Updated: Aug 17
Come to think about it, scripts of all mega-epics were written by Gods and their grand tales executed on this Earth.
Every character, every role, meticulously etched by divine hands, danced to destiny's tune upon this mortal stage. Among them, Lord Vishnu, the upholder of Dharma had taken a vow to take Avatar on this earth whenever evil forces raised their ugly head and Dharma was threatened. And so, in the age of Treta Yuga, he emerged as Rama, to eliminate Ravana and other demon forces, establishing dharma on this earth.
Yet, a clever twist of fate unveiled itself. Rama, heir to a royal throne, destined for a crown, was nudged by the artful hand of fate towards the wilds.
Rama was born as elder son of king Dashrath and as the crown prince there was no probability that he would go to forests to eliminate Asuras. To banish Rama to forests, Goddess Saraswati herself sat on the tongue of Manthra, who manipulated Kaikeyi to ask her boons from the king. Kaikeyi sought boons that set in motion a chain of heart-wrenching consequences.
King Dashrath, the father who cherished his son beyond measure, succumbed to the anguish of Rama's 14 yearlong exile and passed away. Yet, amidst this tempest, arose Bharata, a man of honour and integrity. His back refused to rest upon the throne meant for him, saying that it belonged to his eldest brother Rama.
In this display of unyielding principles, he denounced not just the seat of power, but even his own mother.
Shall we cast blame upon Kaikeyi and Manthra, or extend to them our compassion? Fate's strings pulled them like puppets, guiding their roles with invisible hands. In this intricate drama, Kaikeyi emerges as the biggest loser. Her son, Bharat, turned away from the throne, her husband passed away and the very public she ruled over stood against her.
Consider now the tapestry of Kaikeyi and Manthra's lives. Kaikeyi was daughter of King Ashwapati, ruler of Kakeya . The king held a peculiar gift from nature. The whispers of birds were clear to him, like a secret language. But a condition shadowed this skill: the words of these birds could never pass his lips, for doing so would mean death.
Once king was sitting under a tree with his queen. A pair of swans was sitting on the branches of the tree chatting. The swan was telling his wife a really funny tale which sent the King into splits of laughter. The queen, on hearing the King laugh so happily, persisted on knowing reason. The King’s patience wore thin, and he became very angry.
In anger, the King banished the queen from his kingdom. He called his children and told them to learn to live without their mother. He appointed Manthra as Kaikeyi’s governess and confidante to look after her.
You must be thinking, Kaikeyi and Mantra, together they are evil personified; the real villains of epic Ramayana. Well, I recommend that you do not rush to conclusions. There is much more to this tale than you think.
Time flowed on after Kaikeyi's mother was sent away. Then, one day, the king overheard some birds talking about a special plan the gods had. This plan was about Rama, who was going to be born to fight off all the evil. But there was a big problem: King Dashrath, Rama's father, would not let him go into the deep, dark forest where the evil Asuras lived. Instead, Dashrath wanted Rama to be the king of Ayodhya.
Here's where things get interesting. If Rama became the king, he wouldn't have any reason to go into the forest. So, to prevent Rama from becoming king and to send him to the forest, Gods used Manthara and Kaikeyi’s help. They had to play important roles in sending Rama to the forest to fight the Asuras.
To truly understand Manthara's part in this epic drama, we need to know about her past and present life. In a special text called Vaishnava philosophy, Lord Vishnu and his partner Laxmi represent everything that's pious and pure in the world.
On the other hand, we have Kali Purusha and Alaxmi (also known as Jyeshtha Laxmi), who represent all the evil things in our world. They both promote misinterpretation of Vedas. Alaxmi brings sorrow & poverty and encourages sins.
After sinful millennia, Alaxmi repented for her sins which in turn liberated her. She took birth again, and found herself inside Swarg (heaven). Seeing her there, Brahma got upset and cursed her that when the time comes, she will become a hurdle to the happiness of Lord Vishnu and will delay establishment of righteous rule in Treta Yuga. To fulfill Brahma's words, Alaxmi took birth as Manthara and caused Rama to go into exile for 14 years. This ultimately delayed RAM RAJYA for fourteen long years.
Now, let's take a look at how Kaikeyi earned her two special wishes or boons. Dasharath, the king, and lord Indra were fighting against Samhasura, a demon king. Kaikeyi managed to convince Dasharatha to take her along to the battle. As they were fighting, something bad happened: the wheel of Dasharatha's chariot broke, and a sharp arrow from Samhasura hit Dasharatha's armour and got stuck in his chest.
Quick-thinking Kaikeyi fixed the broken wheel and steered the chariot away from the battle chaos. She took care of Dasharatha's wounds and helped him recover. Dasharatha was deeply moved by her bravery, so he offered her two special wishes as a way of thanking her. However, Kaikeyi decided to save those wishes for later, not asking for them right away.
Rama was the apple of Kaikeyi's eye. She loved him just as much as her own son, Bharat. The gods had a plan, though. As anticipated by the Gods, King Dashrath announced that Rama would be the next king. But there was a tricky problem. If Rama became the king, how will he go to forests to annihilate demons. He was born to do that.
That is when Gods went to goddess Saraswati for help. Goddess Saraswati controlled Manthra’s tongue, making her the villain of whole drama. Manthra started playing with the psyche of Kaikeyi making her feel insecure. She said, "Listen, when Rama becomes king, Kaushalya will be treated as queen mother. And your son Bharat will always be under Rama's rule. But you can change this. Just ask for your two boons now: to make Bharat the king and send Rama to the forests for 14 years."
Kaikeyi got caught up in this plan. She agreed with Manthra and went to King Dashrath to ask for these boons. The king was devastated. He had no choice but to agree, and this sadness overwhelmed him. In just a few days, he passed away.
Rama, along with his wife Sita and brother Laxman, had to leave for the forests. Now, it was Kaikeyi's turn to face a shock. Bharat, her own son, flatly refused to be the king. He believed that Rama, his older brother, deserved the throne. Bharat also said he didn't consider Kaikeyi as his mother anymore.
The big question is why Kaikeyi asked for Rama to go away for exactly fourteen years? Why not a different number, like 12 or 13 years? In the story of Ramayana, which happened a long time ago, there was a special rule during that time. It said that if a king left his kingdom for 14 years, he would lose his right to be king anymore. Even if he came back later, he couldn't be king just because he was born into the royal family. Kaikeyi knew about this rule, so she asked for Rama to be sent away for 14 years. This way, even if Rama returned, he couldn't claim the kingdom as his right because of his royal bloodline.
Similarly, there was a rule in Dwapar Yuga as well; where a king would lose his empire after 13 years. This was the reason why Duryodhana asked for 12 years of forest exile (Vanvas) and 1 year of Agyatvas for Pandavas.
Bharat ruled Ayodhya for fourteen years as representative of Rama. This gave Vishnu Avatar Rama a chance to fulfil his promise of eliminating evil forces including Ravana from this earth and restoring dharma. On his return to Ayodhya from exile, Rama went straight to meet Kaikeyi. He was grateful that she provided him opportunity to wipe out Asuras from this earth and restore Dharma. Rama also met Manthra and forgave her for her actions as she was being directed by goddess Saraswati. Bharat welcomed his brothers and sister in law with open arms. Entire Ayodhya attended and celebrated Rama’s coronation as king. And thus Ram Rajya was established but after a delay of fourteen years .
The story of Kaikeyi in the Ramayana offers valuable lessons that resonate across time. It teaches us about the complexities of human desires and decisions, the consequences of acting on impulse, and the power of hidden motives.
Kaikeyi's actions, driven by her own fears and the manipulation of Manthra, remind us of the importance of understanding the true motivations behind our choices and the impact they can have on ourselves and others.
This story also emphasizes the need for communication and trust within relationships, as misunderstanding and secrecy can lead to grave misunderstandings and conflicts.
Ultimately, the tale of Kaikeyi serves as a cautionary tale about the perils of allowing negative emotions and unchecked influences to guide our decisions, highlighting the significance of making choices based on compassion, wisdom, and a clear understanding of the greater good.