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Kakaye and Manthara.jpg
Kakaye and Manthara

Manthara (Sanskrit: मंथरा; lit: "humpbacked") in the Hindu epic Ramayana is the maid who convinced Queen Kaikeyi that the throne of maharaja belonged to her son Bharata and that her step-son—crown-prince Rama (the hero of the Ramayana)—should be exiled from the kingdom.

Appearance and history[edit]

Manthara is said to be hunch-backed, ugly & antagonistic in appearance. Manthara, it appears, is an expert talker and a cunning woman who can manipulate her way to get what she wants.

When Rama is going to become the king of Ayodhya, many deities consulted Lord Vishnu. They said "Rama is going to become king. He will enjoy his life. But the reason behind his introduction is to kill evil." Lord Vishnu expressed his helplessness, so they consulted Saraswathi,the Goddess of education. She went in the form of Manthara (Kekaya)and sent Rama to forests.

Manthara is said to be incarnation of Alakshmi, the eternal consort of Kali Purusha. In her earlier life, she had done penance unto Lord Rudra and accumulated virtue to become one among many celestial dancers / apsaras in Swarga loka. Knowing well that she was an evil soul, Brahma ordained her to take birth as Manthara and create hurdles in establishing Rama Rajya on earth during Treta Yuga.

Appearance in other versions[edit]

Dasharatha being asked in court to banish Rama by Kaikeyi and her humpbacked female slave Manthara
  • The Telugu version Sri Ranganatha Ramayanam mentioned a small story involving young Rama and Manthara in Balakanda. When Rama was playing with a ball and a stick, suddenly Manthara threw the ball far away from Rama. In anger, Rama struck her on the knee with the stick and her knee was broken. This message was conveyed to king Dasharatha by Kaikeyi. The king decides to send Rama and his other sons to school. This incident makes the king think about his responsibility of educating his sons, so that they can learn and become wise. Manthara had developed a kind of antagonism towards Rama and was waiting for an opportunity to take revenge against him. It is also said that during Rama's childhood Kaikeyi loved Rama more than Bharata and spend more time with him. This made Manthara jealous of Rama.
  • In 2015 Amish Tripathi's novel Ram: Scion of Ikshvaku (first book of Ram Chandra Series) portrayed Manthara as a rich women, even richest in Sapt Sindhu who was a friend of Kaikeyi.[1]

Poisoning Kaikeyi's mind[edit]

As family servant of Kaikeyi, Manthara lived with her from the time of her birth. When she hears that King Dasharatha is planning to make his eldest son, Rama, prince regent (rather than Bharata, his child by Kaikeyi), she flies into a rage and reports the news to Kaikeyi. Kaikeyi is initially pleased and hands Manthara a pearl necklace.

Manthara's scheme[edit]

Dasharatha promises to banish Rama per Kaikeyi's wishes. A folio from Ayodhya Kand manuscript

Manthara reminds Kaikeyi of the two boons Dasharatha had given her when she had once saved his life in a celestial battle. Kaikeyi had kept these boons for later and Manthara declares that this is the right time to ask for them. She advises Kaikeyi to lie in her room wearing soiled clothes and no ornaments. She should weep and cry, pretending anger. When Dasharatha would come to console her, she should immediately ask for the boons. The first boon would be that Bharata would be made the king. The second boon would be that Rama should be sent into the forest for exile for fourteen years. Manthara reckons that the fourteen-year banishment would be long enough for Bharata to consolidate his position in the Empire and weave his way into people's hearts.

Rebuked by Shatrughna[edit]

Manthara appears only once in the Ramayana after Rama's banishment. Having been rewarded by Kaikeyi with costly clothing and jewels, she is walking in the palace gardens when Bharata and his half-brother Shatrughna come upon her. Seeing her, Shatrughna flies into a violent rage over Rama's banishment and assaults her murderously. Kaikeyi begs Bharata to save her, , telling Shatrughna that it is a sin to kill a woman and that Rama would be furious with them both if he does such a thing. He relents and the brothers leave, while Kaikeyi attempts to comfort Manthara.

Portrayal in film and television[edit]

In Ramanand Sagar's highly successful television series Ramayan, Manthara is played by veteran character actress Lalita Pawar. In this TV series, it is shown that when Rama returns to Ayodhya after exile, he goes to meet Manthara, who has been imprisoned in a dark room. Seeing Rama, Manthara falls into his feet and apologizes for all her sins on which Rama forgives her.


  1. ^ "'The Scion of Ikshvaku' is quite the 'Un-Ramayana'",, 28 June 2015