Kaikeyi was the youngest wife of King Dasharatha; she was not the fairest, but she was the most favored. As her and her two sister wives struggled to conceive an heir for the kingdom, however, the king’s favor for Kaikeyi declined. Kaikeyi was the daughter of Ashwapati, king of the Land of the Finest Horses, and Kaikeyi was awarded, on her wedding day, a fine steed of gold. Now Kaikeyi’s father had been given the gift of telepathy with the feathered creature, and thus had heard a great many pieces of guidance and wisdom from the fowl that soared high above the earth and witnessed great happenings. The conditions of his blessings, however, prohibited him from speaking to others of the nature of his gift.
Kaikeyi and King Dasharatha had a beautiful marriage ceremony, attended even by
the prominent nobles of the neighboring kingdoms. There was dancing and song, and Queen Kaikeyi was overcome with joy at the beginning of her new life with Dasharatha and his first wife, Kashaulya. Despite the splendors of the evening, Kaikeyi found herself wrought with anxieties on her wedding night. As a child, she had sought comfort in the royal stables, and thus ventured into the night to see her new steed. As she stood in the coarse hay, she stroked her horse’s fur and whispered her fears to him. The steed nuzzled against her, and Kaikeyi found herself overcome with emotion, bittersweet tears falling down her face. She heard a voice in her head, speaking to her of the wonderful life that awaited her. Kaikeyi felt brave, and after thanking her enchanted horse, departed back to the King’s bedchambers.
In the years following, Queen Kaikeyi struggled to conceive a son, as did Dasharatha’s other wives. Again, Kaikeyi ventured out to the stables to visit her enraptured steed, and listen to its sage wisdom. Her horse advised her to perform a sacrifice in honor of the gods, and to use its enchanted form. He spoke to her of the great wisdom she would acquire from its spirit if she performed a sacrifice. She spoke of the idea to her King, careful not to divulge the content of the conversation held between her and her horse. It was proclaimed that a sacrificial ceremony be held three days from then in offering to win their favor.
The patrons of the kingdom gathered in the royal hunting grounds to witness the royal horse sacrifice, the Ashwamedha. Kaikeyi’s enchanted steed was released and hunted as per the traditional guidelines of the sacrifice. As the King slew the steed, its spirit was released and directed to the heart of Queen Kaiyeki. She was overcome with joy and emotion once more, feeling great wisdom enter her body. She told the King that she and her sister-cohorts would conceive a great many sons. This was pleasing to the King, and he rewarded Kaiyeki with two favors, which she held thenceforth close to her heart.
Author’s Note: I have altered a few minor details to the original story of Kaikeyi and Dasharatha, and added in Kaikeyi’s gift and relationship to her horse. I took the inspiration from some Greek mythology, and desired to see Kaikeyi portrayed as a strong heroine with a selfless nature.