The Twin Fishes Of Ayodhya

This story begins with a legend.

From a 13th century Korean chronicle – Karak Sam Kuk Yusa – of the emergence of six princes from a clutch of golden eggs, descended from the heavens in a gilded casket wrapped in red silk.

The princes miraculously attain adulthood within twelve days. Suro – the eldest – is crowned first king of the Kara dynasty and ruler of Geumgwan Gaya. His siblings take over five other lesser Gaya’s (fiefdoms? ) forming a confederacy under their mighty brother.

In the meantime (approx. 48 AD) thousands of miles South, the king and queen of Ayodhya, (the birth place of Hindu God Rama) simultaneously experience dreams that prophecy their daughter’s betrothal to the the new king across the seas.

The beautiful princess Sri Ratna (precious jewel) duly sets sail on a boat sporting red silk sails, with a couple of her male siblings in attendance, and with a few magic imbued stones to protect her on the long and arduous sea journey to keep her destined date with the great King Suro. No storm or scheming courtiers can prevent their divinely ordained union.

And so it turns out that nearly a tenth of the population of Korea – all citizens with the clan names of Kim and Huh/ Hoon/ Heo from Gimhae and Lee from Incheon – apparently share their gene pool with the descendants of the royal family of Ayodhya! And by default, Rama himself!

The proof? The ‘magic’ stones arranged in a neat pile in the pagoda near the grave site of Queen Heo Hwang-Ok – the former princess ‘Suri Ratna’ – in Gimhae, South Korea.

And a unique (to Korea) stone carving of twin kissing fishes on the gate to King Suro’s tomb nearby, traced back to the heraldry of the kingdom of Awadh! (The name for the region, borrowed from ‘Ayodhya’, and later corrupted to the colonial Oudh.) We did spot several carved fish symbols on doorways across its erstwhile capital Lucknow.

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It seems Indo Korean connections go back eons before their chaebols set up shop in the subcontinent!

A fish story? Shall let you decide.

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While you are here, do check out more posts from Lucknow.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

71 thoughts on “The Twin Fishes Of Ayodhya

    1. Some apparently do Mallee! Try Googling a book titled ‘Voices of Foreign Brides’ by archaeologist Choong Soon Kim.

  1. Interesting history and story of the twin fishes – the carvings are magnificent. Who knew of the Korea connection. Wonderful post ~

  2. Probably it’s a great time click 🙂 and So many thanks to the photographer and author of this post. Great job keep it. Awaiting your next post article.

    1. Ha, that is the extent of my knowledge of anything Korean, barring Samsung, Elgi and Hyundai.

      Such a pleasure to see you here Diana. Have a lovely week ahead!

    1. Not really Meg. Just a de-cluttering of sorts 🙂 The fishes intrigued me, so I went looking for their story. And look what I found!

  3. I love this kind of stuff, the history and the cool stuff. I wonder if these guys have looked into National Geo’s Genome project…it would tell them precisely where they’ve come from…beginning with Africa.

    1. Me too, however far fetched they may sound. The Nat Geo project is really intriguing. Are you a participant?

      1. Yes, got my info back…truly interesting. BUT something went wrong, and I can’t access the nitty-gritty data. I can see the map where my ancestors went…I am a mixed stew of color and culture.

  4. True, pretty common are these fishes on the doorways of many kothis and other buildings. If traced eons back, I feel we all scattered all over the globe will share one or more common threads of ancestry.

      1. Right you are Madhu, I too came to know about this connection recently only. one local daily covered certain tourist attractions in and nearby Lucknow and in one of the features on Ayodhya I read that story and think of it I am in the area for almost all of my life.

    1. I think so too Gilly. There is more faith reposed in legends and rituals and their symbolism. How long that will last is anybody’s guess.

  5. Madhu, I’ve never heard of this Indo-Korean connection and it is so fascinating! Indian influence is palpable in Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia. But Korea? Wow! Thanks for bringing up this info, Madhu.

    1. The connections with Indonesia is understandable because of its geographic proximity Bama. And like you say the influence is palpable. But links with Korea as far back as 48AD while not impossible, do sound rather far fetched to me.

  6. The site is looking great, Madhu! 🙂 More travelling planned soon?

    I love that doorway with the ornate balconies overhead. Imagine having that as your front door! An interesting post. We must all connect up somewhere along the way, I guess. Easier for some than others. A tale well told. 🙂

    1. Thanks Jo. That is the entrance gate to the large mosque complex – the Bada Imambara – in Lucknow.
      No major travel plans until August. This year has been rather disappointing so far on the travel front due to various reasons. Hoping to make up for it in the latter half.

  7. Grouped under Ichthys in wikipedia, i found this photograph of thetwin fish symbol – (Funerary stele with the inscription ΙΧΘΥC ΖΩΝΤΩΝ (“fish of the living”), early 3rd century, National Roman Museum)

    There seems to be a greek connection there – no wonder it appears on the the entrance gate to the large mosque – cultural activities do travel

    1. They certainly do! The fish symbol is indeed said to have Mediterranean origins before it got incorporated into Hindu and Buddhist iconography. Its presence on an Islamic structure however is rare (Islam prohibits the depiction of humans and animals in art) and points to the liberal outlook of the Nawabs of Lucknow.

      Appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts Chithankalai. Hope to see you around.

  8. Wow! Thank you for this amusing story. I hope that the people of Korea are flattered by this legend 🙂 Again, you composed a slideshow of wonderful photos, where I would happily single out the photo of fish in the looking up perspective. I am happy with this offering and imagery in your tale. Thank you, Madhu.

    1. Discovering one has royal blood has got to be to be flattering! 😀 Happy to link to your challenge Paula.

  9. Interesting find…I’m sure no one would have ever thought of connection between two places! we have heard of Hindu & Buddhist influence across south east Asia..but this is surely some off beat find!

    1. Thanks Christy. The blahg has just been shorn of its busy background image. HAven’t quite made up mu mind which look I like better 🙂

  10. What an unexpected connection, Madhu, and I love a fish story and this fits. What fun discovering the fish carvings throughout Lucknow. I like your new look. Makes me think it’s time for a change.

    1. It is kind of apt that fish were involved in this story! 🙂 Glad you like the new look Lynne. I was worried it might be a bit too light and stark.

  11. I’ve just been reading a book on Atilla the Hun and his connection with Mongolia. It seems it was not uncommon for marriage arrangements to be made between distant kingdoms in ancient times. I had not heard your story before. I love ancient history so keep those stories coming.

    1. I have those ‘kissing’ fishes to thank for the story Ian 🙂 Hope you had a wonderful time with your children Ian.

  12. Great photos as is always the case, but the history of the place is something else… How linked people can be around the globe is always fascinating, and the fish story a perfect way to share.

    1. Thank you very much Randall. I have a feeling my comment on your lovely tribute to your parents might be hiding in your spam folder. Would you retrieve it please?

  13. The most thrilling fact is that Hindi and Korean language are exactly the same in sentence structure. Especially the dialect used in Kyeongsang province is nearly 100% identical with Hindi. The Kara dynasty was established in the province. So I believe the story is not only a history but also an evidential fact. I am a descendant of the Queen and really proud of it.

  14. Interesting! BTW, some people believe that those twin fishes were actually curved by Nawabs of Awadh, who ruled in 18th and 19th C. If that is true then fishes seen in the ancient monuments of Princess Heo Hwang-ok (허황옥) in China and Korea must have a different story attached to them. There are some individuals who say that twin-fish symbol actually represents the Pandyas, who rulled in Tamil Nadu from 300 BCE up to Delhi Sultane era. According to them, Heo Hwang-ok’s actual name was Seembavalam and she was from Ayuta, Tamil Nadu. Now, by looking at the Korean word 아유타 its really hard for me to say whether it is indicating Ayodhya or Ayuta. So it remains as a fascinating mystery 🙂

  15. interesting information, written with passion too. thnx for sharing such info. i was born in Lucknow thus love this place and its all stories, that never ends!! everyday we get to hear something.. its a treasure house. but yes Ayodhya became Oudh or Awadh is very true

  16. I’ve been to Korea so many times on business but never heard this story before. Fascinating! Thank you for this additional knowledge. I read in a book on prehistoric China that there was a tribe on the north east coast who spoke a Sanskrit based language. Considering the impossible travel distances in those days it appears there was much more interchange between races than we have imagined.

  17. Queen Heo Hwang Ok aka Seembavalam is from Tamil Nadu. And not from Ayodhya. Ayi Dynasty(now called as Kanyakumari) was located in Tamil Nadu . Ayodhya was called as Saketa in the Ancient Period. I request you to please recheck the facts before posting anything.

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