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For other uses, see Kunti (disambiguation).
Raja Pandu and Matakunti LACMA M.69.13.6.jpg
Kunti along with her husband Pandu
Spouse Pandu
Shurasena (biological father)
Kunti-Bhoja (adoptive father)

In Hindu mythology, Kunti (Sanskrit: कुन्ती Kuntī) was the daughter of Shurasena,[1] and the foster daughter of his cousin Kuntibhoja.[2] She is the sister of Vasudeva, father of Lord Krishna. She was married to king Pandu[3] of Hastinapur and was the mother of Karna and the Pandava brothers Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna.[4]

Birth and early life[edit]

Kunti was the biological daughter of the Shurasena, a Yadava chief. Her birth name was Pritha. Kunti was the sister of Vasudeva, the father of Krishna and shared close relationship with Krishna. Her father gave Kunti to his childless cousin Kuntibhoja who was also an Yadava.

Birth of Karna[edit]

Once Sage Durvasa visited Kuntibhoja. He was extremely pleased by the services and comforts offered by Kunti, and offered her a boon to invoke any god to bear a child. Curious, Kunti invoked the mantra and accidentally bore Karna from Surya, the solar deity. Afraid of being an unwed mother, she placed the baby in a basket and set him afloat on a river. This child was later found and adopted by a charioteer Adhiratha and his wife.

Marriage to Pandu[edit]

Kuntibhoja organized Kunti's swayamvara. Kunti choose King Pandu of Hastinapur, making Kunti the Queen of Hastinapur. Soon after, during his mission to expand his empire, Pandu marries Madri, a princess of Madra in order to secure the vassalage of Shalya. Kunti was disturbed by her husband's act, but eventually became reconciles. Madri discriminated Kunti and said that she was inferior by birth because Yadavas were cattle herders while Madri was a princess.

Birth of the Pandavas[edit]

Pandu could not make love with his wives due to a curse by sage Kindama. When Pandu expressed to Kunti his despair at the prospect of dying childless, Kunti used the boons given to her by Sage Durvasa to bear three sons—Yudhishthira (by Yama), Bhima (by Vayu), and Arjuna (by Indra). Kunti having warmed up to Madri during their exile shares the mantra with her. Madri bears Pandu Nakula and Sahadeva by the Ashvins.

After the death of Pandu and Madri, Kunti took care of all five Pandava children.

In exile[edit]

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 troubled the people. 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 trumped Bakasura. Bhima slays the rakshasa Hidimba and he is beseeched by Hidimbi, Hidimba's sister, to wed her. Bhima is reluctant, but Kunti ordered Bhima to marry Hidimbi seeing merit in the woman. Hidimbi 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, meaning Kanniga Dhanam (charity of wife) Kunti misunderstood them and asked the Pandavas to share whatever they had bought. Kunti was shocked after realizing the implications of her words, and harshly scolds her children for treating a woman like alms.

Return and game of dice[edit]

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 her children to remain in the capital.

Kurukshetra war[edit]

As war approached, Kunti met Karna and in desperation to keep her children alive, asked Karna to join the Pandavas. But Karna denies the offer again. Knowing that Karna will fight against Arjuna with a motive to kill, Kunti extracted a couple of promises from Karna that he will not kill any of the Pandavas except Arjuna and against Arjuna he will not use a same celestial weapon twice. 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 Ghandari.

Karna was killed by Arjuna on the seventeenth day of battle. Kunti rushed to the battlefield and finding Karna's corpse, she burst into tears and held his head on her lap. The Pandavas came upon her and were bewildered. Kunti reveals the secret of Karna, shocking the Pandavas. This enraged Yudhishthira the most, and he cursed all women with the inability to keep a secret.


After the Kurukshetra war, Kunti perished in a forest fire in the Himalayas, attaining heaven.[5][6]

In Media[edit]

The role of Kunti was played by actresses Deepti Naval, Miriam Goldschmidt, Shafaq Naaz, Nazneen and Priya Bhatija.


  1. ^ Studies of Mahabharata
  2. ^ KUNTI (also called Pritha and Parshni)
  3. ^ A classical dictionary of Hindu mythology and religion, geography, history, and literature by Dowson, John (1820-1881)
  4. ^ Mahabharata
  5. ^ "Kunti" (pdf). Manushi India Organization. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  6. ^ Mani pp.442-3

External links[edit]