Journey to the Sea

an online magazine devoted to the study of myth

Song of Kaikeyi

By Randy Hoyt

The Ramayana, an ancient epic poem, is one of the great mythological and spiritual works of India. It has had a profound impact on literature and culture throughout India and around the world; it still holds an important place in the Hindu canon today. The great stories from the Ramayana — Rama’s exile, the abduction of his wife Sita, his alliance with the monkey army, and the battle in Lanka — begin when King Dasaratha relunctantly grants Kaikeyi’s wish, fulfilling a promise he made to her long before the opening of the Ramayana. Kaikeyi describes, late in the Ramayana, her acts of bravery and courage that prompted Dasaratha’s promise.

My poem Song of Kaikeyi recasts the essence of her tale into epic verse, with small expansions and minor modifications to details. It was published in The Mythic Circle 30 and republished here with an audio version I recorded.


Audio powered by Audacity and JW MP3 Player.

The Demons with their fortresses on high Looked down from there with jealously and rage. Conspiring how to inflict their wrath on Men. They locked the heavens, pushed away the clouds, Consuming fields and flocks in stifling drought, Destroying joy and hope throughout the land.

Stirred up by hunger, thirst, and fear the Men Decided it was time to take a stand. A massive force came from the neighboring towns From Sindh, Kekaya, Mithila, and more, Fully arrayed across the parched plain To rally around the standard of the King.

Assembled thus they implored the Gods for aide, To join their side and fight with them for rain. Their prayer was heard and answered and came forth The mighty Indra, warrior of the Gods For battle armed from his heavenly throne With all the heavenly host following behind.

Dasaratha the first-born of the King Among all Men most fearless, brave, and strong (After this war a mighty king he’d make) Arrayed himself with armor made of bronze Received by his ancestors from the Gods And gathered up his arrows, bow, and spear.

A girl inside his chariot he found With hands upon the reins, prepared for war She’d stowed away with men from Kekaya Though young already beautiful and strong In shimmering armor woven of green silk She was Kaikeyi the princess nine years old.

She drove the chariot to the sky with skill And mastery over those horses fiery red From steady car Dasaratha let fly His arrows that struck down the enemy hoardes With javelin, with arrow, sword, and spear The Demons tried but failed to harm these two.

A star fell from the heavens which they caught And hurled it at the car, knocked loose a wheel And brought great pain upon that mighty lord Kaikeyi caught him, rescued him from death With one hand kept the chariot upright Retreating from the fray safely to land.

She bandanged up his wounds, stayed by his side Night after night and nursed him back to health. On waking he proposed and she agreed. The future couple embraced. He granted her Two of her heart’s desires knowing not Years later those desires would cause his death.