Friday, April 15, 2011

PDE Ramayana: Manthara and Kaikeyi

Reading Guide. This episode focuses on Dasharatha's youngest wife, Kaikeyi, who is the mother of Bharata (Rama's mother is the eldest queen, Kaushalya). You will also meet Manthara, a servant in Kaikeyi's household. Her name itself means "humpbacked." Manthara is not at all happy to learn that Rama will be Yuvarajah, the crown prince.

Image: The illustration is another shadow puppet, this time not from India but from Java in Indonesia. You can read more about the "wayang" puppet theater tradition at Wikipedia.

Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [500 words]

Heir Apparent | 14. Manthara and Kaikeyi | Kaikeyi

Now there was one who did not rejoice because that she hated Rama, son of the queen Kaushalya. This was the old nurse of Prince Bharata, son of the queen Kaikeyi. Her name was Manthara; she had been the slave of Kaikeyi while that queen yet abode in the palace of her sire, the rajah Ashwapati. Ugly and misshapen was Manthara; she was short-necked, flat-breasted, and had legs like a crane; she was big-bellied and humpbacked. When Rama was a child she had offended him and he smote her, and ever afterwards she regarded him with fierce enmity.

It chanced that Kaikeyi was gazing idly from the palace roof on the illuminated and bustling streets when the hunchbacked slave approached her and said, “Canst thou be merry, O foolish one, on this night? Thou art threatened by dire misfortune. Dasharatha hath deceived thee. Thy son Bharata hath been sent to thy father's city, so that the son of Kaushalya may be installed as Yuvarajah on the morrow. Henceforth thou wilt be the bondswoman of Kaushalya, Rama's mother, and thou wilt have to wait obediently on the commands of proud Sita. Hasten now and prevent this dread happening.”

Said Kaikeyi, “Why do you hate Rama? He is the eldest son of the chief queen, and Bharata could not become Yuvarajah without the consent of Kaushalya's son, who honors me as he honors his own mother.”

Manthara fumed with wonder and indignation at these words; then she said, “What madness hath blinded thee? What folly maketh thee heedless of the gulf of sorrow which awaiteth thee and thy son? I am older than thou art and have seen dark deeds committed in royal houses. Can Bharata become the slave of Rama? Well I know that jealous Rama will drive thy lordly son into exile and mayhap slay him. Arise, thou heedless queen, and save Bharata, lest he be sent to wander alone in the fearsome jungle. Speak thy mandate to the Maharajah, whose heart hath been captivated by thy beauty. Any other woman but thee would rather die than suffer a rival wife to triumph over her.”

Said Kaikeyi, whose heart began to burn with jealous anger, “How can I prevail upon Dasharatha to exalt my son and send Rama into exile?”

Then the hunchback reminded Bharata's mother that she had been promised two boons by her husband. In time past Dasharatha had gone to help Indra to wage war against the demons. He was grievously wounded and would have died, but Kaikeyi cured him. So he vowed to grant her two boons, and she said, “When I have need of two favours, I will remind thee of thy promise.”

Manthara spake to the queen mother of Bharata, saying, “Now go to the mourning chamber and feign sorrow and anger. The Maharajah will seek thee out, and when he findeth thee, demand of him the two boons which he promised aforetime.”

Heir Apparent | Manthara and Kaikeyi | Kaikeyi

Manthara (Wayang Kulit puppet)

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