At present, there are more than 6,000 Koreans who trace their lineage to Heo Hwang-ok and visit her ancestral home in Ayodhya
Acres of green space in Ayodhya’s Ram Katha Park that remained alive with recitals from scriptures, public discourses, and other religious activities is undergoing beautification and will be soon known as Queen Heo Hwang-ok Memorial Park. The space has been named after a Korean queen with Indian roots and will be available for public access from November 4.
The Delhi-based Korean center for Culture and the Indian Council for Cultural relations has unitedly showcased a musical last month that narrated the story of the Korean queen at the Kaman auditorium. Directed by actor Imran khan, the Legend of Princess Sriratna observed the occasion of completion of the park.
Queen Heo Hwang-ok
It is believed that the Korean queen was born as Princess Suriratna of Ayodhya, daughter of King Padmasen who ruled the ancient kingdom of Kaushala. Her mother was queen Indumati. Siriratna’s story can be found in a 13th century collection of legends, the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of Three Kingdoms). The book predominantly compiles the story of three Korean kingdoms Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje.
The legend has it that in 48 BC, Suriratana when 16, traveled to Korea from the ancient city of “Ayuta’ and married Kim Suro, king of south-eastern Korean state, Geumgwan Gaya after her father led by a dream sent her to the foreign land in a boat with an entourage. She became the first queen of the newly founded kingdom, believed to be located in modern-day Gimhae city in Southern Gyeonsang province. The couple then had 12 children.
Legacy of Queen Heo Hwang-ok
At present, there are more than 6,000 Koreans who trace their lineage to her. They belong to different clans, Heo, her maiden clan, Gimhae Kim and Lee. Kim Yoon-ok, wife of former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is a direct descendant of the queen. . The king and the queen also formed the Karak dynasty, and former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung belong to the same lineage.
Koreans belonging to her lineage time and again have visited Ayodhya to pay their homage to the queen’s ancestral city. Gimhae in South Korea houses a tomb of the king and the queen built in their memory and a pagoda, that the queen brought with her from India to calm ocean gods is placed next to her tomb. Plays, musicals were composed based on her and are a prominent part of Korean popular culture.
Why a memorial park was set up in India in the queen’s honour
The memorial space was unveiled in 2001 after India signed an agreement with South Korea to develop Gimhae and Ayodhya as sister cities. Five years down, the South Korean delegation sent a proposal to revamp the existing memorial. Next PM Modi and South Korean President Moon Jae-in signed an MoU to beautify the memorial.
After restoration work, the park now houses the busts of the Queen and King on a pavilion and a pond the represents the princess’s journey from India to South Korea. There is an egg made of granite that represents the golden egg she took with her during her journey.
How the park will restore the queen’s Indian connection
Although the legend has boosted the India South Korean relationship there is still a debate about her Indian origins. Although Samguk Yusa says she belongs to Ayuta that is Ayodhya in the modern day there is no record of her origin and life in Indian scriptures. Some historians believe she actually belonged to Thailand’s Ayuttaya kingdom, although the Thai kingdom was founded 1350 years after Samguk Yusa was written.