Karuvaki – Follower of Buddhism
Karuvaki born around 288 BCE, Queen of Ashoka, strangely does not have much historic facts around her life. However, historians have unearthed scanty information about the Queen of the great Emperor, probably due to less importance given to women in harem of Kings and wives of commoners. Historians have guessed by stories and cross references, that Karuvaki was a daughter of a Fisherman, who as a girl, came under the influence of Buddhism.
Karuvaki adopted Buddhist way of life and converted herself to Buddhism as a Bhikkhuni. Ashoka, according to some sources and folklore, was drawn towards her simple beauty, piety, religious aptitude of compassion & universal harmony.
Ashoka marries Karuvaki in Kalinga
Following Asoka’s conversion to Buddhism as a result of his distaste to war, bitterness and cruelty of humans which he had seen in Kalinga, Ashoka liked a girl who could match his nature of Universal Love and Brotherhood, Harmony, Peace & newly adopted Spiritual belief.
Thus, a simple village girl, Karuvaki was chosen by him to be his wife. Karuvaki shared her knowledge of Buddhism with the Emperor Ashoka, showing her keen sense of responsibility to the society in doing public good as Queen.
Queen Karuvaki took a very active role in philanthropy, social equality, and truthful behaviour, making Buddhism popular. Karuvaki was known for her charitable services to the poor and needy. This charitable nature and pious attitude and tolerance towards religious faiths, was deeply admired by her husband Ashoka and the royal ministers were asked to honour her donations, by implementing her suggestions.
Karuvaki as a Queen
Emperor Ashoka perhaps stands on a different stature among rulers, since he gave due credit to his queen Karuvaki in one of his Edicts – the Queen Edict, carved on pillars of his empire, which states his message of obliging Karuvaki and her suggestions to change his life for good. He also mentions about a list of proposed series of welfare measures for common people of the land, as suggested by Karuvaki.
By a closer reading of some among Asoka Edicts, Karuvaki appears to be a dominant and intelligent queen in the palace of Asoka, as her name is the only one among them, clearly mentioned in his Edicts. These writings identify Karuvaki, as mother of Prince Tivala, prince of Ashoka.
We can safely infer that Karuvaki was perhaps, the most favourite among the Queens of Asoka. Prince Tivala, met an untimely end due to unknown reasons. Unfortunately, we do not know much about her later life and date of death.
By: Rashmi P. Rao