Once in the city of Saurashtra, there lived a Brahmin and his wife, whose name was Kalaha. She would never listen to her husband, no matter what he asked her to do. Her husband was tired of this insubordination and spoke to a friend about his dilemma. His friend suggested that he ask her to do the opposite of what he wanted done and see if that made any difference!
It worked and the husband soon grew to be a master of saying what he did not mean. “Never invite my friend for dinner, he is a scoundrel,” he announced one day. Sure enough, the friend was invited home for dinner. This continued and the couple seemed to have found a peaceable solution.
Soon it was the season of shraddha and the Brahmin wanted to perform the ceremony of his father. He told his wife that he did not plan to observe the ritual. True to form, his wife not only pulled him up for being a bad son but she made sure that the ritual would be performed without delay.
“Don’t put out a feast and don’t invite too many Brahmins,” the husband said. And got his way, just as he knew he would. However, the Brahmin slipped up and at some point during the ceremony told his wife that the pindas were to be immersed in holy waters. Kalaha went and threw them down the drain! But the quick thinking Brahmin immediately instructed her not to fish out the pindas and never to immerse them in the holy waters. He got his way.
A time came when the Brahmin was tired of this charade and contemplated leaving her for another wife. When she found out, the wife committed suicide, but her afterlife was also miserable. After the gods tallied up her life’s course, they found that she had indeed been a despicable person. And it was deemed that Kalaha would be reborn as Kaikeyi and undergo redemption, under none other than Narayana himself.
This is the back story for Kaikeyi. Towards the end of the epic, she apologises to Rama for her conduct, which she blames on her ignorance. To this Rama is supposed to have said, “You are not guilty of your actions. It was under my command that Saraswati, the goddess of speech sat on your tongue as you asked for my exile. You are pure and I am not angry with you.
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.
Story collected by: Utkarsh Patel
Source: Ananda Ramayana
Location: Pan India
Image detail:Dasharatha being asked in court to banish Rama by Kaikeyi and her humpbacked female slave Manthara
Image source: Wikipedia