The story of Kunti

Kunti is the mother of the eldest three of the Pandava brothers from the Indian epic Mahabharata. Her story is also told within the Srimad Bhagavatam, wherein she speaks on the philosophy of devotion of Krishna, known as Bhakti yoga. Kunti is thus held as a figure of great importance within many Hindu traditions and especially with worshippers of Krishna (Vaishnavas).

Her father was Śũrasena of the Yadu clan, and she was named Pritha (Pŗtha). She was thus the sister of Vasudeva, father of Krishna. She was given in adoption to the childless King Kuntibhoja, after which she became known as Kunti. After her arrival, King Kuntibhoja was blessed with children. He considered her his lucky charm and took care of her until her marriage.

When she was young, the rishi Durvasa told her a mantra with which Kunti could summon any deva and have a child by him without a pregnancy. When Kunti asked why he gave her this mantra, he told her that it would be useful to her later in life.

Kunti could not believe the mantra, so she tried to use it. The god Surya, appeared. She asked him to go back, but Surya said he was compelled to fulfill the mantra before returning. Kunti then abandoned the child in a basket in a river. This child was later found and adopted by a chariot driver and his wife, and was named Karna. He went on to become an important character in the Mahābhārata. The ambiguous emotions Karna felt about his birth mother play an important role in the Mahābhārata.

Later on, Kunti married Prince Pandu of Hastinapura. He took a second wife Madri, but was unable to father children. Grief-stricken, he left for the forest with his wives, to live in self-imposed exile. Then, Kunti revealed her secret mantra. She used it three times, first receiving a son, Yudishtira, from the god Yama, then Bhima from the god Vayu, and thirdly Arjuna, from the god Indra. Kunti revealed the mantra to Madri, who bore twin sons, Nakula and Sahadeva, from the twin gods the Asvins. The five together are known as the Pandavas.

After the death of Pandu and Madri, Kunti was left to tend for all five sons. After the great battle and in her old age, she goes in exile to the forest, with her brothers-in-law Dhritarashtra and Vidura, and Dhritarashtra's wife Gandhari where they die together in a forest fire.

Kunti's character within the Mahābhārata is accorded much respect within the Hindu tradition. Her activities were that of a very pious and loyal wife and of a person with a great deal of self-control. Kunti was given a special boon which enabled her to bear the sons of great celestial devas as many times as she wished. However Kunti did not misuse her boon, limiting herself to three sons only. In spite of Pandu's pleas for more sons, Kunti held onto the Shastras which state that one should not have more than 3 children when the children are not conceived in the usual manner (in the case of Kunti she was granted sons instead of she conceiving them the normal way). And when requested by Pandu, she shared this special mantra with Madri, Pandu's other wife.