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Kunala or Kunāl (3rd Century B.C) was the son of Emperor Ashoka and Queen Padmavati, and presumptive heir to Ashoka and thus the heir to the Mauryan Empire which one ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent. While he was supposed to be the future heir to the empire, he was blinded by another of Ashoka's wives, Tishyaraksha, at a young age in jealousy. While he was not able to take the throne, his son, Samprati, became his heir.

Ancient Place

Kunal is a small 'rural' site, an archaeological 'village' as compared to 'towns' like Lothal and Kalibangan and 'cities' like Rakhigarhi. Its on the bank of the dried Saraswati in the Fatehbad district of Haryana INDIA. The artifacts unearthed in Kunal have not been seen before at a pre-Harappan site. The artifacts include seals, terracotta cakes, script and natural motif. Kunal pottery depicts Harappan letters. Natural motif with both monochrome and bio chrome have been found. This implies a transition from pre-Harappan culture to the full mature Harappan culture. Some archaeologists even think that the pre-Harappan culture of Kunal and the Vedic culture are one and the same. They give the example of triangle shaped terracotta cakes which they say are the symbol of fertility in Rig Veda. A painting with a horse and pipal motif, found in Kunal, are both associated with the Vedic civilization. Further Kunal is situated on the banks of the dried Saraswati river which is mentioned in the Rig Veda. Kunal has three distinctive phases of the pre-Harappan culture. In the earliest people lived in pits. In the second, molded mud bricks were used to line the dwellings. In the third phase bricks were used to make square and rectangular houses. Two silver crowns have also been found in Kunal, one a little smaller than the other. They may have been used by the king or an elected headman and his consort. Other jewellery found there include two tiaras, an armlet, a necklace, copper bangles, six disc-shaped gold beads and more than 10,000 beads of semi-precious stones like carnelian, agate, steatite and lapis lazuli. Kunal has added to the growing number of archaeological sites in Haryana.

Significance of name

Kunal is the name of one of the Himalayan birds (painted snipe). Emperor Ashoka, who once ruled almost all of India named his son Kunala, after the eyes of this Himalayan bird. The meaning of Kunal in Sanskrit is "bird with beautiful eyes' and if name of a person it means "someone who sees beauty in everything" or "one with beautiful eyes"

Early life

Ashoka sent to Ujjain there to be brought up and carry out his princely education, so that he would become the heir to the throne of the Mauryan Empire.


When the prince was eight years old, the king wrote (in Prakrit) to the tutors that Kunala should begin his studies.One of Ashoka's wives who wanted to secure the succession to her own son, being then present took up the letter to read it. She secretly putting a dot over the letter 'a', changed Adheeyu into Andheeyu another word, meaning he must be blinded. Without rereading the letter, the king sealed and dispatched it. The clerk in Ujjayini was so shocked by the contents of this letter that he was unable to read it aloud to the prince. Kunala, therefore, seized the letter and read the cruel sentence of his father. Considering that as yet no Maurya prince had disobeyed the chief of the house, and unwilling to set a bad example, he stoutly put out his eyesight with a hot iron". Alternatively, some stories explain that Kunala had been sent to Taxila to put down a rebellion, which he managed to do peacefully. But he was similarly blinded through the treacherousness of Ashoka's wife Tishyaraksha.

Attempts to claim throne

Years later Kunala came to Ashoka's court dressed as a minstrel accompanied by his favourite wife Kanchanmala. When he greatly pleased the king by his music, the king wanted to reward him. At this, the minstrel revealed himself as prince Kunala and he demanded his inheritance. Ashoka sadly objected that being blind, Kunala never could ascend the throne. Thereupon the latter said that he claimed the kingdom not for himself but for his son. "When," cried the king, "has a son been born to you?" " 'Samprati' (meaning Just now) was the answer. Samprati accordingly was the name given to Kunala's son, and though a baby in arms, he was anointed Ashoka's successor, after whose demise he ascended the throne and became a powerful monarch. It is also said that Prince Kunala established his kingdom in Mithila at Indo-Nepal Border. It might be the same place where the present village, Kunauli (earlier known as Kunal Gram) at the bank of Kosi river at Indo-Nepal Border is situated. The village drama society is still named as Kunal Natya Kala Manch. There are some historical and archaeological evidences to support this claim.

Portrayal in popular media

A semi-fictionalized portrayal of Kunal's life was produced as a motion picture under the title Veer Kunal (1925).

Kunal Pathri Temple

Another reference of Kunal comes from place called Kunal Pathri Temple (located in the Dhauladhar Ranges in Kangra District, Himachal Pradesh) which is rock pilgrimage near dharamsala. Its said that there used to live a great devotee of lord Vishnu named Kunal. This temple is dedicated to goddess Kapaleshwari. It has beautiful carvings of gods and goddesses. It is believed that the skull of Devi Sati (Dakshayani), the wife of Lord Shiva, fell here after being cut off by the Chakra of Lord Vishnu into fifty-one pieces, to stop the ferocious dance, Tandava Nritya, of Shiva carrying the corpse of Sati(Dakshayani).