Manthara's Anger

Our next story brings us into the heart of Ayodhya: Dasaratha’s palace. Manthara, the disfigured hunchback, is forced to take care of the king’s children. She begins to resent the royal family and plots her revenge.


Temple in Mysore. Websource: Wikipedia.

Queen Kaikeyi’s bedroom was like heaven on earth. Located at the top of a tower with open balconies on either side, the bedroom was open to the night air. Practically all of Ayodhya could be seen from the tower. Once Manthara had finished washing her  mistress's hair, Queen Kaikeyi dismissed her for the night. With her duties finished, the hunchback dragged herself back to her living quarters.  These days Manthara spent most of her time caged within Dasaratha’s palace. The walls of the palace looked as though they were made from beautifully sculpted ivory and were encrusted with rare jewels. So beautiful! At this time of night, the royal hallways would be as dark as the inside a cave if they were not illuminated by oil lamps. The flickering flames of the lamps reflected off of the rubies in walls and sparkled with a divine beauty that surpassed even the night sky. All these luxuries served not to cure Manthara’s depression, but reinforce it. Manthara was Queen Kaikeyi’s personal maid and a gruesome hunchback. She often cursed the gods for her woeful karma. No crime committed in a previous life could have warranted a punishment like this! She lived in the finest of palaces but was nothing more than a poor maid. She looked after the most beautiful woman in Ayodhya—Queen Kaikeyi, whose divine features made men swoon—but was herself a hideous malformation. When she got to her room, Manthara rolled into her cot and went to bed--more depressed than ever.

The next day, Manthara was asked to look after the children as they played in the large courtyard. She reluctantly abandoned her usual chores to do so. The space was lined with lush grass and beautifully maintained. Dasaratha, who but five years ago longed to have a single son, now had too many sons to count. Manthara observed as they ran and played. They fought epic battles using their imaginations, play arrows, and wooden swords. When two of Dasaratha’s favorite sons, Rama and Bharata, began getting too rough, Manthara intervened. Angry that a petty servant was giving him orders, Rama shot her in the back with a play arrow, and cursed her hideous form. Distraught and bawling, Manthara ran to her living quarters.  Rama was awestruck. He had no idea his actions carried so much weight. Wrought with remorse, he swore to always show kindness to all beings, no matter how small or unimportant they may seem. Back in her room, Manthara’s sadness had given way to rage. All her life, she had been treated poorly because of her form. Through no fault of her own she suffered. She decided to seek revenge upon all those who tormented her. She focused her thoughts on the little boy. Surely, as Dasaratha’s favorite son, Rama would potentially inherit the throne. “Is there any justice in this world?!” wondered Manthara. Just then she remembered the words Kaikeyi had told her in confidence. As part of the marriage agreement, Dasaratha had secretly promised Kaikeyi that her son would succeed the throne. Only a handful of people were aware of the agreement. Manthara’s mouth widened with a dark grin. Her plans for revenge were coming along nicely.


Author’s Note: I spent a lot of time doing research trying to find out what the ancient palace inside Ayodhya might have looked like. I did numerous Google searches and Google image searches. The closest things I could find were the palaces in India that still exist today. Most of these were built around 1000 A.D. Rama, however, was believed to have been born in 7000 B.C.E. I then decided it would probably be a good idea to look at artistic renderings of the palace. I figured that surely Indian traditions (especially ones so religiously meaningful) were recorded and passed on. I used these images to describe the long decorated hallways that Manthara was walking through. Most of the content for the story was based on the Buck version of the Ramayana. After his exile, Rama instructs Lakshmana to be kind to every creature, no matter how small. He recalls the time he shot Manthara with the play arrow and realizes that this may have been the reason she harbored a hatred for him. I wrote a character essay for Manthara earlier. Unlike in that story, I wanted the reader to feel sympathy towards Manthara. I wanted to make the emotional motivations for her actions extremely clear. 

Pillar in Agra Fort. Websource: Wikipedia.


Buck, William. Ramayana. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2000. Print.