Manthara was a favorite maid of Kaikeyi, the beloved wife of King Dasharatha and mother of Bharat . Manthara was old and hunchbacked. Raja Dasharatha doted on his young and lovely queen Kaikeyi. As the favorite maid of the favored queen, Manthara also had a place of pride among the servants of the palace at Ayodhya.
Manthara had looked after Kaikeyi since she was a young princess at Kaikey and in return, she had the full faith and affection of Queen Kaikeyi. When Kaikeyi was married to Dasharatha, Manthara was sent along as the head of the entourage of servants, as part of the dowry. Soon Manthara took over the arrangements at Kaikeyi’s palace.
One day when she noticed that the palace was being decorated, she asked a passer-by the reason. When she was told that the coronation of Rama was being arranged, she was shocked. She quickly calculated that as the mother of Rama, Kaushalya would become the favored queen and in the process she too, would lose all her power. She decided to work on Kaikeyi.
Cunningly, she convinced Kaikeyi that her days of glory would be soon gone and she would have to serve as a supplicant to Queen Kaushalya. Why even Bharat would have to be a slave to Rama. “Raja Dasharatha has betrayed you. He stays with you, but it is you he has wronged”, she said. Using her cleverly worded arguments, she convinced Kaikeyi to be firm and ask for the two boons that the king owed her. “Miss this chance and you will regret it for ever”, said the cunning Manthara.
Thus goaded, Kaikeyi asked Dasharatha for the two boons, fourteen years of exile in the forest for Rama and the crown for Bharat . Rama left for the forest but Dashratha could not bear to be parted and soon breathed his last.
In her previous birth, Manthara was a Yakshini (celestial being). The king of Kaikey was out on a hunt and his arrow killed a deer. The doe, his wife, ran weeping to her mother. Unable to bear the sorrow of her daughter doe, the Yakshini asked the king to give the dead deer to her. “I am a Yakshini, I can restore him to life”, she said.
But the young king would not heed her request and struck her with his sword. The dying words of the Yakshini were a dreadful curse. “Just as you have caused the death of my innocent son-in-law, so too, I will be responsible for the death of your son-in-law. It was this Yakshini who was born as Manthara. She was also the gandharvi (celestial being) named Dundubhi, while in one life she was Manthara, in another she was the servant called Kubja in the kingdom of Kamsa.
Manthara – Ramayana Characters