By Swami Harshananda
Kuntī, the mother of the Pāṇḍavas, has occupied the dignity as a noble and gentle lady among all the women characters of the Mahābhārata. She is the personification of fortitude, even in the most troublesome periods of her life.
She was formerly known as Pṛthā, the daughter of the king Sura of the race of the Yadus. She was the sister of Vasudeva, Kṛṣṇa’s father. Actually king Kuntibhoja adopted her and hence she acquired the name ‘Kuntī’.
During her girlhood, once while attending upon the sage Durvāsas in her father’s house, the sage was pleased by her devoted service. He taught her a special mantra by which she could invite a god to come to herself to bless her with a child. She tried that special mantra inviting Surya or the Sun-god out of sheer curiosity. As a result, a brilliant and valorous son was born to her. She left the baby floating in the nearby river after putting it in a wooden box, being an unwed girl and afraid of calumny. The box was recovered by Adhiratha who along with his wife Rādhā, adopted him as his son and brought him up. He was named as Karṇa.
Kuntī was then married to Pāṇḍu, the younger brother of the blind prince Dhṛtarāṣṭra. Mādrī was her co-wife. Kuntī revealed to Pāṇḍu about the gift of mantra she had received from the sage Durvāsas since he was under a curse and could not get children in the normal way,
She begot three sons Yudhiṣṭhira, Bhima and Arjuna with Pāṇḍu’s permission. Mādrī also with her help, gave birth to the twins named Nakula and Sahadeva. After the death of Pāṇḍu and Mādrī, she brought the five Pāṇḍavas to Bhīṣma, the grandsire, to bring them up for proper education.
She accompanied the Pāṇḍavas after they escaped from the arson of the inflammable house built of lac to the small town Ekacakranagara. She also encouraged her son Bhīma to kill the demon Bakāsura who was harassing the residents of that town. When the Pāṇḍavas were banished to the forest after the second game of dice, she lived in the house of Vidura, the minister of Dhṛtarāṣṭra.
Before the Kurukṣetra war, she met Karṇa and revealed the secret of his birth and advised him to join the Pāṇḍavas. However Karṇa politely refused. After the war, Yudhiṣṭhira was crowned as the king. She retired to the forest along with Gāndhārī and Dhṛtarāṣṭra and perished in a forest fire.
- Adhiratha was the charioteer of Dhṛtarāṣṭra.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore