Sri Ram was about to leave Avadh (Ayodhya) to live in exile in jungles for fourteen years. The entire town of Avadh was in gloom and turmoil. Kaikeyi had asked for two wishes (boons) from king Dasharatha. First, she demanded that her son Bharat, be given the throne of Avadh. Dasharatha has no problem with that. He readily agreed. Second, Kaikeyi demanded that Ram goes in exile (vanavasa) for fourteen years. Dasharatha was a broken man.
The question is, and an interesting one at that, why did Kaikeyi ask for fourteen years of exile for Ram? Why not fifteen, why not ten or twelve for that matter? Why fourteen? There are interesting explanations and interpretations about these fourteen years:
An average life span of a man was considered to be of a hundred years at that time. The entire life was divided into seven parts which came to a little over fourteen years a part. One part of these fourteen years was called one ‘YOG’ then. One yog can loosely be translated as one ‘period’ or one ‘stage’. There were different functions to be performed at every yog or stage of life. Some knowledgeable say, that Kaikeyi may have decided to spoil one yog of Ram out of his seven.
Note: We will see about different functions of these seven yogs in spiritual column soon.
According to Kamb Ramayana, when Sri Ram decided to participate in Sita’s swayamvar and when Sita came to know about Ram’s participation, she took a vow addressing God Shiva: “O Shivji, this Dhanush (bow) belongs to you and I know it is unbreakable. But, if you allow Sri Ram to break it, I will be able to marry him. I take this vow to remain in exile with Ram for fourteen years and spend the entire time in your devotion.” So Shiva manipulated Manthara and Kaikeyi’s minds and made them speak those terrible words.
One more opinion: When Ram was to ascend the throne, Ravana had only fourteen years of life left. Since Ravana was destined to die at Ram’s hand, God put those thoughts in Manthara’s mind. God also needed that much time to plot and create circumstances for Ram to kill Ravana.
One more version: When Manthara was trying to brainwash Kaikeyi, she lied to Kaikeyi saying that the entire Ayodhya knew about Ram’s ascendance to throne for the past fourteen days except Kaikeyi. The entire town was celebrating the occasion and that Kaikeyi was kept in dark on purpose. That day was fifteenth day, the day Ram was to take the throne and Dasharatha and others had kept Kaikeyi in dark so that she did not have time to think and object. So Kaikeyi decided to darken fourteen years of Ram’s life against fourteen days of her darkness.
Thus, several episodes of the Ramanaya are interpreted differently by different people.