Kaikeyi

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Kaikeyi
Ramayana character
Kaikeyi and Manthara - M. V. Dhurandhar.jpg
Manthara manipulates Queen Kaikeyi into exiling Prince Rama
In-universe information
Family
SpouseDasharatha
ChildrenBharata (Son)
Home

Kaikeyi ( Hindi: कैकेयी) was the second consort of King Dasharatha and the Queen of Ayodhya in the Hindu epic the Ramayana. Out of Dasharatha's three wives, Kaikeyi exerted the most influential role. She was the princess of Kekeya who is described to have served as an able counsellor to her husband during times of war. Kaikeyi was the mother of Bharata. Initially loving and motherly towards her stepson, Rama, Kaikeyi's mind was poisoned by Manthara, her maid. Under her influence, Rama was exiled to the forest for a period of fourteen years.

Birth and early life[edit]

Kaikeyi was born to King Ashvapati of Kekeya shortly before her mother was exiled. She was raised with her only mother figure being her hunchbacked nursemaid, Manthara. She was very fierce as she was raised with seven brothers, including her twin Yuddhajit.

Manthara's influence and Rama's exile[edit]

Under the custom of primogeniture, Dasharatha, with the approval of the royal assembly, selected Rama to be his heir. Kaikeyi was delighted and as happy as she would have been had it been her own son, Bharata's, coronation. However, Manthara, Kaikeyi's nurse, feared that Kaikeyi would lose her status as Chief Queen at court if Rama ascended the throne, as Kausalya would thus become Queen Mother. She decided to instigate trouble. She tried to fuel Kaikeyi's jealousy and envy of Kausalya by reminding her that her son's coronation would give Kausalya her former status as the most important of Dasharatha's queens and would cut Bharata out of the line of succession forever, but this had no effect on Kaikeyi at the time.[1]

Manthara later convinced Kaikeyi to demand two boons granted to her years earlier by Dasharatha. King Dasharatha was obliged to fulfill them. Kaikeyi demanded that Bharata be crowned king and Rama be sent to the forest for a period of fourteen years. Hearing this, Dasharatha fell into a swoon and passed the night in a pitiable condition in Kaikeyi's palace.[1]

Widowhood and later life[edit]

After sending Rama into exile, a grief-stricken Dasharatha died of a broken heart six days after the former left Ayodhya. Kaikeyi came to blame herself for this death. Furthermore, Bharata swore never to ascend the throne as it was his older brother's birthright. He further blamed her for his father's death and swore never to address her as "mother" again. Realising her mistake, Kaikeyi repented sending her beloved step son away for 14 years.

After Rama's return, she apologised to him for her sins. Rama touched her feet and said there was no need to ask for forgiveness as he did not feel bad about what happened. He insisted that Bharata forgive his mother. Further defending Kaikeyi, Rama also argued to Bharata that this is just what mothers did. Whether good or bad, he remarked, what mothers did was for the betterment of their children, not for themselves, so it is not proper to be angry with them.

Assessment[edit]

Kaikeyi invokes the two boons granted to her by Dasharatha: Rama should go to the forest for 14 years and Bharata must become the king

Kaikeyi's personality and her relationships are quite revealing in Ayodhya Kanda of the Valmiki Ramayana.[2] Kaikeyi maintained strong relations with her maternal family even after her wedding to King Dasharatha. Her brother Yudhajit visits her many times and takes a keen interest in the life of her son Bharata, often taking the latter and Shatrughna away to the Kaikeya kingdom during the summer.[3]

Kaikeyi helped her husband Dasharatha in the Dandaka forest while he was at war. While Kaikeyi saved the king in the war, as per mythology, her left hand was strong as a diamond (a boon from a Saint) so the king accompanied her during wars.

Kaikeyi was the king's favorite queen. Kaikeyi's nature is described as being temperamental and unpredictable. While she was mostly gentle, it is evident that she disliked the king spending time with his other queens. King Dasharatha mentions that he did not treat his queen Kausalya with the love she deserved due to fear of Kaikeyi's tantrums and possessiveness.

Kaikeyi seemed almost naive when it came to understanding the rights of the four princes to Ayodhya's throne. She naively mentions to her maid Manthara that Bharata can rule Ayodhya after Ram, not understanding the law of primogeniture. It is Manthara who educates Kaikeyi of the manner of succession.

Kaikeyi's naive nature and gentleness were transformed into obstinacy and a hunger for power; all in the name of her son Bharata's welfare. Bharata contests her views vociferously and despises her for her act of banishing the rightful heir Rama to the forest for punishing him for no fault of his own. King Dasharatha tries to reason with her, arguing in terms of the stability of the kingdom, the people's will, and the court's decision to crown Rama; none of which seems reasonable to her. Finally, King Dasharatha renounces her, and yet he is unable to separate himself from her. He lingers on in his grief in her chambers in fear of the humiliation from everyone outside those chambers.[citation needed]

Adaptions[edit]

  • Kaikeyi is the eponymous narrator of Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel, published by Redhook Books, a subsidiary of the Hachette Book Group, and a Book of the Month selection for April 2022.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sivaraman, Krishna (1989). Hindu Spirituality: Vedas Through Vedanta. Motilal Banarsidass Publishe. ISBN 978-81-208-1254-3.
  2. ^ "Valmiki Ramayana". Valmiki Ramayana. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  3. ^ Mani 2015.

Bibliography[edit]

External Links[edit]