Manthara’s envy


I am taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words – 1st to 7th September 2013.

This post is the sixth of a series of trying to correlate the Seven Sins to characters and incidents referred to in the Ramayana.

Read Post 1 – Kumbhakarna’s sloth

Read Post 2 – Surpanakha’s lust for Rama

Read Post 3 – Vali’s greed

Read Post 4 – Kumbhakarna’s gluttony

Read Post 5 – Sita’s wrath

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Please note that there are various versions of this great epic and therefore my post might contradict with what you have heard or read of this particular incident in the Ramayana. This is only an attempt to map the seven deadly sins to incidents or behavior of particular characters in the Ramayana in a given situation and I have taken liberties with my own interpretations of the same. No offense is meant to any version of this wonderful epic.

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Manthara

Upon their victorious return from the ashram of Rishi Viswamitra, Rama and Lakshmana were nothing short of demi-gods in Ayodhya. Their exploits of how they had thwarted the attempts of many asuras and rakshasas including the formidable Tataka, Subahu and Maricha to disrupt the holy yagna conducted by Viswamitra was the stuff that legends were made of. Two young boys of hardly 17-18 yrs of age defeating demons of this stature was unheard of and had never ever happened before in history.

Their father King Dasharatha was so pleased with his sons’ achievements and specifically Rama’s who was his first born and favorite one that he decided to crown him Prince-Regent which would make him the natural successor the throne after he relinquished the same. While this decision of his sat well with everybody at the palace including his brothers and their mothers as well, one person who was irked with this decision was Manthara, the personal servant of Kaikeyi, the second queen and Bharatha’s mother.

One version of the story has it that Manthara had taken care of Kaikeyi from the time she was little and had also taken care of Bharatha from when he was a baby as well. For all practical purposes Kaikeyi treated Manthara as a close substitute for her parents, especially after she got married and came to Ayodhya. After all, Manthara had always wanted nothing but the best for her all her life and her loyalty and devotion to Kaikeyi was unquestionable and beyond any scruples.

When Rama was declared the Prince-Regent, Manthara was envious of all the good fortune that Rama had when compared to her favorite prince, Bharatha. After all Rishi Viswamitra hand picked Rama and Lakshmana for his assistance with the yajna. In her opinion, had he picked Bharatha and Shatrugna, then they too would have killed the demons and asuras and maybe today Bharatha would have been declared the Prince-Regent. In her opinion, Dasaratha’s blind love for Rama meant that her favorite prince never got the right amount of love, affection and attention that he truly deserved. In her eyes, Bharatha was the rightful heir to the throne and she was prepared to do anything to make that happen.

Later that evening Manthara spoke to Kaikeyi and poisoned her mind with baseless rumors that if Rama was crowned King, then he would banish Bharatha from the kingdom as he was fully aware that Bharatha was a much better administrator and a more popular person than Rama could ever be. She cited incidents from the past to highlight the fact that Dasaratha was blinded by his love for Rama and had always overlooked Bharatha in the process. And in some time she had poisoned Kaikeyi’s mind enough to make the second queen believe that her son was wronged due to this decision of the king.

Manthara then reminded the queen about a wish that was owed to her by the king from an incident in the past where she had saved his life in battle. She extolled the queen to make use of that wish and ask for Rama to be sent into exile and Bharatha crowned the king of Ayodhya.

Thus, with that one fatal sin of envy, Manthara triggered a chain of events which ended up with Rama, Sita and Lakshmana going into exile for 14 long years.

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Image courtesy: Google Image search

33 thoughts on “Manthara’s envy

    • @Paddy, yes, most Indian epics are a compilation of various interesting stories, each with its own hidden meanings and messages, aren’t they?

  1. Envy is the cause of a lot of grief, pain and trouble. But if perhaps Manthara hadn’t started this, the Ramayana might have been a completely different story.

    • @Suzy, envy does cause a lot of troubles, doesn’t it? And yes, Manthara’s envy was one of the main catalysts of this great epic.

  2. Your explanations are very vivid.I want to add here that Manthara was a good woman.When it was announced that Rama would be the next king, there was chaos among the Devtas,Rama’s birth was with an aim to kill Ravana.So all the Devtas connived and hypnosised Manthra with an evil spirit to instigate Kaikayi .

    • @Usha, ah, now that is one version that I have never heard about, makes sense albeit in a twisted sort of way 🙂 BTW, happy belated Teachers’ Day to you, I wasn’t aware that you were a teacher 😀

  3. Hmm! There is also the version that her humpback was made fun of by the child Rama – but that, of course, is erased since there can be absolutely no stain on Rama at all 🙂

    I think she was supposed to be the milk-mother of Kaikeyi – Kings had people to feed their children mother’s milk in lieu of or in addition to the queen. And her envy dated back to the fact that Kaikeyi was not the Maharani, who was Kausalya, but only one of the Ranis.

    • @Suresh, yes, I have heard both these versions of the story before, but decided to go ahead with the version which was more popular, that’s all…

  4. Vishwamitra, had originally asked for all of Dashrath’s son, but he had refused to send them. In the end, a compromise was reached in which only Rama was supposed to go, but Lakshman went along given his attachment.<>

    • @Ayush, did he? In the version that I read, he specifically chose Rama and Lakshmana, or maybe my memory has deceived me

    • @Suba, oh yeah, all our epics are filled with a variety of characters, stories, morals, virtues, vices, you name them, they have all of them…

  5. Ramayana contains lofty teachings about envy but also loyalty, love and trust personified by Bharat. However, we were taught to hate Kaikeyi but it’s good to delve into her heart, the heart of a woman. Same to Sita who was sent outside Ayodhya. How many of us try to understand how she was feeling to be alienated from the place that is rightfully her. Therefore, is it right to term Rama as the perfect and just King?

    • @myriad rainbow hues, It was my absolute pleasure and yes, the truth is that I am feeling a little sad that the Festival comes to an end tomorrow. But for sure, I will continue to regularly post such mythological nuggets from time to time. Do follow the blog to keep yourself updated of the latest posts.

    • @Sheethal, pleasure is all mine, this Fest enable me to get to know so many many wonderful blogs including yours 🙂

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