After brief discussions with the Parishad, Dashratha along with Sage Vashishta and the ministers unanimously decided to appoint Rama his successor. Dashratha then wanted to share this news with his dear wives and he was sure they’d be delighted. After a long day in the court, he went to Kaikeyi to spend quality time with her but to his surprise, Kaikeyi was in the KrodhaBhavan. A place where the queens used to retreat when she felt that she wasn’t being treated right by the king or wanted extra attention.
In the KrodhaBhavan, Kaikeyi was lying on the floor with disheveled hair and she was breathing heavily. There were flowers and jewels scattered all around. To Dashratha, she looked like a heavenly creature that had fallen to the Earth. Seeing Kaikeyi in this state Dashratha was alarmed. But, he was also overcome with passion. Dashratha walked towards Kaikeyi and asked her what had happened, why was she angry and what could he do to make things better? Kaikeyi knew that Dashratha would do anything for her. Kaikeyi then said, “My Lord, I have a desire in my heart and only you can fulfill it. Promise me first that you will do as I ask of you”.
Dashratha went on to listen to her carefully. He said, “There is no one dearer to me than you, except Rama. And so I swear by the name of Rama, the invincible and without whom I cannot live for a moment”. The irony in these lines cannot be ignored by any! Dashratha’s very promise was about to take his beloved Rama away from him. Kaikeyi then reminded Dashratha that how a long time ago she had saved Dashratha’s life in a great battle and in turn Dashratha had granted her two boons. Kaikeyi had then said that she would ask for them later and Dashratha shall not deny them at any point of time.
Today, Kaikeyi was about to ask for those two boons and her asks were-
- Bharat be crowned as Dashratha’s successor
- Rama be sent off to exile in the Dandakaranya forest as an ascetic for 14 years
Hearing this, Dashratha was stunned. He couldn’t believe what he had heard! He sank down to the floor and lay there speechless for a long time. Dashratha was so struck with grief that he at first thought that it was all a bad dream. His feelings were all mixed up. Anger, grief, incomprehension, despair, Dashratha felt it all. Dashratha could simply not believe that Kaikeyi had asked for something like this.
He reminded Kaikeyi that how she used to say that to her Rama was her eldest son and the most righteous one. How she had held him as dear as Bharat. Now, why was she so bent on destroying him? But to Kaikeyi, Rama was now a rival. Manthara had successfully poisoned her mind and made her believe that it was Kaikeyi’s duty to get the kingdom for Bharat and discarding Rama was the only way to do so. Rama’s destruction was just collateral damage for Manthara’s political agenda.
Dashratha tried to reason with Kaikeyi. Told her that according to everyone Rama was the most qualified for the role. Rama had won over people’s trust and support through his exemplary behaviour. But Kaikeyi was not interested in facts. Dashratha lost his temper and said to Kaikeyi, “O, you cruel and wicked woman, you are bent on destroying this family. You are just like a hunter that attracts a deer only to trap it and kill it. You are like wine that is ever so attractive, but only after drinking it does a man realize that it was poisoned”. But Kaikeyi knew that the king’s rage was now impotent.
Dashratha further tried to convince her. The Great Dashratha even begged her to have mercy on him and Rama and not to separate them in Dashratha’s old age. With folded hands Dashratha sank to her feet, pleading to her. But Kaikeyi did not show mercy. Instead, she replied harshly, “You claim to be so righteous and truthful, now why are you not able to stick to your promise? Nothing will change my mind. Rama must go into the forest today itself”.
Seeing that Dashratha was still not convinced, Kaikeyi gave him a long lecture on Dharma and Satya. She even referred to Dashratha as a ‘Villain talking about the highest virtues’. The pleasant evening was now turned into a long, mournful night. Dashratha shuddered at the thought of 14 years of exile for Rama and Sita. The clock ticked with a despondent sound and night turned into morning. Dashratha lay there on the floor like a giant, lifeless tree. He felt helpless. The thing which worried him even more was Rama’s adherence to his words. He knew that Rama wouldn’t defy him and would uphold his father’s word. For it was the King’s promise. It was Dashratha’s promise.