Asandhimitra (d. 240 BCE) also known as Asandhimittā, was the Chief
Queen (Agramahisi) of the
Mauryan emperor Ashoka, for the majority of
Asandhimitra apparently bore her husband no children and
died without leaving any issue. She is greatly spoken of in the
Great Chronicle or the Mahavamsa.
2 Marriage to Ashoka
Asandhimitra was probably the princess of a little kingdom in what is
Haryana north of
Delhi (India), for it seems more than
coincidence that the little town of
Asandh boasts what it claims to be
the biggest Ashokan stupa in India, 80 ft high and 250 ft in
diameter. According to the Mahavamsa, she was called "Asandhimitra"
because the joints in her limbs were visible only when she bent or
stretched them out. She was also of perfect beauty. However, a more
straightforward reading of her name would have been that it means
"friend" (mittā) of "detachment" (a-sandhi).
Marriage to Ashoka
Asandhimitra belonged to a royal family, she was considered to
be a suitable wife for Prince Ashoka. Therefore, upon Ashoka's
accession to the throne in 270 BCE,
Asandhimitra became his first
queen-consort and was additionally given the honourable title of
agramahisi (chief queen). As such, she held many exclusive powers,
prominent among which was the authority she had over all of Ashoka's
lesser queens and concubines.
Asandhimitra held the position of
being her husband's chief consort for thirty years, from his accession
in 270 BCE till her own death in 240 BCE. Furthermore, she was
Ashoka's only wife who was of royal birth.
On Ashoka's accession it would be expected that he would marry a
princess of an appropriately high rank as his chief queen, which he
may well have done when he married Asandhimitra. Thus, while
Ashoka's secondary wives, such as Devi and Karuvaki, lived in his
harems situated at
Vidisha and Kausambi, respectively; Asandhimitra
lived with the emperor in the imperial palace at
capital of the Maurya Empire) throughout her life.
Asandhimitra was a faithful believer in the Sambuddha and was a pious
woman. She was Ashoka's devoted helper in his great efforts for the
advancement of the Buddhist faith. She is also said to have been a
trusted advisor and a faithful companion to her husband and is
described as having been his "beloved" and "dear" queen. This is
evidenced by the fact that
Ashoka was deeply grieved at her death. It
Ashoka no children and died without
leaving any issue.
Four years after her death, when
Ashoka was old, he married a
dissolute young woman named
Tishyaraksha (who is sometimes referred to
as having been Asandhimitra's attendant) and raised her to the rank of
chief queen in 236 BCE. It appears that
Ashoka (now in his old age)
had succumbed to the influence and charm of his young wife, after
having lost the possibly more mature companionship of Asandhimitra.
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