There is a secret meaning behind the pastime of Queen Kaikeyi asking her two boons from Maharaja Dasaratha. Kaikeyi was not cruel. She loved Sri Rama more than she loved Bharata. When Rama was a young boy, He sat in the lap of Mother Kaikeyi and requested, “I want to ask you something. When I grow up and return home after My marriage, My father will think of giving this kingdom to Me. I want you to ask him to give the kingdom to Bharata, and to send Me to the forest for fourteen years.” Hearing this, Kaikeyi fainted. When she regained consciousness she said, “I cannot do such a cruel thing.” But then Lord Rama said, “For the benefit of the whole world, you will have to do this.” So Kaikeyi agreed.
There is another important point in this connection. When King Dasaratha married Kausalya, he did not beget any sons from her. He further married 360 queens, but still there was no son. One day, when he was out in the forest hunting animals, he traveled all the way to the border of Afghanistan. He was very tired and therefore went to visit his friend Maharaja Kaikeya, the king of that entire area. Maharaja Kaikeya ordered his daughter to take care of the king. The next day, very pleased by her service, Maharaja Dasaratha asked him if he could marry his daughter, Kaikeyi. The king said, “Yes, you can marry her, but with one condition. If she begets a son, that son will become the king of your entire kingdom.” Maharaja Dasaratha replied, “There is nothing that will please me more. I have no son, so if she begets a son I will be very happy to give my entire kingdom to him.” This was another reason why Bharata became the king instead of Rama.
There is still another reason. One day Bharata’s maternal uncle came and requested Bharata and Satrugna to accompany him for a few days. In the meantime, Rama Navami came – the Appearance Day of Sri Rama. On this day the celebration of His appearance took place, and His marriage also took place. On the day before, Maharaja Dasaratha had told Vasistha that he would like to give his kingdom to Rama and make him Yuvaraja. Rama would conduct all the duties of Maharaja Dasaratha in his absence and after he would leave the world, Rama would become the king. Everyone was very happy to hear this. Vasistha said, “Tomorrow, Rama Navami, all the planetary positions will be very auspicious. You should give him the sacred initiation tomorrow.” There was no time to talk with Bharata and Satrugna. Also, Maharaja Dasaratha thought, “I have already promised that I will give my kingdom to Bharata. So how, in front of him, can I give it to Sri Rama?”
When Kaikeyi heard the news about Rama’s coronation she was very pleased, and she gave her garland to her maidservant, Mantara. By the influence of the demigods and because Rama had to perform His pastimes, Mantara’s mind became evil. She told Kaikeyi, “How can you be so foolish? If Rama becomes the king, Bharata will become a servant, and you will become a maidservant. For the rest of your life you will have to serve Kausalya and Sri Rama.”
Initially Kaikeyi resisted and was not influenced by Mantara’s words. But then she remembered Sri Rama’s request to her in His youth – that she should ask Maharaja Dasaratha to send Him to the forest. Remembering this, she made her heart very hard. Then she went to Maharaja Dasaratha and asked him for her two boons. Maharaja Dasaratha fainted. When Lord Rama heard what happened He was very pleased that Mother Kaikeyi had done what He had requested. He came to Maharaja Dasaratha and Queen Kaikeyi and she ordered Him to go to the forest, saying that this was also the desire of Maharaja Dasaratha.
April 12, 2000 in Mathura