka's torture chamber. According to the text, the torture chamber had become the site and the reason of his conversion to Buddhism. Girika, as the resident executioner of the chamber, however, reminded Ashoka of his pledge to kill anyone entering the chamber including Ashoka himself.[2][3]

    Ashoka then questioned Girika as to who entered the torture palace first during their visit to see Samudra's miracles. Girika was then forced to admit that it was he who entered first. Upon the executioner's confession, Ashoka ordered him burnt alive and also ordered the demolition of the torture palace. According to the Ashokavadana, "the beautiful jail was then torn down and a guarantee of security was extended to all beings".[2][3]

    From that point on, Ashoka became known as Ashoka the Pious.[2][3] Buddhist monk Xuanzang in his writings mentions that in the 7th century AD he had visited the place where Ashoka's torture chamber once was and that it was, even at that time, referred to in Hindu tradition as "Ashoka's Hell".[3][9] Xuanzang also claimed that he saw the column identifying the location of Ashoka's Hell.[8]

    In India the palace is known as "Ashoka's Hell" and its location near Pataliputra became a popular destination for pilgrims. In the 5th century AD Faxian, who was also a Buddhist monk, also reports visiting it and his account of the story of the palace differs slightly from that of Xuanzang's.[9][10][16] In the 1890s British explorer Laurence Waddell, while inPatna, established that Agam Kuan, which means the "unfathomable well", was part of Ashoka's Hell as reported also by the two Chinese monks.[17][18][19][20]

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