Ashoka Maurya (273 - 236 BCE) was the most famous of the Buddhist rulers of India. A dozen years or so after he began his reign, about 258 BCE, he became a convert to Buddhism. He was a great administrator and a great builder. His empire encompassed the whole of India and Afghanistan. Ashoka's reign of paternal despotism has been compared to that of Constantine or Cromwell. With tireless energy he personally supervised all the affairs of government for 40 years.
His doctrine was less concerned with the analytic aspects of Buddhism and dwelled exclusively on ethics. He dispatched missionaries to other parts of India as well as Ceylon, Syria, Egypt, Cyrene, Macedonia, and Epirus. It is due to Ashoka that Buddhism became, and long remained, the predominant religion of India.
The foundation of this important center at Sanchi was laid by the Emperor Ashoka when he built a stupa and erected a monolithic pillar here. Ashoka built a total of eight stupas on the hilltop of Sanchi including the Great Stupa. A great number of stupas and other religious structures were added over the succeeding centuries.With the decline of Buddhism, the site decayed and was eventually completely forgotten. But, between 1912 and 1919, the structures were carefully repaired to their present condition and restored.