Is Ayodhya The Maternal Home Of South Koreans?

Each year, individuals claiming to be descendants of the queen travel to Ayodhya to pay homage to the queen at her birthplace

A commemorative Rs. 5.00 postage stamp on Queen Heo Hwang-ok (Princess Suriratna) was issued by India in 2019. Wikimedia Queens

By- Khushi Bisht

Ayodhya, well known as the birthplace of Lord Rama, has a special meaning for certain Korean people, as numerous people believe they can trace their roots back to the Indian city. According to legends, “Suriratna,” also known as “Heo Hwang-ok,” was an Indian princess, who voyaged from Ayodhaya to Korea approximately 2000 years ago, and married a South Korean king named “Kim Su-ro” of Geumgwan Gaya, of the Karak Dynasty.

The pair eventually established the Karak dynasty in what is now South Korea’s Gimhae region. They had 12 children, ten of whom were given the surname Kim and two who were given the surname Heo. This, too, has a backstory. In Korea, the surname Kim is fairly prevalent, and King Kim Su-ro is thought to be the patriarch of the Kim dynasty. In Korea, it is customary for children to inherit their father’s surname. However, tradition has it that the queen was disappointed that her kids couldn’t use her surname, so the monarch permitted two of their children to use her name “Heo,” as their surname which is still used today.

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Princess Suriratna, also known as Heo, was the very first queen of the Geumgwan Gaya dynasty, and a considerable number of Koreans claim to be descended from her. She is the ancestor of many Koreans, particularly the Gimhae Kims and Heo clans.

A commemorative Rs. 25.00 postage stamp on Princess Suriratna (Queen Heo Hwang-ok ) was issued by India in 2019. Wikimedia Commons

Although many people think the tale of the Indian princess is mythological, Kim Byung-mo, an anthropologist was able to prove that Ayuta was in fact Ayodhya. This narrative of the ‘Ayuta’ kingdom from where the queen originated is also mentioned in ‘Samguk Yusa,’ which is one of the earliest ancient historical collections of the legends.

It was only until a party of Koreans arrived in Ayodhaya to investigate the origins of the queen that India learned about it. In quest of solutions, a Korean team arrived in Ayodhaya in 1997. Despite the fact that Indian history does not mention such a visitation, In 2001, a memorial honoring Queen Heo Hwang-ok was created in Ayodhaya. The stones for the memorial were provided by South Korea and in 2001, the cities of Ayodhaya and Gimahae formally joined as “sister cities.” The Korean delegation has been visiting the memorial every year since it was established. They honor the monarch of Ayodhaya and greet him. They feel as though they’ve arrived at their maternal home after meeting him, and thus form an emotional bond.

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi with the First Lady of the Republic of Korea, Mrs. Kim Jung-Sook, in New Delhi on November 05, 2018. Wikimedia Commons

In the year 2016, the Korean delegation recommended that the monument should be developed. Akhilesh Yadav, the previous chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, agreed to the suggestion. On the occasion of Diwali in 2018, South Korean first lady Kim Jung-sook lay the foundation stone for the memorial’s extension and renovation. She paid her respects at the Queen Heo Memorial and joined Yogi Adityanath (the current Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh), in an extravagant Diwali celebration in Ayodhya that featured numerous beautiful cultural acts.

Each year, individuals claiming to be descendants of the queen travel to Ayodhya to pay homage to the queen at her birthplace. Many people also claim that Queen Suriratna hailed from the southern Indian state of Kerala. She was said to be a Tamil princess from Kanyakumari, which was originally known as ‘Ayuta.’ There’s some controversy over where she’s from and how she ended up in Korea.

Queen Heo Hwang-ok’s tomb (Queen of King Suro) at Ghimhae in Korea. Wikimedia Commons

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This narrative was adapted into a historical Korean drama called Kim Su-ro. Even today, in Gimahe, Koreans perform celebrations to commemorate the King and Queen’s wedding. The tomb of the Queen is wonderfully maintained in the city of Gimahe. Descendants of the Karak Dynasty have still conserved the stones utilized by the Queen to make her boat stable throughout her sea trip from India to Korea, and the Karak dynasty has kept them.

According to certain claims, based on DNA samples study there is a genetic relationship between some Indian and Korean communities. Now, we can say that Korea and India have had an excellent connection for over 2,000 years. The Korean government has also utilized this anecdote to promote anti-racism campaigns.