Queen Padmavati name might have been lost in the pages of Mauryan history but her contribution to the aggressive dynasty which ruled the Indian soil from 322 to 185 BC is noteworthy. Queen Padmavati is best known as Emperor Ashoka’s third wife and the birth mother of Kunala who was assumed to be the royal heir apparent after his father Ashoka.
Apart from few details not much is known about Ashoka’s third wife who is believed to be of a royal lineage because her son was considered as the presumptive successor to the Mauryan throne. Historians opine that Ashoka had wed five women in his life time and compared to the rest of Ashoka’s wives, Queen Padmavati history is not that well documented.
Queen Padmavati – Early Life and Marriage to Ashoka 266 BC
According to many historians Queen Padmavati was born in 280 BC. Historians are divided when it comes to her place of birth. Few historians suggest that Padmavati was, in fact, a Kalinga princess who was married off to Ashoka as a result of Kalinga war victory because in olden days Emperors used to marry the princesses or daughters of the royal court upon winning and acquiring new territories. Kalinga succumbed to Mauryan Empire in 266 BC.
Queen Padmavati – Birth of Kunala – 265 BC
Queen Padmavati gave birth to a son named ‘Kunala’ soon after her marriage to the Emperor. Historians note that Padmavati was not given a status of a chief queen because Ashoka had married her when his chief queen Devi was alive.
There are no evidences that suggest that Ashoka had any affectionate leaning towards Padmavati. However, QueenPadmavati becomes an important figure in Mauryan history because of her son Kunala.
Ashoka and his first wife Devi were blessed with Mahinda and Sangamitta when Ashoka was still a prince. But, Mahinda who was supposed to be the heir apparent to the throne chose Buddhism over Mauryan Empire and set out on a spiritual journey to Sri Lanka so that he along with his sister can spread Buddhism.
The void left by Mahinda was filled by Kunala because Ashoka’s forth wife Asandhimitra was childless and Mauryan Empire badly needed a successor to adorn the Emperor’s throne after Ashoka.
Queen Padmavati – Death – Under Anguish of Emperor Ashoka
Queen Padmavati’s death is highly debated amongst historians. According to a popular belief Queen Padmavati succumbed soon after giving birth to her son Kunala. However, as per few Jain and Buddhist religious records she was brutally killed by her husband Emperor Ashoka in a fit of rage.
When Maharani Devi left Ashoka, he was extremely heartbroken. Devi reached her hometown Vidisha and began working at a monastery to find peace. This action of his beloved queen Devi enraged the Emperor Ashoka so much that he burnt his wife Padmavati to death.
By: Rashmi P. Rao