Book Reviews

Kaikeyi That Horrible Woman Understood At Last *

Our greatest national epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, bristle with irony. The ostensible root of the misfortunes visited upon the protagonist is also the bedrock on which the epic is founded. Would the world have the Song Celestial, if Dhritarashtra, the veritable trunk of the tree of adharma, had not asked Sanjaya to relate what was happening on Dharamakshetre Kurukshetre? And what would be left for the Adi-kavi to relate in the life of Rama devoid of fourteen years' exile? The Mahabharata story can exist, its epic status unimpaired, without the Gita; but without a Kaikeyi, the Ramayana? It degenerates into a tame "and they lived happily ever after" fairy tale with the marriages of the four brothers. Yet, over the millennia, Kaikeyi has been bracketed with Shakuni as the villain-of-the-piece and her role ever seen as on par with Dhritarashtra's. Actually, Kaikeyi's fate has been worse than Shakuni's.

As far back as 1924, the actor playwright Manoranjan Bhattacharya sought to redeem Shakuni's character from the indelible stain of "motiveless malignity" in his brilliantChakravyuha, depicting an intriguing understanding existing between him and Krishna. In the 1990s, Dr. Dipak Chandra attempted to justify Shakuni's conduct in a novel of doubtful success.

Kaikeyi, however, remained a character no one appeared willing to touch with the magic wand of redemption. For, does she not present a picture of heartless selfishness womankind at its most degenerate, driving the avatara himself into exile, for the sake of her son's inheritance? It is this "horrible woman" about whom Amreeta Syam dares to write. Her daring is all the more astonishing coming, as it flies in the face of universal condemnation typified in the reaction of the author's own mother recorded in the "Dedication": 'To my mother who asked, "Why are you writing a book about Kaikeyi? She was a horrible woman." 'And then grew to like the "horrible woman" for herself.' Syam's Kaikeyi is by no means Valmiki's one-dimensional character. She is fully fleshed out through a series of dramatic monologues; not pristinely pure like Kaushalya, so uninterestingly Satvik; nor, like Sumitra, a dumb shadow mutely serving the elder queens with not a thought to spare for herself or her progeny. No wonder, Kaikeyi was Dasharatha's favorite, as the only interesting feminine company he had been able to acquire in his large harem!

There are overtones of Greek tragedy in Syam's portrayal of her character. For, Kaikeyi tempts fate by "Forever grabbing/at things/not hers" - imagining that all four are her sons; that Rama is her first born (although Bharata resembles her husband the most, she neglects him, even berates her brother for favoring Bharata instead of Rama, and has to be reminded that Bharata is his nephew); that Dasharatha and Ayodhya are hers only; and, later, that Bharata belongs only to her, forgetting that he also belongs his father, his brothers and most of all, to himself. In a Sophoclean touch, she dares to question the blind sage's curse on childless Dasharatha, for where is the son to fructify it? Caught in the maelstrom of her ego's obsession, she invites destruction by scorning Dasharatha's importunate reminders about the curse as she insists on being granted her two boons.

Syam's depiction of the sequence leading to the reversal in Rama-doting Kaikeyi's attitude rings completely true psychologically. When Rama ignores her desires for the first time and leaves her apartments to spend the night before the coronation in Kaushalya's chamber, Kaikeyi suddenly awakens to the realization that Kaushalya and not she will be the Queen Mother, and it is not her son Bharata who will be crowned. 'Reason' and 'Instinct', in Syam's words, "the ego's grasping claws and the heart's selfless love" are at war. The interaction with Dasharatha over the two boons is utterly engrossing writing, pulsating with the flow and counter-flow of differing emotions, punctuated by the repetitive death-knell of "My two boons/My King", till exulting "reason" wins the day at the cost of her life's greatest love, leaving Kaikeyi "with victory/cold and gloating". She is left in complete isolation, pictured forth in a superb image: "The apartment closed around me' the walls/of the room/grew cold with/a forgotten curse."

The build-up to the final reversal of the situation and her recognition of the unacceptable nature of her decisions is inexorable. First, when the city does not welcome Bharata, she ignores it and interprets his decision to bring back Rama as a ploy to win over the subjects. Here Syam departs from the original in not having Kaikeyi accompany her son on this mission, in order to remain true to the characterization she has painstakingly brought alive. When Bharata refuses to rule from the throne, Syam has Kaikeyi urge him in open court (again none of the other queens put on an appearance) to govern the kingdom. When he leaves Ayodhya, she realizes that she has lost her sons and her husband for nothing. That is when she longs to recapture the happiness of the past, which she had been too busy to notice in the bustling days.

Syam's treatment could have achieved even further depths of insight if she had taken into account the research of N.R.Navlekar - as Dr. Dipak Chandra did in his 1983 novel, Janani Kaikeyi - which brings out two major factors explaining the conduct of Kaikeyi. The first is that Kaikeyi is the youngest queen, which is the secret of the fascination she exercises over Dasharatha. The second is that her father, King of the mountainous Kekaya kingdom, agreed to middle-aged Dasharatha's importunate requests putting the same condition that the fisher-king, Dasaraja, put to Shantanu in response to his request for the hand of Satyavati: that his daughter's son would inherit the kingdom of Ayodhya. It is to avoid this eventuality that from early childhood Dasharatha keeps sending Kaikeyi's children to their maternal uncle's kingdom far from Ayodhya. His intentions become quite transparent when he rushes through the formalities of declaring Kaushalya's son as the heir-apparent in the absence of Kaikeyi's sons, and takes care not to inform his favorite queen Kaikeyi. It is Manthara, the faithful family retainer accompanying Kaikeyi from her father's house, much as Shakuni comes with Gandhari, who reminded the oblivious Kaikeyi of her husband's broken promise. That is when Kaikeyi sees through Dasharatha's intrigue to go back on the undertaking forming the basis of their marriage, and utilizes his commitment to grant her two boons in order to win back for her son his birthright. Dipak Chandra adds to this the further motivation of Dasharatha not wanting a son of mixed blood (he makes Kaikeyi non-Aryan Harappan) on the throne.

Kaikeyi lets nothing stop her in safeguarding her son's inheritance - the threat of widowhood, which becomes a reality; the outrage of all Ayodhya, which turns into the implacable condemnation of all generations to follow. The tragedy of Kaikeyi lies in the rejection of her awesome sacrifice by the very person for whom she went through fire: her son Bharata.

Syam has arranged her work in five parts, portraying the complex and intriguing process of Kaikeyi's development as a character in four phases: The wife, The Mother, The Widow and The Crone who introduces these accounts in a Prologue; and ends the portrayal in an Epilogue on a question mark that looks forward through the mists of time to the present day.

Syam grips our attention from the very first page, for here is Kaikeyi herself speaking to us, spanning the thousands of years separating us with the Prologue, "I". By selecting the autobiographical technique she seizes the reader per force and takes us inside this intriguing, much detested character. And what an unerring touch she uses to evoke our sympathy: vatsalya rasa! Kaikeyi is content watching her grandchildren play. This is capped with a picture that cannot but arouse a response - "Grey haired crone with withered eyes clutching at palace walls". This soft picture undergoes a complete metamorphosis in the second section of the Prologue, where the crone transforms into her past queenly person: ambitious, loving her husband, proud of her sons, glorying in her race. Since these are qualities in which all humankind shares, she puts before us the unanswerable question: Why does no one name their daughters Kaikeyi? Syam ends the Prologue with an answer to this question, which is typical of the character she brings alive before us: there has never been another Kaikeyi because, in her own words, "Perhaps I am incomparable".

Syam paints the child Kaikeyi (she is never given a proper name, and in this resembles Kaushalya. the princess of Koshala) as spoilt (born after 7 sons), educated, adept at fencing and riding (because of which she is able to save beleaguered Dasharatha's life when his charioteer is slain) and keen to be Queen, not consort. Syam marries her off at 13 to middle aged Dasharatha, with whose "ravaged eyes and sweet smile" she, strangely, falls in love despite her dreams of reckless men "Striding across worlds with dreams in their eyes and Empires lying conquered at their feet and only one Queen by their side". Naturally, we find her burning with hatred of timid, devout, correct Kaushalya, raging to "scratch poison-tipped nails across her smooth face", unceasingly praying for her death. In a superb tour de force, Syam turns the tables on Kaikeyi: "She did not die/ She nursed me through birth pangs". And it is here that Syam's creativity catches the eye yet again. She departs from the original in which Kaushalya gives birth to a daughter Shanta, and instead makes Kaikeyi's first child a girl, Sarayu, and has Kaikeyi determine to fight for her daughter's rights to inherit. But it is decreed otherwise, as Syam puts so epigrammatically: "My child, who lived hardly a month and brought her mother Sumitra", as Dasharatha needs an heir. Syam provides Kaikeyi with a biting comment on male chauvinism: "Did I not want children too? But I could hardly marry another man to bear them". Kaikeyi gallops out of Ayodhya in affront, causing people to shriek and drag children out of her way and spends two months in Kekaya in agony of separation from her beloved husband, before her mother-in-law visits Kekaya to ask her to return in her own interest, lest Sumitra capture Dasharatha.

True to character, Syam shows Kaikeyi grateful for this excuse of mother-in-law's command to get back to her husband, only this time she does not return alone. Her foster-sister (daughter of her wet nurse) Manthara accompanies her. Kaikeyi emerges tactless, not clever like Manthara, although she cannot abide stupidity, and driven by emotions. And Manthara? She has no hump, but is so tall ad lissom that the envious Ayodhyans call her hunchbacked, but also regard her, in their ignorance, as a demoness because her skin is ebony.

Kaikeyi is shown as Dashratha's favourite queen, with whom he goes away on a second honeymoon after Sumitra is brought to Ayodhya. He does not sped a single night with the new queen. Kaikeyi exults. But where Kaikeyi would have liked to poison a co-wife, Sumitra is more clever and wins her compassion by waiting upon her hand and foot. Beautiful Sumitra with shadows under her eyes a queen born to serve. So much so that Kaikeyi even sends Dasharatha to Sumitra's chamber one night, and sleeps peacefully! It is Sumitra alone who keeps in touch with her after the exile takes place.

Kaikeyi exults in her supremacy and yet is perversely angry that her husband does not take care of his other wives! It is during this dalliance that the kingdom is attacked, and Kaikeyi saves her husband's life, permanently fracturing her little finger in the process and wining two unconditional boons from her husband. The crooked finger and destiny are shown interlinked in tragic irony, for Kaikeyi does not even dream the occasion on which she will ask for the boons, and its terrifying impact.

The insecurity Kaikeyi suffers from because of having two co-wives, no heir to Ayodhya and lack of faith in the promises of men, despite her love for Dasharatha, drives her to cling to gems, an obsession which her subjects criticize: "I loved the glow of colours and brittle shades and shapes the cold fire in stones". She loves to be ever glimmeringly clad, every inch a queen both for the sake of her husband and because of her inner insecurity. Yet there is an innate generosity of heart in this jealous, possessive, insecure woman, which makes her, "warmed by his (her husband's) glance", give Sumitra the extra share of the sanctified fertility-gifting payesh; which leads her to regard Kaushalya's Rama as her own son, neglecting her own son Bharata in his favor; which is seen in her anger at the finalization of the marriages of the sons without her concurrence, being transformed into a deep love for Sita in whom she sees a younger Kaikeyi.

Syam alters the story of Rishyashringa and his putreshti yajna into an account of a nameless ascetic with burning eyes who is sent by the numerous progenied Kekaya Queen Madhuri, another invention of the author. Syam makes no bones over Kaikeyi pinning the cause of childlessness on Dasharatha, with a hint that she alone among the queens is fertile. But for this she has to ignore the Rishyashringa story, because this sage married Shanta, Dasharatha's daughter by Kaushalya given away in adoption to his friend Lomapada, King of Anga, much as Pritha is given away by her farther Shurasena to his friend Kuntibhoja. Dipak Chandra in his novel on Kaikeyi also pinpointed the cause in Dasharatha's own infertility caused by his large harem, and portrayed Rishyashringa as a sage-physician conducting the king and his queens through a year-long regimen of medicinal treatment to restore fertility and potency.

It is in Section XXI of the poem that we receive a rude jolt when Syam has Kaikeyi muse on even taking a lover to resolve the impasse of childlessness. This is grossly anachronistic and spoils the atmosphere carefully built up so far with great success. Queens taking lovers is a phenomenon foreign to the Epic and Puranic world of India, and is a medieval development. It is also wholly out of character with all that Syam reveals of Kaikeyi throughout the poem.

One is also uncomfortable with Syam's sudden use of the Roman "June" sandwiched between yajna and Payesh. If the month of torrential rains was to be evoked, surely the mood could have been created far more effectively, in tune with the ambience of the poem by using the traditional Sanskrit name of the month, Ashadha?

Kaikeyi's dark side, her shadow-self feeding on insecurity and fear of subjects rebelling, is Syam's unique contribution to our understanding of this character. Unknown to Dasharatha, she weaves a network of spies to guard the royal throne - ever so ironically - for Rama. Again anachronistically, Syam has her pre-empt Kautilya in selecting wandering beggars, priests, and bored housewives for this purpose, with Manthara as the go-between. Finding Ayodhya's general Siladitya (again a name not featuring in the Epics-Puranas) too keen to launch an attack on a neighboring kingdom, which would inevitably lead to new taxes and arouse public outcry of which Dasharatha is blissfully oblivious, Kaikeyi turns Catherine de Medici, and removes the general through a gift of poisoned wine to his wife. She consistently regards her husband as too uncomplicated a man to rule intelligently enough to hold on to his inherited kingdom! That is why she never shares with him the information her spies bring her.

It is Kaikeyi who schools Rama in the tricks of kingship, the need for hypocrisy, the absolute necessity of prizing the subjects above all for they can make or break he king. She does not, however, tell him of her spy network, or of people's emotions being fickle, or of the murders, for she wants to remain the perfect mother in his eyes. Syam has Kaikeyi (queen and royal mother) put a rhetorical question to herself, which is brilliant in its incisive psychological probing:

Is hypocrisy an essential part of motherhood?

Syam sketches with swift simple strokes pen-portraits of the four wives the sons bring home. This is a major contribution, because Valmiki gives them no individuality at all, but for Sita. Syam also gives Kaikeyi the credit of drilling into the princes the necessity of keeping to a single wife - the fruit of her own experiences - instead of this being a cardinal virtue enunciated by Rama alone, as has been traditionally accepted.

In Sita, she sees a younger version of herself, possibly because of her doting on Rama, which replaces her indignation at her favorite being married to a foundling. Marble-cold Mandavi is the beauty of the family, never leaving the palace even when Bharata retires to a village, but Penelope-like constantly embroidering curtains and robes that are never used. Shrutakirti, all life and laughter, is a non-entity losing herself in Shatrughna, not "lost herself behind Shrutakirti" (sic.p.81), and remains a mere shadow. Urmila's fiery nature matches Lakshmana's and "their fights raged/around the palace". But we miss mention of her after Lakshmana's from exile. The tragic irony that dogs Kaikeyi's fate also encompasses the four princes, for none of them has a happy married life.

It is Kaikeyi who understands the agony of Sita in her chastity being questioned twice over before cheering crowds by Rama, and her disappearing forever. Kaikeyi will not be another Indumati - - Dasharatha's mother, who went to Kekaya to bring back the offended Kaikeyi - because, as she says so sensitively,

A woman can only take so much pain again and again from a husband once loved.

That phrase, "once loved" reverberates with significance and takes us back to the ineffably poignant scene Syam paints of Kaikeyi meeting Sita after the return from exile and, with "hot rage" burning through her veins, asking her whether it is true that the first question Rama had put her was concerning her chastity,

But Sita only smiled
And rested her head
On my lap
And I dared not
Probe further
The shadows under
Her eyes
Passed unnoticed.

Kaikeyi urges Sita to protest against the banishment, which occurs because Rama follows the lesson she had taught him to give primacy to the subjects' wishes. But Sita acquiesces because

She was disillusioned
A love that dims
and sputters into
is often worse
than no love
at all.

It is Kaikeyi who points out to Rama the necessity of having his wife beside him for the horse-sacrifice. Rama has a golden statute of Sita made. In a pregnant statement, Syam's Kaikeyi looks into the heart of the character whose obsession was proving himself to be a greater raja, pleaser of his subjects, than any of the Surya dynasty:

The pure cold metal
was perfect for
who turned away
from a human being
kingship bled emotion
out of him.

In an intriguing parallel, the coming of children leads to deprivation. Just as Sarayu's birth lost Kaikeyi her exclusive hold on her husband, the return of Lava and Kusha loses Kaikeyi her dearest daughter-in-law Sita, forever. Syam gives a modern interpretation to the disappearance of Sita. It is no mythical vanishing into the bowels of the earth. Kaikeyi will have no such myth-making, for

Does the earth ever crack
for the sufferings of mankind?

Her Sita wanders off none knows where.

She left to regain
a modicum of
and I let it
be at that.

With the Epilogue, the poem comes full circle, Kaikeyi playing with her grandchildren,

A face crumbling
into the blur
of age

realizing that inheriting a throne, as she sought to achieve for Bharata, does not go hand-in-hand with happiness. She warns future generations not to imitate Rama who turned even the image of his wife into metal; implores us not to become oblivious of the man and wife in the process of their deification.

Kaikeyi leaves us with perplexing questions that hang

unanswered amidst
wandering stars
And thoughts lie
buried in unshed tears.

Why is Kaikeyi held solely responsible for what happened? Why did no one stand up against her when she demanded her two boons, instead of

Listening helplessly
to Kaikeyi !
As if she was an oracle.

For, could she not be confused too? What were the other two queens doing, the ministers and the royal priest? Was the personality of Kaikeyi so overwhelming, her hold on the kingdom so unquestioned that none dared challenge her will till her own son returned to disobey her?

Kaikeyi proffers two pieces of advice born of the bitter wisdom churned out of her life's tragic experiences:

Ask questions, my grandchildren,
Rule with your
But keep a little
of yourselves
for life and

Syam ends her poem on a note of high exaltation and nostalgia, firing the imagination, evoking echoes of Browning's "Last Ride together", as Kaikeyi's memories wing back to her golden days of love:

Two horses galloping
With the wind
The black-haired woman
Impatient, laughing
And the steady warmth in
the man's eyes
the love in his

Syam's poetic genius is characterized by a vivid and fresh imagination. Kaikeyi's crowned hair is compared to

The brilliance of stars
Across black night skies.

Her horse is

Black splendour
Galloping - a thunder of black foam
Across the blue meadowed hills.

The most romantic images come in her description of Kaikeyi and Dasharatha's sylvan retreat in Section XI, where she speaks of the deep woods

Touched with
honey purple
and glistening green,
twilight bathing
Polished gold.
A forest idyll
Immersed in colour deep flowers
And happiness

But her range exceeds this with facile ease in the vibrant, cryptic, sinewy images thronging the description of war in Sections XIII-XV, as Kaikeyi blazes through the battlefield, smiling through her terror at the acclaim of victory. After Dasharatha's death, her inability to feel anything is described, as if she were marooned on a desert island

Where no feelings
Only waves lap the
Silent shores

And to
Grey walls from
which colour
had fled
Closing in on the
memories we

Seven years after his death, she feels "jagged pain" strike her for the first time, and sheds her first tears in abject helplessness when Bharata looks through her, when she demands he send soldiers to help Rama rescue Sita.

She lives on in the city, a detested legend, her isolation and misery communicated ever so pithily:

While in the palace
Moth-eaten days
Ate time up.

All she has left

were thoughts
Prowling like scavenging
Rats in my

Yet, the spirit is not dead. Feeling Ayodhya's air hanging heavy with accusations, she laughs her old laugh and would live again,

White hair streaming
behind me
gallop away
the fears about
Sita's fate.

The author had wanted to draw Kaikeyi out as "a character in shades of grey'A warm-hearted, complex woman'Gentle, stubborn, arrogant, confused. A woman bent on getting her own way even if it ultimately destroys her happiness". And how brilliantly she succeeds in this attempt! Kaikeyi is an undoubted triumph, following hard on the heels of the superb Kurukshetra, which provided new insights into the psyche of Draupadi, Subhadra and Bhanumati.


More by :  Dr. Pradip Bhattacharya

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Views: 3811      Comments: 4

Comment In a way, Kaikeyi was a stateswoman. Ayodhya had been secured from all sides except the South due to matrimonial alliances. The potential threats were Kishkindha and Lanka. By installing Sugriva and Vibhishana on the throne, Ayodhya was secured, and that led to the tremendous prosperity under Rama.

Somehow, I don't see anybody talking about this aspect of Kaikeyi.

Balaji Krishnamurthy
19-Oct-2018 09:47 AM

Comment I agree with Prithvi Kumar. I read a note by spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar, that Kaikeyi was the force behind King Dasaratha. She was a strong-willed lady who was virtually running the kingdom. She was as attached to Rama as Dasaratha. It was Goddess Saraswati who asked Kaikeyi to send away Rama for the greater good of the world, and also for her and Dasaratha to get over their attachment with Rama. There is a scripture 'Saraswati Gita', in which Saraswati gace knowledge to Kaikeyi, but very few know about it.

15-Oct-2014 02:24 AM

Comment Dear Friends,

I really feel unhappy when people say that Ramayana is to be read and understood for the good of mankind and then they promptly start to criticise by saying that although Rama is God (which is not true. He is avatar and there is a difference), he punished/tested his wife by putting her in fire - agni pariksha. There are even some songs for this eg. "mara ram tame sitaji nee tole na avo" (in gujarati meaning my Rama you do not compare to Sita). The song then goes on to say things like if you are kind king why did you desert your own wife etc. Even Dashrath is criticed for listening to wife who in turned listened to dumb servant. People conviniently forget that there WAS some law and order in those times, government WAS answerable to the people and most importantly to the Rishis who were the final authority in the land. If they vetoed something no-one could challenge that. Rajas were kshatriyas in charge of maintaining law and order everywhere and not only in their land/country/territory, although for matter of convinience groups of people would choose one who would be responsible for them. But it was possible for another to intervene when required. To give an analogy, in karate the entire karate community worldwide follows the same heirarchy. So the classes affiliated to one karate school will all acknowledge the black belts of that or even any other school regardless of where they study karate. A black belt of school 'A', for example has authority over juniors of even schools 'B' and 'C' even though they may not know each other personally. Same thing for kshatriyas. This is why, they often challenged each other for supremacy. Aryavart was probably never divided into political regions or kingdoms until much much later. So when they did ashwamedh yagya it was not to fight and take over territory but to prove superiority of brains and brawn and in all subjects. After that the winner, example Rama was considered the seniormost kshatriya/raja and others defered to him.
One more reason why Ramayan was venerated and recommended in the past was that it illustrates points at all levels. It is about five tattvas; Ram (fire), Laxman(water), Sita (earth) and Hanumanji(air) all functioning in ether , akasa and three gunas- Ravana (rajas), Veebhishan (sattava), Kumbhakaran(tamas).
They are warrriors so it teaches about war strategies and even the descriptions of geography etc is real so knowledge.
Also, at an individual sadhna level, when Dashratha who is king or ego takes wrong decision it is duty of self or Kaikeyi, (who Dashratha-ego is close to), to consult Manthara (the intellect- which has to be humble as a servant or adviser) and giving up worldly desires control the ego ( she did not throw away her clothes and jewels and sulk in her room as is commonly believed. It once again demeans women by naming it 'stree hatta' or stubborness and demeans Dashratha as being spineless king which is wrong), and take decision of sending four tattva (ram, sita, lakxman,hanumanji) into vanavasa in the ether, on an inward journey of sadhna, to learn and develop. Vana vasa is to clear the jungle of the mind and develop just like Gautam Buddha, and Viswamitra did. No-one blamed them or their relatives for being cruel! Then why blame Kaikeyi and Manthara for no reason other than someone has mistakenly read the whole book wrong! Instead of demeaning the whole dynasty for being stupid or cruel should not people atleast question the conclusions!!
Why insult everyone and then say they are God to be venerated! It sends a mixed message to the masses and damages the psyche of society.
It forms a psychological barrier and is against truth and justice and therefore against dharma.
In order to be a good karma yogi the same sadhna is done outside as well!

Dear Friends,
(People who are unhappy with what I have written below can you please not send any foul responses. Thank You.)
I am no expert and like most of us have grown up listening to the popular Valmiki Ramayana in which Keikeyi and Manthara are labeled evil, mean etc. because they made Ram go to exile. Having no solid proof either way, I think we should read a little between the lines in order to get a clearer picture. This is because dharma is to be based on TRUTH only. Anything else is detrimental to progress of society and individual. I have read a little about ancient societies and have found that ideally the warrior kings in Egypt, China, Japan etc. were expected to prove their worth first and only then were they allowed to have authority and become Raja, (male or female).This sounds sensible in any area of life. The whole ancient Indian society was of military nature just like a Shaolin school. Because the originator of Shaolin school were Bodhis of Lord Budhha's group who was himself great kshatriya so I am assuming they followed the same basic principles. While other students took up other professions and remained as reserve forces, the expert warriors were trained further to become kshatriya and their remits would be justice, all aspects of law and order and killing if required, with high moral and ethics code. Anyone in society was allowed to compete for this post of Raja and it was not hereditary so it cannot be said that Dashratha wanted to give kingdom to Rama. It was not his to give and the public would sooner or later expect Rama to prove himself or other canditates would keep on challenging him. Kaiykeyi and Manthara wanted Rama to be more than just a regular king who fought battles, did politics, won princess in swayamvar. That is what everyone did and was the norm of the times. In order to be unchallenged ruler one needs to do more such as win the hearts of people so that even if there is a war with neighbours the support of the people both local and of neighbours' kingdom can help tilt the balance. The idea was to have an IDEAL kingdom not the sort that Dhanananda made in later years. Then Chanakya had to train Chandragupta and his training was no less difficult.
Bharat and Rama were uptil that point equally matched in every way and being young and ambitious could easily be led astray by ill-meaning people such as foreign spies etc. It is not unheard of surely. By removing her son Bharat from the equation, she chose Rama to go and CAMPAIGN for 14 years,(this was not some law. He could have finished his work few days sooner or later and no-one would have punished him.) establish his goodwill by doing good deeds and prove first hand to people what he is capable of. In those days there was no TV etc and people had to do publicity on their own. Also, even today no-one likes the politicians who drive in fancy car, do hypocracy and feed poor for one day for publicity only and then disappear forever. So, to be proper Raja one had to be present in person to sort out issues, problems etc. and win their respect. Also Ayodhya was not a small village to be covered in a week or even a month.
Even in ancient Japan, warriors went on pilgrimages to seek adventure and honour as per their warrrior code so I feel same or similar applies by inference.
Thus Rama established his 'rule' first in peoples' hearts after which it was easy for him to do Ashwamedha yagya. Not many were able to stand up to him due to his years of expereince which can only be got on the field not by sitting at home on a throne throwing orders and doing admin duties only.
Bharat and Shatrughna were upset because no-one asked their opinion. Being young and ambitious they too wanted to go on this adventure (NOT exile). It has nothing to do with brotherly love.
Keikeyi had accompanied Dashratha on a war. Only trained warrriors are allowed to go to war, implying her calibre was high enough to sit with the commander-in-chief in his own vehicle. (It was not a tourist spot to take wife for holiday!!). Also, such high calibre Raja would definitely have an equally high calibre adviser. So, just like Vidur was to Dhritarashtra, Manthara was to Kaikeyi and she had a dual role of being nanny, just like Vidur was also a brother of the Kuru family. It is obvious that only highly trusted and properly vetted staff would be allowed near the royal family and they would be even willing to sacrifice their lives if required.
This tells us that even a woman of low status was allowed to express her point of view and if it was correct the Raja accepted it.
If this was such a bad thing the Rishis would have never let it happen as in those days their authority was higher than Rajas. The people too were educated and powerful and they too would have protested and deposed the king. Keikeyi too could have competed and proved herself worthy of the throne. (Similar competitions were held in Mahabharata and in one of them Karna was disqualified so it was the norm in those days)
Therefore it shows the bias of the author, (who was neither a trained scholar or Rishi or anything special because in those days everyone spoke Sanskrit ONLY. Plus his profession and therefore his ethics were questionable. Its probably like letting a ten year old read and judge the syllabus of a sixteen year old. It does not automatically imply he is a genius.) It is unfair to say that when a woman expresses her viewpoint she has to be villified but if a man says anything he is great!! Manthara had every right to say her views and it was upto the Raja to give final decision. Thus there is no need to shift the blame, if there is any at all. Ultimately they did leave it to Rama and he did agree. Not because he is most obedient child! It was Dashratha who was making an erronous hasty decision by deciding to announce Rama's right to the throne. Would we today accept it if we were informed that Rahul Gandhi is going to be P.M. after Manmohan Singh without any election?!?! I am sure not. It was more or less the same form of government in those days as well. The people's opinion did count. In any case, why was this decision being taken in the absence of Bharat if their love was so great? Was this not bias on the part of Dashratha? It shows that already there must have been some competition/conflict between the two brothers which had worried their parents. Keikeyi and Manthara were respecting Dashratha's wishes by removing Bharat from the competition. By not going campaigning he was not being allowed to exercise his rights as a Kshatriya and also a son of Dashratha. It tells us much about the wonderful way Keikei had brought up her children that they obeyed her inspite of their personal desires, when it was explained that it was for the good of the country. Having two equally matched competitors for the role of Rajah is never good as soon enough each one will collect a group of followers and supporters and then it could even lead to division of kingdom. Other Rajas would also take advantage and try their politics and this would further weaken the kingdom. (This is what had led to Mahabharata war). We should therefore be thankful to Keikeyi and Manthara that they helped Rama Sita and Laxman to realise their true potential, achieve self-actualization and become the venerated kings that are even today being worshipped like gods.
Please try to think with a cool and rational mind what I have written. I could be wrong obviously, but there are too many variables to blindly accept whatever Valmiki or his translators said. Every thinking person is raising these questions and it is leading to so much misunderstanding and issues such as some people writing books that say Rama was a bully etc. All this on the assumption that the ill concieve but popular interpretation of Ramayana is correct. If you can see, I have taken the same story and read it the way I feel it should have been read. It is about the Desh Bhakti of people like Manthara who spoke up against all odds when she felt she was correct, and of Kaikeyi and Bharat who gave up their rights for Rama. Being highly trained warrrior even Kaikeyi could have competed for the post but did not do so. It is not fair to be so judgemental in retrospect. How was anyone to know that Dashrath would suddenly die! Plus I don't think highly trained Rajas weep when their brave warrior sons are going on a campaign. They are trained for the role from birth and are expected to do that anyways. It sounds embarrassing and very sick to imply anyone was crying! Many children settle abroad for studies or jobs. Initially family misses them but everyone gets used to it as it is for the children's future so what is there to lament so much, that too after so many centuries?!?!?
In other older stories whenever a male villian is killed they always say he was some person who initially was living in heaven who was cursed and became like this and was later killed by some avatar as per the curse and he went back to heaven. No-one villifies even them as much as they do Manthara and Keikeyi. This is gender bias and if this is not stopped it will eventually damage the psyche of the HIndu mind and adversely affect society and country. Chauvinistic men are needlessly deciding for themselves what was role of Rama, Sita etc. and then saying stupid things like women should be men's chattel like Sita and follow them everywhere like as if she is slave or crazy in love, and some even burn them. Therefore let us stop this nonsense now. Lets behave like intelligent rational people and think for ourselves. The resepected ancients did their bit by relaying the story to us, it is upto us to read it correctly.

I read from internet the following:

The Abhidharma-mahavibhasa-sastra, a Sarvastivadin commentary, gives the complete context of the possible meanings from its Sanskrit roots: The word Vana means forest but in the context of forest of the pancha skandha and three roots of greed, hate and delusion etc. Vana vasa implies to become a monk and go in the forest for improvement of the self. Just like lord Budha did. He too was a kshatriya Raja and then went into forest to meditate. In those days they were more interested in following the Vedic traditions since they did not have any Engllish and Muslims to confuse them. It is obvious that in order to become a better human being and to serve the public better a person needs to do a lot of tapasya. Being a kshatriya can be a very hard task and involves a lot of fighting. This could make a person more violent or else very depressed. But since kshatriyas have to do their duties of defense they have to constantly train and improve themselves.
Please see attached info and the highllighted portion. It clearly states that in ancient India most areas were green. Being a monk was considered to be a great honour and not a exile or punishment.
If you see attached info on Aikido you will understand that the Buddha was promoting this sort of Ahimsa which does not mean never to protect and defend. It just implies not to be unecessarily violent and cruel. One has to work hard constantly to maintain this right balance of being a non-violent fighter. Which also means being a true karma-yogi.

Therefore I feel that Kaikeyi and Manthara were NOT being stupid or mean. They were doing their duties as a mother and grandmother. Manthara was NOT a servant. She had brought up Kaikeyi like her own child. Nobody keeps servants close. They live in servant quarters. Any premier or leader of the state/country even today keeps only highly qualified, intelligent and loyal people close to them and their household. There is no reason to bellieve that the great Suryavanshis were so stupid as to allow their wives to misbehave and conspiire with ordinary servants.
Rama became a great king only because they went on this great mission of training to be monk. It prevents a person from becoming too attached to power and position. In ancient Vedic times it was the norm to have educational/development periods of fourteen years. Thus by sharing the seat of power with Bharat, both brothers learn about self control and not to succumb to greed for power.
By needlessly criticising Kaikeyi and Manthara you needlessly demean the two as well as mock our ancient system of moral self development which was considered so important. Kaikeyi only wanted what was best for Rama, Lakshman and Sita since becoming a high level Karma yogi is more important than enjoying power and luxuries.
One has to remember that Ramayana is not about praising a God. It is about understanding how a person can become successful. How even high level people need to develop and keep improving themselves. We have not been sent on earth to only enjoy fruits of karma but to get rid of all karmas and attain moksha. Ancient Vedic people followed the anceint system and not the current degenerate confused system.
Then why moan for Ram who was a Suryavanshi prince and not a baby. Why should they feel hurt or bad? In any case they are trained warrriors, who were brought up and trained in very strict Gurukuls, and they were in any case not accostomed to luxuries. So why should they moan about it? Macho warrriors don't cry like babies about anything even today! It is an insult to all of us Hindus if you promote such ideas.
Please try to understand what I am saying!
In that case why do you not criticise Dasharatha for taking Kaikeyi with him to the war, if she was such a silly woman? You have to understand the character profile of a person and not just keep being judgemental as and when you want according to your personal world view. Most of these texts such as Tulsi Ramayan were written during times of Mughal oppression and people probably could not understand the concept of women being equal to men. Please read below info about how Sant Ramdas guided Shivaji who was master of guirella warfare which he learn from ancient Vedic texts. You might say it is similar to Ninja of China. Is it not similar to Sri Rama's adventure?

One day Shivaji saw, from the terrace of his palace, his Gurudev Ramdas going about the streets with his begging bowl. Shivaji was surprised and could not understand why his Guru should beg when he himself had already placed all his resources at the disposal of his Gurudev. However, Sadhus are difficult to understand. Shivaji therefore called for his companion Balaji, wrote a small chit and asked him to give it to Guruji when he came to the palace. About noon, Ramdas came to the palace with his bowl and Balaji prostrated before Gurudev and placed the chit at his feet. Briefly, the chit conveyed that Shivaji had made a gift of his whole kingdom to Gurudev and he humbly solicited his Gurudev's blessing. The Guru smiled and told Balaji that it was alright. Next morning Ramdas called on Shivaji and asked him what he proposed to do with himself as he had disposed of his kingdom.
Shivaji prostrated himself before Ramdas and said that he would be very happy and consider himself blessed if he should spend his life in his Gurudev's service. Then Ramdas said, "Take this bowl and let us go on our rounds". So Ramdas and Shivaji went round Satara begging. The people reverently bowed before the pair and gave them alms. The pair returned to the river. Ramdas prepared his simple meals and Shivaji partook of what was left after his Gurudev had finished his meals. Then Shivaji, with a smile, asked his Gurudev what he was going to do with him after reducing him to a beggar. Ramdas knew that the opportunity had come to set up a lofty ideal for the king.
Ramdas asked Shivaji to rule the kingdom in his (Ramdas's) name, to take the Gerua Chaddar for his banner and defend its honour with his life, and to think that the kingdom did not belong to himself but treat it as a trust to be ruled justly and well before God. And thus had come the Gerua banner to Shivaji.

Thank You
Hari AUM

Prithvi Kumar
13-Apr-2014 10:25 AM

Comment Kaikeyi the Adi Chanakya. We have never realised her unrelenting nature and sending Sri Ram to Vanvas was a cover up for a bigger plot. Aryavrat was confined to north of Vindhyas, to spread Aryavrat south of Vindhyas, a fairy tale had to be concocted. Ram venture into south of Vindhyas was a plan of bring south India under Aryavrat.

Kaikeyi knew well that Sita was Ravan's daughter. The details of plot are not known but the imprint of Kaikeyi is very well their in banishing Ram to Vanvas.

26-Dec-2012 13:37 PM

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