The Story of Kunti: Secrets, Sacrifices, and Dharma

Kunti, the epitome of sacrifice and a heroic figure is the mother of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata. Shrimad Bhagavatam and the great epic Mahabharata, an ancient text, have 110,000 couplets. Veda Vyasa, the author of the epic, narrates the story of Kunti with great zeal. Sage Vyasa and Hindu Vedic Story portray Kunti as the most intelligent, kind, sensitive, headstrong, decisive, and respected woman. She has all the qualities of an idol woman: understanding of Dharma, Nyay Shastra, Shatriya Dharma, Gyan, and devotion towards her duty as a daughter, wife, mother, queen, and so on.

While Indian myth has amazing women who played note-worthy and indeed dominating roles in the ancient Indian texts, the story of Kunti is beyond descriptive.

We can find Lopamudra and Maitreyi in the Vedas, Sita, Tara, Mandodari, the panch kanyas in the Ramayana, Gandhari, Kunti, and Draupadi in the Mahabharata.

The women with all the qualities to shape a world and history, however, have complex characters with culminating political and challenging yet devastating scenarios.

These unimaginable, bone-chilling scenarios could break any ordinary person, but they become stronger and more willed.

The Mahabharata, undoubtedly the longest epic, explores the great war between the Pandavas and Kauravas in Kurukshetra. It narrates about the Vedic society, the Varna system (Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Sudra), and the women.

Let’s take a look at the story of Kunti as a woman with undying will and power:

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The Birth Story of Kunti

Kunti is the daughter of King Surasena of the Yadava dynasty, born as Prtha or Pritha. She is the sister of Vasudeva, the father of Lord Krishna. However, before the birth of Kunti, her father promised to give her to his cousin, Kuntibhoja, who had no children.

Kuntibhoj adopted Prita as a daughter and brought her up in his palace. Therefore, she got her name as Kunti.

Bonus Fact: Kunti, Madri, and Gandhari were the celestial women named Siddi, Krti, and Mati.

Story of Kunti and Sage Durvasa

Once Rishi Durvasa visited Kuntibhoja, King Surasena knew that the sage got easily annoyed. Therefore, he ordered his daughter Kunti to be in the service of Durvasa Rishi personally. Kunti devoted her life to the service of the rishi, taking care of his every need.

One day, Sage Durvasa decided to test Kunti and asked her to cook food before he came from his bath. Durvasa Rishi returned soon and sat for the meal. By this time, Kunti somehow managed to cook and serve before the rishi.

The meal was too hot and steamy.

Durvasa Rishi looked at Kunti with a meaningful gaze. Kunti, understanding the look, turned and offered her back to place the plate of food so that Sage could begin eating.

Kunti’s back was fuming, but she showed no sign of pain. Rishi Durvasa was so pleased and taught her a mantra to invoke any god to beget children, and he blessed her.

Kunti: An Impulsive Young Girl Tested the Durvasa Mantra and the Birth of Karna

After the departure of Sage Durvasa from the Kuntibhoja, Princess Kunti developed an irresistible desire to testify to the mantra’s effectiveness or not.

Unaware of the consequence, Kunti involved Lord Sun with the mantra. Surya appeared in the guise of a young Brahmin.

Kunti got terrified and began to think about how she could be an unmarried mother, and she requested Surya go back.

Surya said he could not return without giving her a child, as per Rishi Durvasa’s order and blessing to Kunti. Surya assured Kunti that her virginity would not be affected by the birth of a child.

Kunti delivered a son adorned with a shield, earrings, etc. in secret.

However, due to the fear of society and the judgment of being trolled as an unmarried mother, Kunti floated the newborn child to the Yamuna under the protection of Surya.

Adhiratha and Radha adopted the child, brought him up as their son, and named him Karna.

This incident changed the story of Kunti drastically and filled her life with pain, sacrifice, secrets, and troubles as a wife of King Pandu, daughter of Suresena, and queen of Hastinapura.

Kunti’s Swayamvara with Pandu

After some time, Kuntibhoj arranged Kunti’s Swayamvara. Kunti, one of the panch kanyas, chose King Pandu of the Lunar Dynasty as her husband.

However, she could not even spend some quality time together with her husband as he had to go to a battle in the war. He came back with an extremely attractive woman, Madri, his second wife from the battle.

Rishi Kindama Cursed King Pandu

After the arrival of Madri in Hastinapur as the second wife, Kunti managed to keep herself calm because kings were entitled to marry more than once. She developed a bond with Madri and led a happy life.

During this period, Pandu and his two wives went forest hunting. As a consequence of hunting, Pandu mistakenly killed Sage Kindama and his wife in between their conjugal love in the form of deer.

Rishi Kindama cursed Pandu to meet his death whenever he tried to love his wives. Pandu, grief-stricken at the curse, narrated the whole thing and decided to take Sanyasa. With the news, both queens decided to go with him to Satsanga and perform penance.

Pandu Desired to Become A Father

After spending many years in the forest, Pandu came to the stage where he wanted to become a father and asked his wives to beget sons by some noble persons.

Kunti and Madri did not agree on it.

Sons of Kunti

Thereafter, Kunti remembered her mantra from the Sage Durvasa and told King Pandu. She received her husband’s permission and bore three sons.

Yudhishthira from Dharmaraj, Bheema from Vayu, and Arjuna from Indra

Sons of Madri

Adi Parva mentioned that the fourth and fifth children would bring sorrow to their lives. But Pandu wanted Madri to get the blessing of becoming a mother. Therefore, Kunti gave her a mantra to have a son.

Madri requested Ashwini Kumaras to come and bless her with the sons. Thus, she gave birth to Nakul and Sahadeva.

The Death of Pandu: A Story of Widowed Kunti

During winter, the forest turned as beautiful as a damsel, with fragrant flowers, green leaves, and alluring attractiveness.

Pandu forgot his curse by the Sage Kindama and indulged in sexual joys with his second wife, Madri.

However, he soon died, and the curse turned into reality. Kunti and Madri were broken due to the untimely deaths of their husbands.

Madri accepted her mistake and decided to take her life.

The news of Pandu’s death brought another turn to the life and story of Kunti. Vidhura came, and Kunti had to return to Hastinapura with her five sons, as she had no choice.

Kunti and the Pandavas at Hastinapura

Due to the course, everything changed in Hastinapura. The Kauravas did not like the Pandavas and wanted to remove them from the palace. They even tried several death-threatening events to kill the Pandavas.

At one point, Duryodhan poisoned Bheema and threw him into the river. But he came out with the power of 1,000 elephants in his body. This event broke Kunti entirely, and she came to know that Hastinapura was not her home anymore.

However, Bhishma, the guardian of the Pandavas and Kauravas, decided to send the children to school.

The Palace of Illusion: Lac Palace, or Lakshagraha

With time, the Kauravas’ enmity for the Pandavas grew, and they decided to burn them alive. Therefore, Duryodhan, with the help of Shakuni, built the ‘Lac Palace’ at Varanavata. However, when Pandava learned about the cruel plan, they escaped through a secret tunnel into the forest with the help of Vidhura.

Kunti Advised Bheema to Marry Hidimbi

In the dark forest where the Raksasa lived, the Pandavas, without knowing the truth, entered to remain in disguise. Hidima smelled humans and desired to consume them.

He ordered Hidimi, his sister, to kill them. However, Hidimi fell in love with Bheema. Hidima and Bheema fought for days, and finally, the Rakshasa got killed.

Kunti, knowing Hidimi was a Rakshasi and her love for her son was true, advised Bheema to marry Hidimbi and beget a child.

After the marriage of Bheema and Hidimbi, a son named Ghatotkacha was born and left the forest as promised to her daughter-in-law.

Pritha was again wandering with her sons and had no idea where life would take her. Thus, the story of Kunti took a new turn at Panchala with Draupadi’s swayamvara.

Arjuna Won Panchali at Swayamvara

In a city named Ekachakra, Sage Vyasa consoled Kunti. She sent Bheema to kill Bakasura on a complaint by the Brahmins and asked them to keep it a secret.

However, accidentally, Kunti and the Pandavas reached the Panchala kingdom, where the people were enjoying Draupadi’s Swayamvara ceremony.

Arjuna won Panchali and returned at dusk.

Kunti was performing evening puja, and without turning back what her sons got on request of Arjuna, she asked them to distribute accordingly.

Thus, Draupadi became the common wife of the Pandavas. After that, Kunti and the Pandavas returned to Hastinapura.

Arjuna Married Subhadra

The Pandavas lived happily after their marriage in the Indraprastha. However, Takshak Naag hatched a plan with Duryodhan, Dushasan, and Shakuni to fail the Rajasu Yagya of Yudhishthir and hide the cows.

This led Arjuna to break the special bow of marriage and enter the room of Yudhishthir and Draupadi while they were enjoying the dice game.

It forced Arjuna to go into exile for one year.

At the end of the exile, Krishna helped Subhadra, Balaram, and his half-sister marry Arjuna.

12 Years of Exile and One Year of Incognito for Pandavas

Again, Duryodhan hatched a revenge plan with a dice game against Draupadi at Hastinapura to humiliate her and the Pandavas.

He arranged the ceremony and invited them to visit the kingdom for a grand welcome after becoming emperor and empress.

Due to the course, Duryodhan showed his true colors and insulted Draupadi and the Pandavas by making them his servants.

He asked for twelve years of exile and one year of incognito for them as a punishment.

Kunti and Karna: The Last Conversation as a Hurt and Abandoned Son

War clouds were floating at the head of Hastinapura in the thickest way possible.

No one was at rest.

Kunti’s heart was trembling with the fear of war and the killing of her sons and relatives, especially Karna-Arjuna.

Karna had bowed to kill Arjuna at a young age.

To save the life of Arjuna, Kunti visited Karna on the banks of the Ganga. Karna was meditating, and Kunti was waiting for the time to talk until he finished his Japa.

Kunti told Karna that she was the mother who abandoned him at birth and wished to accept him now with open arms without worrying about society.

She even asked Karna to join the Pandavas as the elder brother in the war if he left the Kauravas.

Karna replied: Oh, noble lady, it is impossible to leave my master, who gave name and fame to a son of Sudra when he needed it. I have vowed to kill Arjun. Yet I will not kill your four sons. You will always have your five sons alive. If Arjuna dies, I will join the other Pandavas as a son in his place.

Mahabharata: The Great War

Meanwhile, after the exile, Lord Krishna one day visited Kunti at the Vidhura Palace, Hastinapura, and narrated the fate of the Pandavas.

Kunti cried with tears in her eyes.

Krishna went to Hastinapura with the peace agreement of the Pandavas to return half of the kingdom.

However, Duryodhan refused, and the great Mahabharata war happened for 18 days at Kurukshetra between the Pandavas and Kauravas.

The Last Days of Kunti

The great war, the Mahabharata, ended.

Thousands of warriors died on the battlefield from both sides, Kaurava and Pandava. Karna, Abhimanyu, Drishtdhyumn, Drupad, Uttar, Virat, Upa Pandavas, Ghatotkacha, and other warriors died.

From birth to death, Kunti suffered a lot, stuck to the challenges throughout her life, and fulfilled her duty by following Dharma.

In her old age, she left the Hastinapura palace with Dhritarashtra and Gandhari and died in a forest fire.

Thus, the Vedic story of Kunti, one of the panch kanyas in Indian mythology, teaches all women to live a life with dignity and honesty, facing all challenges like warriors.

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Archana Das
Archana Das
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