India and Korea had relations from the middle of the first century AD when Suriratna (Heo Hwang-ok), the princess of Ayodhya travelled to Korea and married the Korean king Kim Suro. The King and Queen started the Karak Dynasty of South Korea. The two countries share deep historical, cultural and social bonds, and Buddhism is one among them.
In 723 AD, the Buddhist monk Hyecho, visited India during his voyages and pilgrimages. He stayed in India for a few years before proceeding to China in 729.
There are many Buddhist monks, who worked in shaping the religion and Marananta who came to Paekje in the 4th century A.D. is a major early figure. However, it is not clear how an Indian monk came to receive a warm welcome from the King. In A.D. 574 a Korean monk, Anhong along with three Indian monks visited the peninsula and started the construction of monasteries and temples.
According to one story, Ashoka Maurya of India, identified with King Ayuk (Muwa), sent iron and gold to South Korea for casting the image of the Buddha. These metals were used to construct the monastery by koreans. However the Ashokan period was much earlier than the Hwangnyeong Monaster as shown by the historical records.
After Buddhism was introduced to Korea, many monks and scholars exhibited great enthusiasm for visiting India, to learn more about Buddhism or for pilgrimages to places important to the memory of the Buddha. In the early 6th century A.D., some Korean monks set out for India.
Monk Kyomic was the first to visit India. He studied the Vinaya text in Samghana Temple of central India, and also collected the Sanskrit text of the Mahisasaka Vinaya. Later an Indian monk, Devadatta (Pei-da-duo) ,came to Korea with Kyomic under the patronage of the King Seong of Baekje, he translated 72 books of Vinaya. Many Korean Buddhists started showing a keen interest in India and Indian culture from the early 8th century.
Buddhism has always been one of the main reasons for many of the South Koreans to travel India. Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar, parts of U.P. and Bihar are some of the tourist places for South Koreans for their religious purposes.
During the visit of South Korean President Moon Jae in 2018, a sapling of the bodhi tree was gifted to the people of Gimhae which has a historic connect with India since Princess Suriratna of Ayodhya is known to have travelled to Korea and married the King Kim Suro.
South Korean First Lady Kim Jung-Sook, participated in the ground-breaking ceremony of the Queen Suriratna Memorial in the city of Ayodhya in November 2018. Due to India having ancient ties with South Korea, both countries now share a unique bond with each other which resulted in thousands of South Koreans throng to Ayodhya and Buddhist tourist places every year in India.
Author- Smriti Ekka