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Raja Pandu and Matakunti LACMA M.69.13.6.jpg

In Hindu mythology, Kunti (Sanskrit: कुंती Kuntī) also called Pritha, was the biological daughter of Shurasena, the sister of Vasudeva, the foster daughter of her cousin King Kunti-Bhoja, the wife of King Pandu of Hastinapur and the mother of Karna, and King Yudhisthira of Indraprastha. Before Kunti married Pandu, she bore Karna to Surya, the solar deity. The ambiguous emotions Karna felt about his birth mother play an important role in the Mahabharata. She later married Pandu and bore Yudhisthira, w:Bhima and Arjuna. After the death of her husband, Kunti did not commit sati, but his other wife Madri did. Kunti took care of Nakula and Sahadeva, the sons of Madri, as her own sons. Kunti perished in a forest fire in the Himalayas with her brother-in-law King Dhritarashtra and his wife Gandhari and attained heaven.


Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and
Mandodari: constantly remembering
these virgin five destroys greatfailings. - Pradip Bhattacharya
  • Ahalya and Draupadi – are ayonijasambhava, “not-of-woman-born”. Of the five kanyas, none quite measure up to the standard of monogamous chastity, commended so overwhelmingly in our culture. Each has had either an extra-marital relationship or more than one husband. Draupadi and Kunti are celebrated in Vyasa’s Mahabharata.
    • Pradip Bhattacharya in: "Five Holy Virgins, Five Sacred Myths A Quest for Meaning"
  • Mahari dance tradition in which the Oriya verse goes:
    Pancha bhuta khiti op tejo maruta Byomo
    Pancha sati nirjyasa gyani bodho Gomyo
    Ahalya Draupadi Kunti Tara Mandodari totha Pancha kanya...
  • Five elements, earth, water, fire, [[wind, ether are in essence the five satis. This the wise know as Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari Five virgins...Ahalya personifies water, Draupadi represents fire, Kunti symbolises mother earth, Tara personifies wind and Mandodari ether. Draupadi’s personality personifies fire, while Sita (whom she incongruously includes in the group instead of Kunti) is the daughter of the earth.
...The intelligent Kunti, entering the amphitheatre, beheld Pandu--the foremost of the Bharatas... The amiable daughter of Kuntibhoja… advancing with modesty,...placed the nuptial garland about Pandu's neck. - Mahabharata.
  • In spite of several plus points to their credit – like the wisdom, courage, and sagacity of Draupadi, Tara and Damayanti, the keen and lively interest they evinced in their surroundings and also the part played by the former two in the management of their respective realms, the strong sense of duty, love and loyalty to their respective husbands as shown by Kunti, Mandodari and Shakuntala, the carving for knowledge as expressed by Maitreyi – none of them is a model for Hindu women.
    • Prabhati Mukherjee in:"Hindu Women: Normative Models", p. 49.

The End Of An Epoch[edit]

Iravati Karvein: The End Of An Epoch, GyanPedia |Digital Empowerment Foundation (gyanpedia.in).

  • Pandu was married to Kunti, the adopted daughter of King Kuntibhoja. Her real father was King Sura of the Yadava clan. Kuntibhoja had adopted her and used her to serve a Brahmin visiting his court. This Brahmin [Durvasa] was known both for his irascibility and his great magical powers. Kunti served him so well that he blessed the king and gave Kunti several mantras with which she could call any god to father her child. In her childish curiosity, Kunti used one mantra and called Surya, the sun-god. He appeared immediately and begot a son on her. Frightened, Kunti put the child in a box, with gold and jewelery, and set it in the river. The boy was found and adopted by the suta Adhiratha, and became known as Karna.
    • In: p. 12.
  • She called three gods to father his sons. Dharma, or Yudhisthira, was born of god [[w:Yama|Yama, also called Dharma, the god of death and regulation. A year later the second son Bhima was born of the wind god. He was a giant in stature and powers. The next year, the third son Arjuna was born of Indra, the king of gods. These three sons are called Kaunteya (sons of Kunti) in the Mahabharata. Kunti’s co-wife Madri begged Pandu to ask Kunti to give her a mantra too. Kunti did so. Madri called the twin gods Ashvini and gave birth to twins called Nakula and Sahadeva. They were called Madreya, sons of Madri. All the five children were collectively called Pandavas, the sons of Pandu.
    • In: p. 12.
  • As a spendthrift squanders his money unthinking, so did my father give me away when yet a girl to his friend. Kunti complaining about her father.
    • Kunti in: p. 25.
  • Kunti did not know his [Karna's] fate till years later, when she was not in a position to acknowledge him as her son. The son, on his part, never forgave the mother for having abandoned him. From the minute of his birth to well after his death this child was a constant source of dread and sorrow to the mother.
    • In: p. 30.
  • Kunti returned to Hastinapura with the five children, the two half-charred bodies and a retinue of Brahmins and servants. The citizens of Hastinapura watched the sad procession and talked among themselves.
    • In: p. 32.
  • Are they all his children? “How can they be?” “Whose else could they be?
    • The citizens of Hastinapura watched the sad procession, in: p. 32.
  • Kunti heard these remarks with fear in her heart but all her doubts were laid at rest by the manner in which Bhishma received her. The king and Madri were given a State cremation. The whole court went into mourning. The five children were received as princes and given into the care of the family tutors for instruction along with their cousins, the Kauravas.
    • In p. 32-33.
  • These years of Kunti’s life were comparatively peaceful. Hardly had Kunti heaved a sigh of relief when fresh troubles arose. Though the Pandavas were received as princes, they were not acknowledged as sole heirs to the throne. Dhritarashtra continued to rule though uncrowned and quarrels broke out among the cousins. Kunti’s Bhima, a hefty fellow, delighted in frightening his cousins. Apparently they in their turn tried to poison him. Kunti’s children proved themselves to be quick in learning the art.
    • In: p. 33.

Five Holy Virgins, Five Sacred MythsOf Kunti and Satyawati Sexually Assertive Women of the Mahabharata[edit]

Kunti and Draupadi are two women who shape the entire course of dynastic destiny in the Mahabharata. Kunti chooses the scion of Hastinapura, Pandu, to wed, and becomes the mother of the epic’s protagonists: the Pandavas.

Pradip Bhattacharya in: Part Ii: Five Holy Virgins, Five Sacred MythsOf Kunti and Satyawati Sexually Assertive Women of the Mahabharata, Manushi

  • Kunti and Draupadi are two women who shape the entire course of dynastic destiny in the Mahabharata. Kunti chooses the scion of Hastinapura, Pandu, to wed, and becomes the mother of the epic’s protagonists: the Pandavas.
  • By birth, she is a Yadava and her brother’s son is Krishna, one of the major shapers of epic action.
  • Kunti, or Pritha, is the daughter of Shoora of the Vrishnis, given away when just a child to her father’s childless friend Kuntibhoja. This rankles deep within her; she voices her resentment pointedly both before and after the Kurukshetra war. Growing up in Kuntibhoja’s apartments, she finds no mother; Kuntibhoja himself hands her over, in adolescence, to the vagaries of the eccentric, w:Irascibleirascible and fiery sage Durvasa. Should she displease the sage, she is warned, it will dishonour her guardian’s clan as well as her own.
  • Large-eyed and well endowed, as her name Pritha connotes, she is strikingly lovely, and Kuntibhoja exhorts her not to neglect any service out of pride in her beauty. Kunti’s relationship with Durvasa does not appear to have been easy. In the account she gives much later to Vyasa, she tells him that despite Durvasa’s conduct having been such as to provide abundant cause for anger,she had not given way to it . She further states that she was constrained at the sage’s insistence to accept his boon, whereby any god would be compelled to answer her summons, and that she obeyed out of fear of his curse. The interaction that she describes after this between her and the sun god, Surya, is exactly similar – the same insistence and the same fear.
  • Kunti, like Ahalya with Indra, is curious. She wishes to test whether Durvasa’s boon really works. Significantly, this desire arises in her after she has menstruated. In her account to Vyasa, she frankly states that she had desired (sprihayanti) Surya, again reminding us of Ahalya when approached by Indra. Perceiving a radiant being in the rising sun she invites him, using the mantra. Once summoned, Surya, like Indra, will not return unsatisfied. He cajoles and browbeats the girl, assuring her of unimpaired virginity, and threatening to consume the kingdom and the boon-bestowing sage if denied. A thrilling conflation of desire and fear overpower Kunti’s reluctance, and she stipulates that the son thus born must be like his father.
  • Kunti wins two boons from the encounter: her own virgo intacta and special powers for her son.

The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section CXXIII[edit]

Give me, O best of celestials, a child endued with great strength and largeness of limbs and capable of humbling the pride of every body. - Pandu.

Mahabharta translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli in: The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section CXXIII,Wikisource

  • Kunti summoned the eternal god of justice to obtain offspring from him. And she offered without loss of time, sacrifices unto the god and began to duly repeat the formula that Durvasa had imparted to her some time before. 'O Kunti, what am I to give thee?' And Kunti too smiling in her turn, replied, 'Thou must even give me offspring.'
    • The Sun god appeared before Kunti
  • Then the handsome Kunti was united (in intercourse) with the god of justice in his spiritual form and obtained from him a son devoted to the good of all creatures. And she brought his excellent child.... an incorporeal voice (from the skies) said,...And this first child of Pandu shall be known by the name of w:YudhishtiraYudhishthira. Possessed of prowess and honesty of disposition, he shall be a famous king, known throughout the three worlds.
  • The wise have declared that a Kshatriya must be endued with physical strength, otherwise he is no Kshatriya.
    • Pandu addressing Kunti for begetting more children.
  • What, O Kunti, am I to give thee? Tell me what is in thy heart.
    • Vayu to Kunti when Kunti invoked him.
  • Give me, O best of celestials, a child endued with great strength and largeness of limbs and capable of humbling the pride of every body.
    • Kunti to Vayu.
    • The god of wind thereupon begat upon her the child afterwards known as Bhima of mighty arms and fierce prowess.
  • How am I to obtain a very superior son who shall achieve world-wide fame?
    • Pandu
    • After this, the Kuru king Pandu, taking counsel with the great Rishis commanded Kunti to observe an auspicious vow for one full year.
  • I shall give thee, O king, a son who will be celebrated all over the three worlds and who will promote the welfare of Brahmanas, kine and all honest men. The son I shall give thee will be the smiter of the wicked and the delight of friends and relatives. Foremost of all men, he will be an irresistible slayer of all foes.
  • O fortunate one, thy vow hath become successful. The lord of the celestials hath been gratified, and is willing to give thee a son such as thou desirest, of superhuman achievements and great fame. He will be the oppressor of all enemies and possessed of great wisdom. Endued with a great soul, in splendour equal unto the Sun, invincible in battles, and of great achievements, he will also be extremely handsome. O thou of fair hips and sweet smiles, the lord of the celestials hath become gracious to thee. Invoking him, bring thou forth a child who will be the very home of all Kshatriya virtues.
  • Kunti, thus addressed by her lord, invoked Sakra (the king of the gods) who thereupon came unto her and begat him that was afterwards called Arjuna.
  • The wise do not sanction a fourth delivery even in a season of distress. The woman having intercourse with four different men is called a Swairini (heanton), while she having intercourse with five becometh a harlot. Therefore, O learned one, as thou art well-acquainted with the scripture on this subject, why dost thou, beguiled by desire of offspring, tell me so in seeming forgetfulness of the ordinance
    • Kunti addressing Pandu who wanted her to beget more children.

The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section CXXIV[edit]

Mahabharata translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli in: The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section CXXIV, Wikisource

  • O slayer of foes, I have no complaint even if thou beest unpropitious to me. I have, O sinless one, also no complaint that though by birth I am superior to Kunti yet I am inferior to her in station. I do not grieve, O thou of Kuru's race, that Gandhari hath obtained a hundred sons. This, however, is my great grief that while Kunti and I are equal, I should be childless, while it should so chance that thou shouldst have offspring by Kunti alone. If the daughter of Kuntibhoja should so provide that I should have offspring, she would then be really doing me a great favour and benefiting thee likewise. She being my rival, I feel a delicacy in soliciting any favour of her. If thou beest, O king, propitiously disposed to me, then ask her to grant my desire.
  • O Kunti, grant me some more offspring for the expansion of my race and for the benefit of the world. O blessed one, provide thou that I myself, my ancestors, and thine also, may always have the funeral cake offered to us. O, do what is beneficial to me, and grant me and the world what, indeed, is the best of benefits. O, do what, indeed, may be difficult for thee, moved by the desire of achieving undying fame. Behold, Indra, even though he hath obtained the sovereignty of the celestials, doth yet, for fame alone, perform sacrifices. O handsome one, Brahmanas, well-acquainted with the Vedas, and having achieved high ascetic merit, do yet, for fame alone, approach their spiritual masters with reverence. So also all royal sages and Brahmanas possessed of ascetic wealth have achieved, for fame only, the most difficult of ascetic feat. Therefore, O blameless one, rescue this Madri as by a raft (by granting her the means of obtaining offspring), and achieve thou imperishable fame by making her a mother of children.
    • Pandu requesting Kunti to help Madri.
  • Think thou, without loss of time, of some celestial, and thou shall certainly obtain from him a child like unto him.
  • Madri thought of the twin Aswins, who coming unto her with speed begat upon her two sons that were twins named Nakula and Sahadeva, unrivalled on earth for personal beauty.
  • Having given her the formula of invocation only once, she hath, O king, managed to obtain two sons. Have I not been thus deceived by her, I fear, O king, that she will soon surpass me in the number of her children. This, indeed, is the way of all wicked women. Fool that I was, I did not know that by invoking the twin gods I could obtain at one birth twin children. I beseech thee, O king, do not command me any further. Let this be the boon granted (by thee) to me.
    • Kunti reply to Pandu who requested her on behalf of Madri for more children.

The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section CXXV[edit]

Mahabharta translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli|Kisari Mohan Ganguli]] The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section CXXV, Wikisource

  • Of passions under complete control, this hero [Pandu], O Madri, had all along been watched by me with care. How did he then forgetting the Rishi's curse, approach thee with enkindled desire? O Madri, this foremost of men should have been protected by thee. Why didst thou tempt him into solitude? Always melancholy at the thought of the Rishi's curse, how came he to be merry with thee in solitude? O princess of Valhika, more fortunate than myself, thou art really to be envied, for thou hast seen the face of our lord suffused with gladness and joy.
  • I am the older of his wedded wives; the chief religious merit must be mine. Therefore, O Madri, prevent me not from achieving that which must be achieved. I must follow our lord to the region of the dead. Rise up, O Madri, and yield me his body. Rear thou these children.
    • Kunti in grief wanting to commit sati (selfimmolation) with her dead husband.
  • I do clasp our lord yet, and have not allowed him to depart; therefore, I shall follow him. My appetite hath not been appeased. Thou art my older sister, O let me have thy sanction. This foremost one of the Bharata princes had approached me, desiring to have intercourse. His appetite unsatiated, shall I not follow him in the region of Yama to gratify him? O revered one, if I survive thee, it is certain I shall not be able to rear thy children as if they were mine. Will not sin touch me on that account? But, thou, O Kunti, shall be able to bring my sons up as if they were thine. The king, in seeking me wishfully, hath gone to the region of spirits; therefore, my body should be burnt with his. O revered sister, withhold not thy sanction to this which is agreeable to me. Thou wilt certainly bring up the children carefully. That indeed, would be very agreeable to me. I have no other direction to give!
    • Madri to Kunti
    • Madri then ascended the funeral pyre of her lord Pandu

The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section CXXIX[edit]

Mahabharta translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli The Mahabharata/Book 1: Adi Parva/Section CXXIX, Wikisource

  • O illustrious Kshattri, Bhimasena is missing! Where has he gone? The other brothers have all come back from the gardens, only Bhima of mighty arms does not come home! Duryodhana likes him not. The w:KauravaKaurava is crooked and malicious and low-minded and imprudent. He coveteth the throne openly. I am afraid he may have in a fit of anger slain my darling. This afflicts me sorely, indeed, it burns my heart.
  • Kunti to Vidura when she found that her second Bhima had gone missing.

The God of Small Things[edit]

She told him of a young woman who had been granted a boon. A secret mantra that she could use to choose a lover from among the gods. Of how, with the imprudence of youth, the woman decided to test it to see if it really worked. How she stood alone in an empty field, turned her face to the heavens and recited the mantra. The words had scarcely left her foolish lips, when Surya, the God of Day, appeared before her. The young woman, bewitched by the beauty of the shimmering young god, gave herself to him. Nine months later she bore him a son....

Arundhati Roy in: God of Small Things, Penguin Books India, 2002

  • He is Karna, whom the world has abandoned....A prince raised in poverty. Born to die unfairly, unarmed and alone at the hands of his brother. Majestic in his complete despair. Praying on the banks of the Ganga.... Then Kunti appeared....She had come to tell Karna a story.
    • In: p. 232
  • Karna inclined his beautiful head and listened. She told him of a young woman who had been granted a boon. A secret mantra that she could use to choose a lover from among the gods. Of how, with the imprudence of youth, the woman decided to test it to see if it really worked. How she stood alone in an empty field, turned her face to the heavens and recited the mantra. The words had scarcely left her foolish lips, when Surya, the God of Day, appeared before her. The young woman, bewitched by the beauty of the shimmering young god, gave herself to him. Nine months later she bore him a son. The baby was born sheathed in light, with gold earrings in his ears and a gold breastplate on his chest, engraved with the emblem of the sun. The young mother loved her first-born son deeply, but she was unmarried and couldn't keep him. She put him in a reed basket and cast him away in a river. The child was found downriver by Adhiratha, a charioteer. And named Karna.
    • Kunti in p. 232.
  • Who was she? Who was my mother? Tell me where she is. Take me to her.
    • Karna looking up to Kunti asked her, in: p. 232.
  • Standing before you.
    • Kunti said, bowing her head, in in: p. 232.
  • Where were you, he asked her, when I needed you the most? Did you ever hold me in your arms? Did you feed me? Did you ever look for me? Did you wonder where I might be?
    • [[w:Karna|Karna with elation and anger at the revelation asked Kunti, in: p. 232-33.
  • Did you know how much I missed you?
    • In: p. 233.
  • A travelling kiss whose journey was cut short by dismay when Karna realised that his mother had revealed herself to him only to secure the safety of her five other, more beloved sons - the Pandavas - poised on the brink of their epic battle with their one hundred cousins. It is then that Kunti sought to protect by announcing to Karna that she was his mother. She had a promise to extract. She invoked the Love Laws.
    • In: p. 233.
  • They are your brothers. Your own flesh and blood. Promise me that you will not go to war against them. Promise me that.
    • Kunti's request to Karna, in: P. 233.
  • Karna the Warrior could not make that promise, for if he did, he would have to revoke another one. Tomorrow he would go to war, and his enemies would be the Pandavas. They were the ones, Arjuna in particular, who had publicly reviled him for being a lowly charioteer’s son And it was Duryodhana, the eldest of one hundred Kaurava brothers, that came to his rescue by gifting him a kingdom of his own. Karna, in return, had pledged Duryodhana eternal fielty. But Karna the generous could not refuse his mother what she asked of him. Made a small adjustment, took a somewhat altered oath.
    • In: p. 233.
  • I promise you this. You will always have five sons. Yudhishtira, I will not harm. Bhima will not die by my hand. The twins – Nakula and Sahadeva – will go untouched by me. But Arjuna – him I will make no promises about. I will kill him, or he will kill me. One of us will die.
    • Karna's promise to Kunti, in p. 233-34.

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