Mauryan Emperor Ashoka had married five women from various walks of life. However, he did not place all of them equally in his heart or in his imperial palace. Out of all his wives, Ashoka is said to have shared a deep bond with Devi who was his first wife and Asandhimitra his fourth wife with whom he spent a long marital life.
Queen Asandhimitra – Early Life
Many records say that Asandhimitra was a princess who was from Asandhivat which was a tiny kingdom in present day Haryana. Jain records say that she was extremely beautiful, charming and a good-natured woman who was also pious and believed in Dharma and was married to Ashoka at around 267 BC.
Queen Asandhimitra or Devi?
Few historians argue that Asandhimitra was none other than Devi whom Ashoka married when he was a prince. However, there are many good reasons to believe that Devi and Asandhimitra were two different individuals.
Devi and Ashoka entered into wedlock when Ashoka was just a prince. He was in fact, sidelined by his step brother Sushima who was the presumptive heir apparent to the throne. But, when Ashoka was declared as the Emperor (270 BC) he could not bring his wife Devi to Pataliputra so that she can become his ‘Agramahishi’ or Chief Royal Consort.
Devi was from a different caste and she was a commoner. Moreover, Devi preferred staying in Vidisha to follow a simple life instead of Imperial lifestyle. Hence, Ashoka proceeded to Marry Asandhimitra who was of a royal lineage and kept her with him in his palace.
Queen Asandhimitra – Devout Buddhist and an Ideal Wife
Since Asandhimitra was the Empress of Mauryan Dynasty she had a say in official dealings. Ashoka used to consult his wife in every single decision that he made for the Kingdom. Asandhimitra had power to approve or disapprove as per her will in the Kingdom on official matters.
Despite of all such powers bestowed upon her, she was a very affectionate wife and a devout Buddhist who had unflinching faith in Sambuddha. There is a big Ashoka Stupa in present day Haryana’s Asandh which is believed to be Asandhimitra’s hometown.
Asandhimitra is frequently credited for her contribution towards the rise of Buddhist religion during Mauryan period in India. Historians believe that it was Asandhimitra who encouraged Ashoka to carry on pious deeds that strengthened Buddhism in India amidst loyal Jains who believed staunchly in Jainism.
Queen Asandhimitra – Death
Asandhimitra and Ashoka lived together as faithful companions for 30 long years in Pataliputra. In their long matrimony, Asandhimitra remained childless but took care of Padmavati’s child Kunala. Asandhimitra succumbed to death leaving Ashoka grief stricken and heartbroken.
Historians opine that Ashoka was shattered emotionally after Asandhimitra’s death and a cunning woman named Tishyaraksha who used to serve Asandhimitra attracted Ashoka’s attention and married him later on.