In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Kaikeyi was the youngest of King Dasratha`s three wives and was the queen of Ayodhya as well as mother of Bharata. The word `Kaikeyi` means `belonging to Kaikeya`, which is an ancient country.
Kaikeyi was a dear wife to King Dasaratha. Once, during a war Dasaratha`s chariot wheel broke. At that very moment of distress Kaikeyi was with Dasaratha. She helped Dasaratha by fixing the wheel of the chariot. Dasaratha aws so pleased by the service that he offered her two boons. Kaikeyi said that she will ask the boons when she will feel for.
Kaikeyi was perhaps a bit insecure in her heart as she was the youngest of the three queens and she feared that Dasaratha might not love her that much as he loved his two other queens. Kaikeyi`s maid Manthara suggested her to increase her status by making Bharata the King instead of Rama, which will make Kaikeyi the queen mother. She also convinced Kjaikeyi for the exile of the eldest prince Rama.
Just before the crowning ceremony Kaikeyi asked Dasaratha for the two boons he promised before. By one boon Kaikeyi asked to anoint her son Bharata in the throne of Ayodhya and for second boon she asked for Rama`s exile from Ayodhya for fourteen years. Dasaratha granted the boon to keep the truth of his promise but he died of a broken heart as he was separated from his dear son Rama.
Kaikeyi came to repent her actions at Dasaratha`s death and she blamed herself for the whole incident. Her own son Bharata blamed her and said that he would never call her `mother` again. Manthara, though forgiven by Rama, killed by Shatrughna.
Though the popular legend portrays Kaikeyi in a villainous manner but the actual Ramayana written by Sage Valmiki depicts Kaikeyi as a great lady, who helped Lord Rama.
Once Rama went to mother Kaikeyi and approached her for a discussion. He confessed to Kaikeyi that he was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and had come to the earth to save the mankind. Rama also added that he needed to leave Lanka for fourteen years in order to kill the king of Asuras, ravana, who stayed in Lanka. Rama asked mother Kaikeyi to do something so that Rama, Sita and Lakshmana could go to exile for fourteen years of `Vanavasa`(forest abode). He said that it would be greatest of all sacrifice as everybody would misunderstand Kaikeyi and she would be responsible for the whole thing. Rama also mentioned that Kaikeyi would be depicted as villainous character for the future generation forever. Kaikeyi was a bold, strong and wise woman. She felt that Lord Vishnu himself was asking for a favor to her. In comparison with that all her sacrifice seemed to be very trivial. Kaikeyi realized that one does not get such an opportunity to serve the lord in his/ her lifetime. Kaikeyi`s name was pronounced as a wicked and evil woman and shameful motherhood. But she sacrificed for the welfare of mankind. Thus Kaikeyi became the most beloved of lord Vishnu. He not only granted Kaikeyi the `Moksha` but also gave her a place in his abode at `Vaikuntha`.