Indian princess who married a Korean King - Heo hwang ok

Source: BBC News

 Ayodhya is best known for being the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. However, the city has special significance for some South Koreans, as many believe they can trace their ancestors back to it. This belief is based on several historical Korean stories about an Indian princess named, Suriratna who married a South Korean king and established a dynasty.

According to legend, Princess Suriratna, also known as Heo Hwang-ok, travelled to Korea in 48 AD, approximately 2000 years ago, and founded the Karak dynasty by marrying a local king. According to some Chinese-language texts, the then-King of Ayodhya had a dream in which God told him to send his 16-year-old daughter to South Korea to marry King Kim Suro.

According to Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms), a popular South Korean book of fables and historical stories, Queen Hwang-ok was the princess of the "Ayuta" kingdom. The royal couple was a success. They had 12 sons and lived to be more than 150 years old. While children in Korea usually take their father's surname, the queen was disappointed that her children would not be able to use her surname. As a result, King Suro granted her name (Heo) to two of their sons, which is still used today." Historians estimate that the couple's descendants number more than six million, accounting for nearly 10% of the South Korean population.

People from the Karak dynasty have also preserved the rocks that are said to have been used by the princess during her sea voyage to Korea to keep her boat stable.

An anthropologist named Kim Byung-mo Ayuta appeared to confirm the widely held belief that Ayuta was actually Ayodhya, as the two names are phonetically similar.

How this connection has impacted the modern ties?

In the year 2000, an agreement was signed to develop Ayodhya and Gimhae as sister cities. 

Then in 2001, more than 100 historians and government representatives, including the North Korea ambassador to India, unveiled Queen Hwang-ok's memorial on the west bank of the River Saryu in Ayodhya.

In 2016, a Korean team presented the Uttar Pradesh Government with a proposal to expand the memorial. On the eve of Diwali, South Korean first lady Kim Jung-sook lay the foundation stone for the enlargement and beautification of the current memorial on November 6, 2018. She paid her respects at the Queen Heo Memorial, attended a ground-breaking ceremony for the memorial's upgrade and beautification, and joined the current Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, at an elaborate Diwali celebration in Ayodhya that included cultural shows and the lighting of 300,000+ lights on the banks of the Saryu River.

As per reports, every year, hundreds of South Koreans visit Ayodhya for paying homage to their legendary queen Heo Hwang-ok.

Prof Kim Do-young, a Korean studies expert based in Delhi, claims that this shared history began to be recognised in India "after the diplomatic and economic relationship" between the two countries developed.

"Whether it is history or legend - based on it - mental or spiritual gap [between the people] is reduced and a common cultural ground is made," he adds, pointing out that it's interesting that there maybe a "ancient bond" between the two nations.

The story of Queen Hwang-ok has been and can continue to be the "foundation for building better relations" between South Korea and India.

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