Significance of Manthara in the Ramayana

Manthara poisons kaikeyi

Sri Rama entered into the sanctum of the family deity along with His eternal consort Shrimati Vishalakshi.

Who is Goddess Vishalakshi? | Ramayana-21

The name Vishalakshi is not common among the followers Sanatana Dharma although the name directly represents Sita Devi. The name Vishalakshi is rare among the Smarthas or followers of Smartha Dharma who are usually Shaivites. They are a sect within Sanatana Dharma. However the Vaishnavas never name their daughters as Vishalakshi. There is a funny folklore surrounding the rare occurrence of the name Vishalakshi.

Vishalakshi means “The one with large eyes.” When Shrimati Sita Devi entered the sanctum of the family deity, she was lost in the beauty of Sri Rama performing worship of Sri Ranganatha. Shrimati Sita never looked at Lord Narayana who was the recipient of the worship. Rather she was in awe of the one performing the worship, Sri Rama. The funny Vaishnava folk-lore in South India states “Sita Devi’s eyes widened (Vishal means big) as she gazed at Sri Rama. Thus, the name Vishalakshi directly relates to Sitaji.

Why was Manthara an important Character in the Ramayana?

Sri Rama observed that the evil maid of Mother Kaikeyi, named Manthara had not yet become a part of the main story-line. Only if she were introduced into the events would it be possible for Sri Rama to slay Ravana. This is the deep philosophy concerning the character known as Manthara. Sri Rama wondered as to how Manthara could be introduced into the proceedings of Ayodhya.

It was only after Lord Rama’s grand worship of Sriman Narayana (Sri Ranganatha) that the storyline of Ramayana started to truly unfold. Till then there resided peace and happiness in the city of Ayodhya, much to the dismay of the Devatas. The Devatas wanted Lord Rama to pitch against Ravana.

This could only happen if Manthara was triggered into action. Manthara’s entry into the Ramayana notably started after Sri Rama completed worshipping his family deity, Sriman Narayana. Sri Rama prayed within His heart “Oh Lord Narayana kindly fulfill the purpose of My Incarnation. Introduce the disturbances into My life so that I am able to proceed to the forest. My stay in the forest shall initiate the cause for my battle with Ravana.” Other than qualifying as the main cause for the banishment of the Lord, Manthara had no role to play in the Ramayana.

Why did Manthara conspire against Sri Rama?

Manthara came from the kingdom of Kaikeya. She held the post of a chief among the “Dasis” (servants) of that kingdom. Why did Kaikeyi’s father send her along with Kaikeyi to Ayodhya? This train of events can only be traced back to the will of Sriman Narayana.

Manthara rushed to the sanctum to see Lord Rama and Sita Devi performing the worship of Ranganatha (Sriman Narayana). She fumed with envy. She could not stand the happiness of the Lord. This was exactly the desire of Sri Rama. He became happy as he witnessed Manthara stealthily observing the worship being rendered. Now the Lord was confident of the train of events that were to follow.

Manthara then angrily proceeded to the chamber of Kaikeyi. She had nursed Kaikeyi from childhood and took full rights over the third principle queen of Ayodhya.

Dialogs between Manthara and Kaikeyi

She thundered: “Foolish woman. You lie here peacefully. Get up. Everything is lost and you seem to be resting deep in slumber. You’re totally unaware of what is happening to you. Do you lack intelligence?” Kaikeyi lazily got up from her couch.

She responded, “Manthara, what happened? What disturbs you?”

Manthara angrily replied: “Rama is going to be the next king. He is about to be coronated in the coming days. Your son Bharata will be a loser. You seemed to be oblivious of the happenings in Ayodhya.”

Kaikeyi said: “My first son, Rama is to be coronated. Even the king informed me about this. So what is wrong?  I am so overjoyed to get this news. Don’t you know that Rama is my own son? Why should this news agitate you?”

Such a loving Kaikeyi was poisoned by Manthara.

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Manthara poisons Kaikeyi’s Mind

Manthara said: “How can you say Rama is your son? If Rama becomes the king you shall automatically become a slave of Rama’s biological mother, Kausalya. Don’t you understand this simple thing? While you accept slavery, your son Bharata too shall spend his life as a bonded slave of Rama. Will you be happy with such a doleful situation?

Ayodhya’s population will only be interested in Rama’s direct family while you and your son shall be shunned into oblivion. So I warn you to do what is required to save yourself and your dear son Bharata.”

Manthara applied all dire techniques to poison Kaikeyi. Her treacherous talks, now influenced the mind of her queen. Kaikeyi underwent a change of heart.

She inquired: “Manthara, tell me what I should do to root out this inauspiciousness from my life?”
Manthara replied: “Do you remember that you have two pending boons with king Dasharath. You shall encash those boons today, as time demands them. The opportune time has arrived.”

Kaikeyi teaches Dharma to Manthara

Kaikeyi raised a doubt. She said “King Dasharath is my wedded husband. Will it not appear cheap to ask him boons? It would look as if he is not related to me when in reality he happens to be the lord of my heart? I saved his life in that war, because that was my Dharma. How can I try to encash my own Dharmika duties? To seek those boons any day, I don’t have any plans. I postponed to seek those boons, with the intent that my husband remains relaxed and does not coax me to ask them. I will not ask for the two boons. It is inappropriate.”

Why did Kaikeyi obey Manthara?

Manthara intelligently put this argument. She said, “ Alright, you are not worried about your status and position. But, aren’t you concerned about your own son Bharath? Are you so heartless mother?

Manthara kept stressing that if Kaikeyi wouldn’t intervene, Bharath’s future would be on stake. Kaikeyi became a prey as she grew concerned for her son. Her mood started changing. Finally, she surrendered to her maid-servant Manthara and encouraged her to guide her.

She said, “Tell me dear Manthara what I should be doing. You are a true benefactor. I have been a fool and it is your concern that has kept me ticking in Ayodhya.”

Manthara advices Kaikeyi

Manthara now said sternly: “Tell the king that only Bharata shall rule the planet. He should be coronated at once and not Rama. This will be your first boon. Next, tell the king this. “Oh King Dasharatha, you shall banish Rama to the forest for 14 years and that shall be your second boon to me.” She further addressed Kaikeyi: “If Bharat rules Ayodhya for 14 years, then on returning, Rama shall have no value. In turn, He shall become a servant of Bharat. Your life’s goal shall then be achieved. The population of Ayodhya shall forget Rama and bear no love for him.”

Why did Manthara suggest 14 years of Exile for Rama?

The Shastra says that 12 years is a great milestone. There is immense transformation that follows every 12 years. That is why the number 12 especially for banishing someone is relevant. The Pandavas were expected to be in the forest for 12 years, plus a year of living in incognito. The Kumbha Mela is celebrated once in 12years. Manthara knew the Shastra. She intelligently added 2 years further to the figure of 12 ( that makes it 14 years of exile) so that there is a new population that is established within that time and no one remembers Rama after that long gap.

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