Kaikeyi was one of King Dasharatha’s 3 wives and the Queen of Ayodhya. She was mother of Bharata. She was the daughter of Ashwapat, King of Kaikeya, a long-term ally of Kosala.
She married Dasharath after the latter had assured her father that the son born of her womb would succeed him as King of Kosala. Dasharath was able to make this to promise as his first wife, Kausalya, was childless.
Early Life of Kaikeyi
She was the only sister to 7 brothers, she was raised with no maternal influence in her childhood home. She was raised by her wet nurse, Manthara, who accompanied her to Ayodhya as a dependable maid upon her marriage to king Dasharath.
She persuaded Dasharath to take her with him in a war against Samhasura, an enemy of both Indra and Dasharath. During the battle between the two, the wheel of Dasharatha’s chariot broke and Samhasura’s arrow pierced the Dasharatha’s armor and lodged in his chest.
The courageous queen quickly repaired the broken wheel after which she drove the chariot from the battle field. She nursed the wounded King back to health. Dasharath offered her two boons because he was touched by her courage. However, the queen made a decision to ask for those boons later.
Kaikeyi’s Two Boons
A long time passed and all 3 Queens gave birth to sons. Ram, the son of Kausalya, was Dasharath’s favorite son. When he turned 16 and was to be crowned King. Manthara was anxious that Kaikeyi would lose her status as Chief Queen at Court if Ram ascended the throne (making Kausalya the Queen Mother) decided to instigate problems.
She fueled her dormant jealousy and reminded her that her son’s coronation would allow Kausalya her former status as the most important of Dasharath’s Queens. Ultimately, Kaikeyi’s ardent desire to retain superior status over Kausalya motivated her to demand both boons granted to her by Dasharath.
By one boon she asked to anoint her son Bharata in the throne of Ayodhya and for 2nd boon she asked for Ram’s exile from Ayodhya for 14 years. Dasharath granted the boons to help keep his promise. Soon after sending Rama into exile, the grief-stricken Dasaratha died of a broken heart six days after Rama left Ayodhya.
Moreover, Bharata swore not to ascend the throne since it was his older brother’s birth right.So Kaikeyi’s desire never bore fruit.
Although Kaikeyi’s name is pronounced as a wicked and evil woman and shameful motherhood however the Ramayan compiled by Sage Valmiki depicts the queen as an excellent lady, who helped Ram by asking boon for his exile from Ayodhya for fourteen years and the chance to confront Ravan and his evil empire.