The untold story of a woman who invited disasters upon her and suffered incessantly to save the humanity!
After the fierce battle at the mountain-head of Shri Lanka, Rawana finally collapsed as the arrow of Rama hit his chest. Knowing last moment has arrived; Rawana summoned Rama close to him and said, “Give my respects to mother Kaikeyi because now I am finally liberated. Thank her on my behalf!” and breathed his last.
Rama was perturbed over why should Rawana thank Kaikeyi when he never has met her in life?
Leaving behind the question for a while Rama returned to Ayodhya with Sita and his aides. Ayodhya was decorated to welcome him. The people were rejoicing his return after a long exile and great feats. He had saved mankind by killing an evil Rawana!
As Rama stepped down from the divine plane “Pushpaka”, his eyes searched for Kaikeyi. He didn’t find her anywhere in the royal family gathering which was shouting slogans in his respect.
Without glancing even at his mother Kausalya, he entered the royal palace and desperately searched for Kakeyi. Finally, he found her on the rooftop, alone and face saddened, though the eyes were gleaming with joy.
Kaikeyi heard the footsteps of Rama and trying to control her feelings glanced at Rama. Rama touched her feet and told her the last message of Rawana. He asked, “Why O mother should he thank you? He was my enemy and I killed him in the battlefield rescuing my wife. It is strange that he thanked you when I am not sure you ever had seen him in person!”
Kaikeyi let out a sigh and refused to talk on that issue. But Rama insisted. Kaikeyi said, “You are doing the same mistake my mother once did. But well, I am overburdened by the secret I have been keeping to myself for a long time. I am called merciless, cruel greedy woman and has been abused by one and all ever since you left for exile! Let me release my burden and end the curse of the life!” And she began to tell her story.
Kaikeyi was the daughter of mighty Ashvapati, king of Kekya state, situated beyond Gandhar. Ashvapati was a philosopher king. He owned the largest cavalry in the world. No enemy could ever dare him. He enjoyed his life in the company of his beautiful wife Devavati and daughter young Kaikeyi.
Ashvapati had a boon that he could understand bird’s language.The caveat was he should not reveal ever whatever he heard to anyone, else he will instantly die.
Once, in a beautiful evening, he was taking a stroll in the garden around the palace with Devavati. He overheard two swans conversing something in amusement that gave Ashvapati a hearty laugh. Curious Devavati pestered him to share with her what he heard. Ashvapati avoided but when he saw his wife is forcing him to divulge what could take his life for certain, he got angry. He thought his wife doesn’t care for his life. In the fit of anger, he banished her and daughter Kaikeyi from Kekaya state.
Devavati’s future suddenly had doomed. Her father too didn’t shelter her. As if all doors to destiny and solace suddenly had closed over her. She had to resort to find a shelter in a jungle, in Gandhar kingdom, near a village and do hard work to feed herself and young Kaikeyi.
Kaikeyi was a brave girl. She fought with the ruthless and cruel predators those would try to harm her mother. Soon she grew up and acquired fame as a great archer and charioteer. She even defeated the king of Gandhar in a chariot race and archery competition. The king fell in love with her but she refused to wed. She had seen her mother’s tragedy and had no intention to get engaged with any man.
Devavati was now getting older and only desire had haunted her to express her repentance and seek forgiveness from Ashvapati before she dies. Though Kaikeyi had no any affection left for her father, she decided to fulfill mother’s wish. One fine day both left for Kekaya kingdom.
This was the time when King Dasharatha of Ayodhya had attacked Kekaya. The mighty Kekaya army was finding hard to stand before Dasharatha’s valor. In an attack, Kekay army got disintegrated and chose to flee helter-skelter.
The scene was intolerable to Kaikeyi. She rushed to the battlefield, gathering fleeing army and to surprise of Dasharatha, she led retaliation in full vigor. Dasharatha was wonderstruck. He somehow managed to reinforce his army but Kaikeyi’s strategies worked so well in the battlefield that he had to come on an agreement for peace.
Ashvapati realized it was her exiled daughter who saved the country from defeat, though still he had resentment for Devavati. Kaikeyi was welcomed in the city with the grand celebration. She was offered the crown by her father but she humbly denied and requested her father to listen to her mother and forgive her.
Ashvapati did so. That moment Devavati was so overwhelmed she breathed her last in the laps of Ashvapati. It saddened him.
Here, Dasharatha had become crazy for Kaikeyi. He was mesmerized by her valor and archery skills. Her beauty had enchanted him. In the court of Ashvapati, he requested the hand of Kaikeyi. Ashvapati was delighted for who else could be the better match for her daughter in the whole world than Dasharatha? He gave his permission.
After Dasharatha and Kaikeyi’s wedding, in an evening, he met his daughter. He had lost all his interest in the life after Devavati’s death and all futile life. He shared his boon with his daughter knowing that the act was an invitation to instant death.
King Ashvapati was no more. After few days, grief-stricken kaikeyi left for Ayodhya with Dasharatha, accompanied by a maid, a hunchback, Manthara. She knew not what destiny waited on her. She was fallen in the realm of uncertainty and gloom as they traveled. Dashratha tried every best to keep her pleased, but invain.
In Ayodhya, she established friendly relations with Dashratha’s other wives Kaushalya and Sumitra. The stories of her valor had already reached Ayodhya hence the people too highly respected her and sung her praises.
Soon, Dashratha had to join God Indra to wage a war against a cruel King Shambarasura. Dasharatha chose Kaikeyi as his charioteer. Kaikeyi accompanied him in the war. She too fought bravely against the demons. In a crucial moment, Dashratha’s chariot wheel got disengaged. Kaikeyi was thrown in the air as chariot lost balance. Dashratha seemed losing the battle. Kaikeyi instantly gathered herself and rushed to the chariot and desperately managed chariot wheel in place using her hand while fighting with the charging in enemy with other hand. Dasharatha could return the attack as he regained his balance and composure. kaikeyi got wounded in this effort but finally, Dasharatha won.
The same evening, victorious Dasharatha offered her two boons. Kaikeyi was about to refuse but she heard a bird saying, “save the boons for later times. Do not refuse them. You are going to need them in future!”
Kaikeyi followed the instructions and thanked Dashratha for the boons and said, “ I will ask what I want if the time comes. Let them be treasured with you…but do not forget to give if I ask for them!”
Soon after birth of Rama to Kausalya, Kaikeyi too gave birth to Bharata, and Sumitra to Laksman and Shatrughna. Though Bharat was her son, she adored and loved Rama very much. Most of the time of Rama would be spent in the Kaikeyi’s palace.
Years passed. King Janaka of Videha declared Svayamvara of Sita. Who could be the better choice for Rama than unparalleled beauty Sita? Swayamvara involved a competition that whoever could wield a heavy bow and string it could marry Sita. The bow was presented to Janaka by Lord Shiva after a penance.
Rama was the only young man who could wield the bow but as he tried to string it the bow broke in two parts making thunderous sound that shook the earth and heaven.
The sound reached Lord Shiva who got enraged as he saw his bow was broken. He cursed instantly, “The young man will die soon and disastrous calamities will befall his state.” His consort Parvati got worried over this instantaneous curse and tried to sooth Lord Shiva, begged mercy. Shiva was pacified soon and said, he cannot take back his curse but if he stays away from his state and kills cruel Rawana, he will be safe. Rawana, my devotee, has become a curse to the earth! He must be killed, but I know this is an impossible feat. Young boy is destined to die!” Parvati wanted desperately to make this known to Rama, but Lord Shiva prohibited her to interfere.
But, as it was destined, a swan returning from Man Sarovara overheard this conversation. Meanwhile, the marriage of ram-Sita had taken place. The young couple was too happy to get each other. They didn’t know what transpired in the abode of Lord Shiva!
The swan flew to Ayodhya. The divine swan knew the powers Kaikeyi possessed. Kaikeyi was too worried and terrified after listening to the Lord Shiva’s curse. Manthara came to her rescue. She reminded her of the boons that Dasharatha had offered her and asked to use them now as this was the only opportune time.
Kaikeyi knew she openly couldn’t give any reasoning for demanding the boons. She loved Rama so much, couldn’t even imagine any slightest harm done to him. Same time she had heard so many horrific stories of Rawana’s cruelty and injustice. He was certainly up to destroying the earth and mankind. She was in dilemma. But her resolve grew stronger as night passed by. In early morning she sent for Dashratha and reminded him of the boons he had offered her.
She demanded Rama’s exile for fourteen years and throne to her son Bharata. It justified as Kaikeyi posed as a selfish and cruel woman. Dasharatha couldn’t imagine any other secret reason behind these sudden demands. Dasharatha cursed her, abused her but she stood strong with her demands. Dasharatha had to concede with her. Knowing this Bharata too got very much angry with her. Rather, she all of sudden became an evil woman for all.
Rama and Sita left for exile, accompanied by Laxmana. At that moment the whole city was in anguish and angered towards Kaikeyi’s turpitude. Kaikeyi sat alone in the dark corners of her palace knowing now onwards she has to live life in the company of the hatred.
She knew very well that Bharata would never accept the throne. He couldn’t betray Rama. And Bharata too really rejected the throne, only moment of relief to her!
Another stroke of the destiny on her was, Dashratha died soon after Rama’s departure. The tragedy was, she was denied to see him in his last moments.
Afterwards, she lived life like an ascetic, secluded and in the company of her own grief. She mutely took all abuses and resentments without uttering a word. She kept receiving the news on Rama’s movements, was very unhappy when she learned of Sita’s abduction, was worried and desperately praying when Rama was fighting with Wali and then Rawana!
Now Rama was back. Standing in front of her, both the hands folded and weeping incessantly for what his mother silently had suffered, for the cause of the universe and his life!
He touched her feet. The light grew…the whole earth started shining with the divine light. All surrounding seemed to be melting in that shine. The sky and earth seemed merging with each other.
She said as she was almost disappearing, “Rawana, a great devotee of Shiva, knew almost everything of this. He knew only if he gets killed by you, he will attain heaven after death…” Now she was almost disappeared but the sound of Kaikeyi was reverberating across the earth and heaven, “Rama, my boon was associated with a curse. As soon I reveal the truth, just like my father, I too was to die! But I am happy that my suffering has yielded a great divinity like you! The whole universe will sing ballads full of your praises. Let now universe call me a selfish and cruel mother…forever. I don’t care! Goodbye son!”