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Kunti along with her husband Pandu
|Spouse(s)||Pandu, accidentally bore Karna from Surya|
|Children||Arjuna with Indra|
|Relatives||Gandhari, Bhishma, Krishna, Kauravas, Pandavas, Vidura, Satyavati|
In Mahabharata, Kunti (Sanskrit: कुन्ती Kuntī) or Pritha was the daughter of Shurasena, and the foster daughter of his cousin Kuntibhoja. She is the sister of Vasudeva. She was married to King Pandu of Hastinapur and was the mother of Karna and the first three Pandava brothers Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna. She was the paternal aunt of Krishna, Balarama, and Subhadra. She was the step mother or foster mother of Nakula and Sahadeva. She was very beautiful and intelligent. She is often regarded as one of the protagonists of the Mahabharata.
Birth and early life
Kunti was the biological daughter of Shurasena, a Yadava chief. Her birth name was Pritha. Kunti was the sister of Vasudeva, the father of Krishna and shared a close relationship with Krishna. Her father gave Kunti to his childless cousin Kuntibhoja.
Once Sage Durvasa visited Kuntibhoja. Being extremely pleased by the all comforts, patience, and devotion offered by Kunti, he offered her a mantra that would invoke any god of her choice and he would bless her with children.
Out of impetuous curiosity, Kunti invoked the god Surya. Bound by the power of the mantra, Surya begot a child on her, and restored her virginity.To her surprise, Karna was born with his sacred armor on. Out of fear of the public, Kunti abandoned the child, who later became famous as Karna.
Marriage to Pandu
Soon after, during his mission to expand his empire, Pandu married Madri, a princess of Madra in order to secure the vassalage of Madra. Madri was of the view that Kunti was inferior by birth to her because Yadavas were cattle herders while she was a princess. Kunti was disturbed by her husband's act, but eventually reconciled with him.
Pandu, while hunting in a forest, mistakenly shot and killed Rishi Kindama and his wife as they had taken the form of deer to mate. The dying sage placed a curse on Pandu since he had not only killed them in the midst of lovemaking but was not remorseful for his action. King Pandu argued with sage Kindama by misquoting sage Agastya's ruling on the right of Kshatriyas on hunting. Sage Kindama then decided to curse him to die if he ever should become intimate with his wife. Pandu renounced the kingdom and went into exile with Kunti and Madri.
Pandu could not make love with his wives due to the curse by sage Kindama. Pandu renounced the kingdom and went into exile with Kunti and Madri. He met some sages For the heaven and salvation with them. they said, without children never aspire to heaven. When Pandu expressed to Kunti his despair at the prospect of dying childless, he advises her to beget children by suitable, illustrious men, Kunti used the boons given to her by Sage Durvasa (by which she used to bear Karna) to bear three sons—Yudhishthira by Yama is a god of death, Bhima by Vayu Hindu deity, the lord of the wind, and Arjuna by Indra is the king of Svarga (Heaven) . Kunti having warmed up to Madri during their exile shares the mantra with her, on the condition that she only use it once. Madri cleverly summons the Ashvins, who give her twin sons Nakula and Sahadeva.
One day, Pandu, forgetting his curse, attempted to join physical relations with his wife Madri. But, as a result of Kindama's curse, he died. Madri committed sati as she was the cause of his death. Kunti stood helplessly in the forest with her children.
After the death of Pandu and Madri, Kunti took care of all five Pandava children, taking them back to Hastinapur. As the rivalry culminates between Pandavas and Kauravas, she decides to go back to Kunti Bhoja. But her attempt was stopped by Bhishma.
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When the Pandavas returned to Hastinapur, there was a succession crisis. Duryodhana claimed to be the next heir for the kingdom. Dhritarashtra named Yudhishthira as his heir, enraging Duryodhana. With the help of Shakuni, Duryodhana planned to burn the Pandavas and Kunti in a Lakshagraha while they were on a festival at Varnavat. But with early warning and aid from Vidura, the Pandavas and Kunti fake their death and escape the burning house. They travel the countryside, disguised as brahmins.
During their stay at Ekachakra, Kunti and the Pandavas came to know of a demon, Bakasura, who ate people. Villagers had to send one member of their family and food to Bakasura, who devour both. When Kunti heard the cries of a Brahmin - who had provided her and her sons shelter in Ekachakra, Kunti consoled him and suggested that instead of a Brahmin's family, her son Bhima would face the demon. Kunti engineered a plot where Bhima would be able to face and kill the demon. The powerful Bhima brought his might to the fore and defeated Bakasura. Later, Bhima slays the rakshasa Hidimba and he is beseeched by Hidimbaa, Hidimba's sister, to wed her. Bhima is reluctant, but Kunti ordered Bhima to marry Hidimba seeing merit in the woman. Hidimba would go on to birth Ghatotkacha, who later takes part in the Kurukshetra War.
The Pandavas attended the swayamvara of Draupadi in Panchala. Arjuna was able to win Draupadi's hand. The Pandavas returned to their hut and said that they have bought alms (signifying Kanyadan). Kunti misunderstood them and asked the Pandavas to share whatever they had brought. Kunti was shocked after realizing the implications of her words, and scolds her children for treating a woman like alms. However, Draupadi forgives Kunti as it was her (Draupadi's) very own karma that made Kunti give such orders and she accepts this as her fate.
Return and game of dice
The Pandavas and Kunti are invited back to the kingdom and the kingdom is shared with Kauravas. When the Pandavas lose the kingdom in a dice game and are forced to go into exile for thirteen years, Kunti is forced by King Dhritarashtra to remain in the capital thereby separating the sons from the mother (Act of vengeance by Dhritarashtra)..She choose to stay in Vidura's house rather than the royal palace.
As war approached, Kunti met Karna and in desperation to keep her children alive, asked Karna to join the Pandavas. Karna denied the offer, as he could not betray his friend. However, he promised Kunti that he would not kill any of his brothers except Arjuna, thus following both Mitra dharma and Putra dharma. Kunti also asked Karna further promises, such as he should not use the same weapon twice against Arjuna, which were granted by Karna. In return, Karna requested his mother to keep their relationship a secret until the end of the war. He also promised that at the end of the war she would still have five sons, the fifth one be either Arjuna or Karna himself. Despite supporting her children, Kunti stayed in the Kaurava camp along with her sister-in-law Gandhari.
After the Kurukshetra war, Kunti moved to a forest near the Himalayas with her brothers-in-law Vidura and Dhritarashtra and sister-in-law Gandhari, where all four of them later perished in a forest fire, attaining heaven.
- Studies of Mahabharata
- KUNTI (also called Pritha and Parshni)
- A classical dictionary of Hindu mythology and religion, geography, history, and literature by Dowson, John (1820-1881)
- Edward Delavan Perry, Indra in the Rig-Veda. Journal of the American Oriental Society vol. 11.1885. p. 121. JSTOR 592191.
- "Kunti" (pdf). Manushi India Organization. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
- Mani pp.442-3
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