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Who was Dhasharatha's second wife? Sumitra or Kaikeyi? Some tell it is Kaikeyi but others say it is Sumitra. Please clarify.

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According to Valmiki Ramayan, Kaikeyi is the second wife of King Dasharatha. In Aranya Kand, when Lakshmana is criticizing Kaikeyi then Sri Rama told to Lakshmana not to use harsh words against our second mother.

न तेऽम्बा मध्यमा तात गर्हितव्या कथञ्चन। तामेवेक्ष्वाकुनाथस्य भरतस्य कथां कुरु।।3.16.37।।

O dear, Kaikeyi, our second mother, is never to be criticised like that. You may, however, speak more of Bharata, the lord of the Iksvakus.

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The order in which the 3 Queens are consistently addressed indicates that Sumitra was the second wife of King Dasharatha:

Dasharatha hands over the payasam first to Kaushaya then to Sumitra, then Kaikeyi and again to Sumitra [Valmiki Ramayana 1.16].

Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi receive the brides in Ayodhya with the necessary ceremonies [Valmiki Ramayana 1.77.10].

Kaushaya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi touched the feet of Rishi Bharadwaja [Valmiki Ramayana 2.92.15-16]. Bharata introduced them also in that order [Valmiki Ramayana 2.92.22-26].

God Rama inquires with Bharata about the well-being of Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi [Valmiki Ramayana 2.100.10].

God Rama tells Lakshmana to return to Ayodhya and offer His respects to mothers Kaikeyi, Sumitra and Kaushalya [Valmiki Ramayana 3.62.17-18].

God Rama tells Vibhishana that He is now eager to visit Ayodhya and meet Bharata, Kaushalya, Sumitra, Kaikeyi, friend Guha and citizens of Ayodhya [Valmiki Ramayana 6.121.19-20].

Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi reached Nandigrama [Valmiki Ramayana 6.127.15]. God Rama offered His salutations to Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi [Valmiki Ramayana 6.127.48-49].

God Rama offered His salutations to Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi [Valmiki Ramayana 6.128.44].

Hearing about God Rama's legend, a person can get his desires; women like Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi obtain sons... [Valmiki Ramayana 6.128-110-111].

Now, coming to another verse about Kaikeyi as translated on http://www.valmikiramayan.net/utf8/aranya/sarga16/aranya_16_frame.htm: न ते अम्बा मध्यमा तात गर्हितव्या कथंचन | ताम् एव इक्ष्वाकु नाथस्य भरतस्य कथाम् कुरु || ३-१६-३७ "taata = oh, dear Lakshmana; madhyamaa ambaa = middle [second, another,] mother; kathamcana = in any way; te na garhitavyaa = by you, not, deplorable; ikSvaaku naathasya bharatasya = Ikshvaku-s, king, Bharata's; taam kathaam eva kuru = those, stories [topics,] alone, you make [you tell.]" "In any way, dear Lakshmana, you are not supposed to deplore another mother of ours, but you go on telling the topics of Bharata, the king of Ikshvaku-s."

The word मध्यम is middle, but the word used is मध्यमा which is translated as 'womb' in sanskritdictionary.com and learnsanskrit.cc.

Further, sanskritdictionary.com and Sir M. Monier-Williams translate सुमध्यमा as a graceful or slender-waisted woman which is exactly how Kaikeyi is described in Valmikiramayan.net 1.77.10.

[Source: http://valmikiramayan.net; 'Essence of the Fifth Veda' by Gaurang Damani pg 2]

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