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Kaikeyi (Sanskrit: कैकेयी, Kaikeyī, Indonesian: Kekayi, Burmese: Kaike, Malay: Kekayi, Thai: Kaiyakesi, Khmer: កៃកេសី), in the Indian epic Ramayana, was one of King Dasharatha's three queen-wives and a Queen of Ayodhyā. But it can not be surely said if she was last or the second queen. In Ayodhya kand Rama says that Kaikeyi is their younger mother(chapter 52, verse 61). But in Aranya kand Rama says that न ते अम्बा मध्यमा तात गर्हितव्या कथंचन। ताम् एव इक्ष्वाकु नाथस्य भरतस्य कथाम् कुरु(chapter 16, verse 37) Which means " In any way, dear Lakshmana, you are not supposed to deplore another mother of ours, but you go on telling the topics of Bharata, the king of Ikshvakus." The word अम्बा मध्यमा means second mother or middle mother. She was the mother of Bharata. The term Kaikeyī in Sanskrit means "belonging to Kekeya Kingdom", referring the ruling family of the Kekaya clan, to whom Kaikeyī belonged. Kaikeyi was the daughter of king Ashwapati which means lord of horses, that means lord of the place of Horses which is nowadays called Ukraine, and his daughter was named after the Kacus(Cacus) mountain ranges in Serbian region.
As the daughter of the mighty Ashwapati, a long-term ally of Kosala, Kaikeyi married Dasharatha after the latter had promised her father that the son born of her womb would succeed him as King of Kosala. Dasharatha was able to make this promise as his first wife, Kausalya, the princess of Magadhabut after giving birth to his daughter Shanta she did not conceive again. Sumitra, the princess of Kashi, also remained barren for many years of marriage, as a result of which Dasharatha married Kaikeyi,but Dasharatha wasn't able to father a child again.
As a young girl and the only sister to seven brothers, Kaikeyi grew up without a maternal influence in her childhood home. Her father had banished her mother from Kekaya after realizing that his wife's nature was not conducive to a happy family life. Amongst other things, due to a boon, Ashwapati was able to understand the language of the birds. However, this was accompanied by a caveat that if he ever revealed the content of bird speak to anyone, even his own mother, that he would forthwith lose his life. One day, the King and his Queen were strolling through the palace gardens when Ashwapati happened to overhear the conversation of a pair of mated swans. The conversation so amused him that he laughed heartily, instigating his wife's curiosity. Despite being aware of the fact that Ashwapati could not divulge the content of the conversation to her without losing his life, Kaikeyi's mother insisted on knowing the cause of the King's mirth. When Ashwapati realized that his wife cared little for his life or well-being, he had her banished to her parents' home.
Kaikeyi never saw her mother again. She was raised by her wet nurse, Manthara, who accompanied Kaikeyi to Ayodhya as a trusted maid upon her marriage to Dasharatha. The older woman schemed constantly to further her own position at the Court. And since her position depended on Kaikeyi's status at Court, Manthara lost no opportunity to feed the young Kaikeyi's insecurity and jealousy of Kausalya, despite Dasharatha's obvious enchantment and love for all of his wives.
Manthara's scheming paid off when Kaikeyi was able to convince her husband to take her along with him during a military campaign against Sambarasura, an enemy of both Indra and Dasharatha. During a fierce battle between the two, the wheel of Dasharatha's chariot broke and Sambarasura's arrow pierced the King's armor and lodged in his chest. Kaikeyi, who was acting as Dasharatha's charioteer, quickly repaired the broken wheel and then drove the chariot away from the battle field. She nursed the wounded King back to health. Touched by her courage and timely service, Dasharatha offered her two boons. However, Kaikeyī chose to ask those boons later.
Years passed and all three Queens produced sons. Rama, the son of Kausalya, was Dasharatha's favourite son. During Rama's childhood, Kaikeyi loved to spent time with Rama and took care of him more than her own son. Rama was a loving, obedient child who followed his father's foot steps. When he turned 16, he married Sita, rumoured to be the daughter of the Earth Goddess and foster-daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. Her son Bharata married Sita's cousin Mandavi. Her father Ashwapati fell ill and requested Bharata's presence. Kaikeyi's brother Yuddhajith notified Dasharatha of this and so sent Bharata with Yuddhajith. Shatrughna, who was close to Bharata since childhood, went with him. When 12 years passed, Dasharatha, with the approval of a royal assembly, selected Rama to be crowned King, Kaikeyi was delighted and as happy as she would have been had it been her own son, Bharata's, coronation. However, Manthara, Kaikeyi's wet nurse, became worried that Kaikeyi would lose her status as Chief Queen at Court if Rama ascended the throne, as Kausalya would thus become the Queen Mother. She decided to instigate trouble. She fueled Kaikeyi's dormant jealousy and envy of Kausalya, reminded 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 royal lineage forever. Finally, Kaikeyi's ardent desire motivated her to demand the two boons granted to her years earlier by Dasharatha and to further remind him of his promise to Ashwapati that the son born of her(Kaikeyi's) womb should succeed Dasharatha as King of Kosala. In order to ensure that Rama would be no threat to her son, Kaikeyi further demanded the exile of Rama from Ayodhya for 14 long years, reasoning that this length of time would be enough for Bharata to consolidate his position as King of Kosala.
But Kaikeyi's desire never bore fruit. After sending his son into exile, a grief-stricken Dasharatha died of a broken heart six days after Rama left Ayodhya. She came to blame herself for this death. Furthermore, Bharata swore never to ascend the throne as it was his older brother's birth right. He further blamed her for his father's death and is said never to have addressed her as "mother" again. He also cursed her saying that no father shall here-on name his daughter as Kaikeyi. It is reported that this is the reason why the name Kaikeyi is often unheard of. Realising her mistake, Kaikeyi repented for sending her most beloved son away for 14 years. After Rama's return, she apologized to him for her sins. Rama touched her feet and insisted Bharata to forgive his mother.
The story is also told in another way. Trapped by Ram's destiny, her love for him, and what her father, who heard the talk of birds, Kaikeyi was forced to make Ram leave home and Ayodhya, in order to let the story of the Ramayana unfold. Notably, while this is one of the least spoken sides, it is a respected tale that is likely true. Kaikeyi could perhaps be the most selfless character of the Ramayana, forcing her favourite and beloved son to leave some to fulfill his destiny (as her father risked his life to tell her what the birds told him), and then facing the consequences herself, by causing suffering and hatred she didn't deserve.
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