Manthara was fuming with anger. She advanced a few more steps towards Kaikeyi and took position very close to her.
“By Rama’s coronation as Yuvaraja, it will be Lakshmana who will reap the fruits of all opulence and bounty. Bharata will be a mere slave to both these brothers – elder as well as younger. Kausalya will be the Maharani and you will always be her servant. Any doubt in my worldly wisdom?”
Manthara stopped there and closely watched the emotional change in Kaikeyi as if in a kaleidoscope. The queen’s face tightened and eyes became cruel.
“You are a very wise lady and my well wisher, Manthara,” Kaikeyi said in a helpless tone:
“Do you have any action plan to overcome this dilemma?”
“Yes, there is.” Said Manthara. “Ask for the two boons that your husband had promised to you long ago. With the first, order Rama to be banished in the forest for fourteen years. With the next, ask Bharata to be enthroned as Yurvaraja, with the same preparations and at the same auspicious moment.” She gazed at Kaikeyi who was in all ears. Manthra told Kaikeyi,“Go straight to the palace of anger (Krodhagara). Abandon all your ornaments and lay down on the floor with your entire person covered by dust. Let your face be covered with tears and let your long and curly hair sway on the floor. Don’t negotiate or compromise until the king comes to your reasons. Good luck.”
“What are the two boons you are referring to?” Kaikeyi was in confusion.
“O, have you forgotten that too?”
Manthara reminisced Kaikeyi of the past incident.
Wars were common and frequent between the Devas and the Asuras. Indra, the king of gods used to request for help of Dasaratha to fight the Asuras. Once Kaikeyi, the daunting young queen wanted to see the fight between the Devas and the Asuras from close quarters. Unable to resist her compulsion, Dasaratha also took Kaikeyi to the war-front in the sky in his chariot.
The war led by Dasaratha and Indra became so tumultuous that clouds of dust and roars of battle cry rend the air. Trumpets and horns echoed and resounded on the horizons. Nobody knew each other or who he is fighting with. The battle field was covered with severed heads, torsos, chopped limbs, dead horses and expired heroes. Blood flew like streams.
At the peak of the conflict, the axis of Dasaratha’s chariot was broken and the vehicle was about to derail. The alert Kaikeyi who was occupying the seat next to Dasaratha, thrust her index finger on the axis and saved the chariot from mishap.
Emerging victorious in the battle, the gallant Dasaratha who was watching the valorous act of his spouse hugged her and said:
“Dear darling, I am delighted and am immensely happy in your timely intervention and care because of which both of us survive now. No women in history have shown such deed of guts and sacrifice as you did. I am pleased to offer you two boons of your choice. Take it from me now.”
KK Shanmukhan ( To be concluded )