It was the day after Rama Navami day in 1915. Dasganu Maharaj had delivered an electrifying hari katha on Ram’s birth. When he came to the masjid, Baba complimented him on his keerthan and put a few questions to him on Kaikayi and Manthara. When Dasganu was perplexed, Sai Maharaj gave a detailed explanation.
Sai Baba stated the story of the Ramayan can be said to have evolved because of the craftiness of two people: Manthara and Akampana.
Manthara, as we all know, was the hunchback maid of Kaikeyi. She was on the terrace of the palace when she saw the city bursting with festivities. She wobbled along to find someone to enquire the reason. “Ram is being crowned tomorrow,” said Kaushalya’s maid. Immediately Manthara came down to Kaikeyi’s room and reprimanded her harshly, “You foolish woman, get up. Do you know that tomorrow is Ram’s coronation as the crown prince?”
Kaikeyi did not heed Manthara. She was delighted that Ram was being crowned. After all, was that not they had all waited for. “Ram or Bharat, it makes no difference to me. They both are the same to me,” said Kaikeyi. Manthara saw that Kaikeyi was not going to change her mind so easily, so she played her trump card: “Kaushalya who has always been jealous of the king’s affection for you is now going to wreak vengeance on you. Her son will be king, you will be just another person in the palace. She will rule…”
Kaikeyi held her husband’s affection and was proud of that. She could see a jealous Kaushalya belittling her. Manthara had made her ego bristle with anger. She began listening to Manthara and the rest is known.
Another character, much less known, is Akampana. He had been in Janasthana with Khara, Trisaras and Dushan. Ram killed all of them along with fourteen thousand rakshasas. Akamapana escaped and came running to Ravan to give the message. Ravan was furious and hurt. He wanted to avenge the death of his brother Khara and was ready to go to war with Ram immediately. Akampana declared that Ram can never be won in war by Ravan. “What you can do is to kidnap his wife. He is very attached to her. Once you kidnap her, his death will certain.”
Ravan went to Maricha and asked him to help kidnap Sita. Maricha admonished him. “Why would you ask for trouble. Don’t play with such a powerful man. Go back and live in peace and let your city and citizens prosper.”
Ravan took the advice and came back. He too, like Kaikeyi, could see reason.
However, within some time, Surpanaka, hurt and wailing came to Ravan and in addition to deriding him by saying, “What kind of king are you that mere mortals injure your sister and you do not even know about it….,” she also said, “I went there only to get that beautiful woman for you. So beautiful that…” She caught the lustful imagination of Ravan and hurt his ego by questioning his power as a ruler. Then Ravan changed his mind about Akampana’s suggestion and went back to Maricha. This time he did not heed Maricha’s advice. And the rest is known.
Manthara and Akampana were the two people who turned the minds of Kaikeyi and Ravan. Both Kaikeyi and Ravan resisted it initially, but their ego and weakness let them down and they became easy targets to influence. Kaikeyi lived to repent; Ravan lost his life.
Sai Baba’s explanation was a feast for all the people present in the masjid that day.