Maharani Devi was the first wife of Ashoka. Devi was born around 302 BC and married ashoka around 286 BC. She was a daughter of a wealthy Buddhist merchant from Vidisha. She served several Buddhist monasteries in Ujjain. Maharani Devi was the mother of Mahendra and Sanghamitra who played a vital role in spreading Buddhism. Ashoka met her during his visit to Ujjain and fell in love with her in the first sight.
Ashoka was sent to Ujjain by the King Bindusara to resolve an issue of uprising. His stay was arranged in village headman’s house during his halt at the Ujjain province. Adjacent to the hut where the young prince stayed was the hut of a wealthy Buddhist merchant stayed with his family. Maharani Devi is the daughter of this Buddhist merchant who did not show any interest in visiting the prince who is reputed for his arrogance. She visited the prince when forced by her friends and offered the garland made by one of her friends to the prince boldly which impressed young Ashoka greatly.
Devi inclined towards Buddhism – Marriage with Price Ashoka
The Young prince made his mind to marry Maharani Devi, for her beauty and boldness. But when he asked for Maharani Devi’s hand for the marriage from her family, her father readily accepted but she did not saying that her family agreed only because they are afraid of the King. Maharani Devi asked Ashoka to resolve the issue of rebellions of Ujjain without bloodshed to marry her, as she is Buddhist and strongly believes in resolving issues with peace and non-violence. But when the young prince did not return even after 2 days made her think that the prince tricked her family.
Maharani Devi always felt happy serving sick and old Buddhist monks. When she visited a Buddhist monastery nearby to serve, she found Ashoka in one of the caves that has been attacked by executioners. She served the young Ashoka with true dedication till he was fit to leave the place. Before leaving Ashoka proposed to Maharani Devi saying that the issue of Ujjain has been resolved without bloodshed as per her request, for which she happily agreed.
Young Ashoka married Maharani Devi at the age of 18 and took her to the capital of Mauryan Empire. However, the king Bindusara did not accept the marriage for Maharani Devi being from a Merchants family was unfit to become the chief queen. Ashoka along with his newlywed wife has been sent back to Ujjain and was appointed as Ujjain’s governor.
Devi the Mother of Manhendra and Sanghamitta
Maharani Devi gave birth to Mahendra and Sanghamitra and was busy bringing up her children away from the royal family. Right from their childhood Maharani Devi instilled principles and values of Buddhism and kept them away from royal politics and violence.
After Ashoka became the king, Maharani Devi was sent asking her to join him in the capital which was rejected by her as she wanted to stay away from violence and wars that were part of emperor’s expansion plans.
Devi – Later Years and Spread of Buddhism
It is only after the war of Kalinga; Ashoka understood the value of peace. He starting visiting Buddhist monasteries to find peace and became a follower of Buddhism. Hearing about the change in the emperor, Maharani Devi along with her children returned to Pataliputra and joined the king. Ashoka built Sanchi stupa in the birthplace of Maharani Devi and asked her to overlook the constructions. Rest of her life she spent serving Buddhist monasteries and monks between Vidisha, Sanchi, Pataliputra and Ujjain. She died in her early 60’s leaving behind Ashoka, her two children Mahendra and Sanghamitra and the step son Kunal (Son of Queen Padmavathi).
By : Ramani J.