A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011


On this Women's Day, let's know more about Kaikeyi, the most misunderstood woman of our Mythology.

Kaikeyi was one of the wives of King Dasharath and the mother of Bharata, in the epic Ramayana. She is considered to be one of the women whose actions led to the events of the epic. She is also considered to be the proverbial step-mother and is seen as the jealous wife and an over-zealous mother. We will keep the negative epithets aside for the time being and try to understand the character, without the tainted glasses that we have been made to wear for long. 

Kaikeyi was the daughter of the King of Kekaya. King Dasharath had married Kaikeyi only when his first queen, Kaushalya, was not able to conceive. Thus the marriage took place, under some unuttered assumptions. First, that Kaikeyi’s son would be the future king of Ayodhya and second, that she would be the Queen Mother. All this because Kaushalya’s bearing a child had been already ruled out. However, when she too could not conceive, Dasharath got married again. But Kaikeyi was no Kaushalya. She was brave, beautiful and ambitious.

It is said that once, she had accompanied Dasharath to a war against a demon. During the war, when Dasharath was supposed to have been injured, she drove his chariot out of the battleground, nursed him and got him back on his feet, fit to fight the war. Some other versions say that during the war, the axle of the chariot’s wheel broke and lest the chariot break down and bring Dasharath on the ground; she is supposed to have used her finger for the axle till the battle was over. King Dasharath was very impressed by her heroism, and granted her two boons, which she kept for a better day.

It is said that every action that one takes has a bearing on ones upbringing or some event of the past (especially childhood) which has moulded him/her the way s/he is as an adult. It was no different in the case of Kaikeyi too.

According to some versions, Kaikeyi’s father, Ashwapati had a rare gift of understanding the language of the birds. But it came with a rider. If he ever told anybody what he understood of the birds’ conversation, then he would lose his life. Once while he was strolling with his wife, he heard the conversation of two swans and had a hearty laugh. This got the queen curious, and she insisted that she be told the contents of the conversation, knowing well the implications of the King’s actions. This led the King to believe, that the Queen did not care for the life of the King and banished her out of the Kingdom. Kaikeyi grew without any maternal influence and always harboured a sense of insecurity from the male community, who she thought were fickle. What if Dasharath did not love her in his later life, as he had other wives too? What if her son, Bharata did not care for her at her old-age? All these thoughts and thanks to Manthara’s (her maid who had accompanied her from her father’s place) fuelling of latent ambitions, were the result of Kaikeyi, seeking two boon’s – one, Bharat to be appointed the King and second, Ram to be banished for fourteen years.

Some versions also say that she did all this under the instructions of Ram himself! According to this version, Ram once confessed to Kaikeyi, that he was Lord Vishnu on earth and he needed to go to the forests to eliminate many a demon and Ravana as part of his duty on earth. For this, could she do something to help him? He also warned her of the implications, and the stigma that would be associated to her name for ages. Kaikeyi could not have said a ‘No’ as she was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu and a stigma on her name was a relatively small sacrifice to be made, to get to serve the Lord himself. It is said that after her death, Kaikeyi found a place at Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Vishnu.

Yet another version says that Kaikeyi’s father had overheard from some birds that the jungles would soon be full of demons that would hurt the Brahmins and ascetics, which would need a long-term helping hand of Rama. To ensure that Rama spent a lot of time in the jungles, and being aware of Manthara’s character, he ensured that she accompany Kaikeyi, after the wedding. He had full faith in her capabilities, and needless to say that she did live-up to the King’s expectations!

All the versions and many more, lead us to one conclusion. Ram’s exile was destined and pre-ordained. The quintessential step-mother was a figment of an authors imagination or at best just a catalyst, who has been bearing the brunt of it all, since ages!


  1. Good one!
    I have heard/read a version of Kaikeyi's part in Rama's exile. It goes like this..

    Dasaratha had a dream that the King of Ayodhya were dead. So, he hurried to perform Rama's coronation lest the kingdom be left without a ruler.

    Kaikeyi, the king's favorite queen comes to know of this. Out of her love for Rama, she didn't want to allow Rama to be crowned the king because it was the KING of Ayodhya whom Dasaratha dreamt of as dying. (If Rama is coronated he becomes the king).

    So Kaikeyi causes Rama's safety even at the cost of her own husband and son.


  2. Thanks for the addition. Actually there are many a version, which all go to de-demonise the archetype of Kaikeyi.

  3. Nice read. The difference between Ramayan and Mahabharata is that Mahabharata seems more realistic with humanised characters who can be right and wrong, good/bad at same time. Ramayana has been made out to be more idealistic, a perfect hero, a perfect villain, a perfect vamp and a perfect war - good against evil. This approach to Ramayana leaves little scope to allow Kaikeyi be seen as anything else but a complete spoiler.