Kunti, originally named Pritha is the daughter of the Yadava Prince Sura, king of the Surasena. She is the consort of King Pandu of Hastinapur and the sister of Vasudeva. She is the mother of Karna, and the first three Pandavas – Yudhishthira, Bhima, and Arjuna. The twins Nakula and Sahadeva were born to Mardi. She also appears as one of the central characters of the great epic Mahabharata. (Female characters of Mahabharata)
Bhoja and Birth of Karna
Kunti-Bhoja (or Kuntibhoja) was the adoptive father and cousin of Queen Kunti. He was the ruler of the Kunti Kingdom. Kunti was a daughter of King Shurasena but was later given to Kuntibhoja since he was devoid of children. Kunti-Bhoja renamed Pritha as Kunti and loved and cared her like own daughter.
Once, Sage Durvasa made a visit to Kunti-Bhoja. He really liked the services and comforts that Kunti offered during his visit and blessed her with a powerful mantra so that she can get a son from anyone she wishes. Innocent Kunti looked at the sun and started chanting the mantra. It was then Lord Surya blessed her with Karna.
Afraid of being a single mother, she kept Karna in a basket and set him to float in the river. The child was later on found by Adhiratha. As Karna grew up, he became the chief advisor of Duryodhana, Prince of Hastinapur.
The Consort of Pandu
Kunti-Bhoja organized the Swyamvara ceremony of Kunti and she chose King Pandu of Hastinapur as her companion.
In the course of expanding the empire, Pandu married a princess of Madra, Mardi, in order to secure the mutual bondage of Madra. Pandu preferred Mardi more than Kunti because Yadavas were cattle herders and Mardi was a princess.
One fine day, Pandu was hunting in the forest. He mistakenly killed Rishi Kindama and his wife, who were in the form of deer to mate. Kindama then cursed him saying, “if you ever try to intimate with your wife you will die.” Pandu rejected the kingdom and went into exile with his consorts Kunti and Madri.
Pandu was not able to make love with his consorts. He then expresses his grief to Kunti about how Sage Kindama had cursed him. In the meantime, Kunti used her boon given by Sage Durvasa and gave birth to Yudhishthira (by Yama), Bhima (by Vayu), and Arjuna (by Indra.) Kunti had shared her boon with Mardi on condition that she can only use it one time. The clever Mardi chant the mantras and calls Ashvins, and gave birth to two twins- Nakula and Sahadeva.
Pandu forgets about his curse and intimated with Mardi. As a result of Kindama’s curse he died. Mardi also went to Sati as she thought that she was the cause of his death.
After this incident, Kunti took good care of all five Pandavas, returning back to Hastinapur.
From Hastinapur to Ekachakra to Hastinapur Again
After Pandavas returned to Hastinapur, there was a big issue in selecting the King of their Kingdom. Duryodhana was on one side claiming to owe the Hastinapur, and Yudhishthira on another side. Dhritarashtra called Yudhishthira as his possession. The angry Duryodhana with the support of his uncle, Shakuni planned to burn Pandavas and Kunti in Lakshagraha while they were celebrating a festival at Varnavat. But thanks to Vidura, he helped them to fake their death and escape from the fire.
After this incident, Kunti along with Pandavas moved to a village named Ekachakra. While their stay at Ekachakra, they discovered a demon, Bakasura, who was repeatedly bothering the people. Kunti made a conspiracy where Bhima would be able to face Bakasura and eventually kill him. Later on the great demon, Hidmba sends his sister Hidimbi to kill Pandavas after sensing them in the forest. In the midst of the night, all other Pandavas were asleep except Bhima. As soon as Hidimbi saw Bhima she forgets about her mission and fell in love with him and expressed her desire to marry him.
Hidimbi didn’t return for a long time. The asura Hidimba went searching for his sister and saw her talking with Bhima. He scolded her saying, “I sent you to kill this human and you are talking with him. Let me kill him myself.” But then Hidimbi refused to kill Bhima. Then he started attacking Bhima. After a fierce fight between Bhima and Hidimba, the fight ended with Bhima killing Hidimba.
After Bhima killing her brother, Hidimba still wanted to marry Bhima. But Bhima wanted to kill her. But Kunti somehow managed marriage between Hidimba and Bhima in one condition: that Hidimba should participate in the war of Kurukshetra after having one child with Bhima.
The Pandavas and Kunti were invited back to the Hastinapur and Kingdom were divided between Kauravas and Pandavas. Duryodhana became King of Hastinapur, and Yudhistara became the king of Khandavprastha. After Pandavas lose the game of dice and were forced to go back to exile for thirteen more years, Dhritarashtra compelled Kunti to remain in the Kingdom. But she chose to stay in Vidura’s house instead of the Royal Palace.
Kunti meets Karna in Kurukshetra
Kunti met her abandoned child Karna in the war of Kurukshetra. Karna was on the opposite side of his biological mother. He felt happy to know his true mother but was still heartbroken. Kunti asked Karna to switch the side in the war, but then he wanted to fight for people who raised him. He told her clearly, they did not abandon me as you did to me. He assured her that he would not fight against all of the Pandavas. He would only fight with Arjuna and promised her that at the end of the war she would see five sons, either Arjuna or Karna, one of us would die.
In the midst of the battle, Karna lost his life. Poor Arjuna didn’t even know that he killed his own brother in the war.
After the war, Kunti went to the forest near the Himalayas along with Vidura, Dhritarashtra, and Gandhari, where all of them declined in a forest fire and reached to heaven.
Facts about Kunti
- The cleverness of Kunti can be seen from how she made Bhima marry Hidimba so that she could make her participate in the Mahabharata War.
- Kunti was very close to her brother Vasudeva’s son Lord Krishna.