In South Korean literature, Ayodhya is referred to as Ayuta. The Korean text, Samguk Yusa, authored by the monk Iryon, mentions the temple city’s Korean connection. Some 2,000 years ago, Ayodhya’s princess sailed to Kaya kingdom, now Kimhae city in South Korea. She fell in love with its ruler, Kim Suro, and they got married.
While the present Korean rulers are said to be the 72nd generation after Kim Suro, the Ayodhya princess’ descendant, Bimlendra Mohan Prasad Mishra, continues to be referred to as ‘Raja saheb’, or sometimes more intimately as ‘Pappu bhaiyya’, in India. The former ruler of Ayodhya was invited by South Korean Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil for the annual memorial ceremony of King Suro. The South Korean government has also installed a monument in Ayodhya in their former queen’s memory.
While Koreans regard Mishra as a descendant of Kaya royal family, Mishra traces his roots back to Bhojpur’s landlord, Sadanand Pathak. With his eye on politics, he is desperate to play down his royal lineage. Ask him for a photograph in his royal attire, and he flatly refuses. Ask him about his extravagance and he insists that he is a commoner. Mention the royal bejewelled attire and he disowns it. Coax him a little and he concedes that he has had to succumb to tradition. While he has donned royal robes on several occasions, he is looking forward to his son’s marriage, which he says will be an event worthy of kings. “When Abhishek Bachchan wears an achkan weighing several kilos for his wedding, nobody questions him. Why point fingers at us?” he says.
Heirlooms are a touchy subject with him. The family’s crown, he says, is now with the British, as also one of two porcelain peacocks they owned. The Ayodhya kings had an excellent recipe for potency: gold and silver powder. To keep their masters agile, the cooks reportedly also used tiger fat, rhino horn and Korean herbs for the royal suppers.
Pappu to his parents, Mishra is the first male heir to be born into the family in several generations. Others before him had been adopted. Consequently, a security ring was thrown around him. Instead of Doon in Dehradun, his mother sent him to a local school. Till he turned 14, he was not allowed to play with boys his age. He did not fly because his grandmother did not let him. He did not join politics because his mother was against it. His grandfather, Jagdambika Pratapnarain Singh, used to hunt tigers. “Barefoot,” Mishra says. Two of the countless rooms in the palace are filled with his trophies. As for himself, he is content with parasailing.
The day Babri masjid was demolished, the Ayodhya raja was in his palace. It was, he says, a black day in India’s history. His regret: the land of his ancestors is known more for its bloody trail than its Korean connection.