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In Mahabharata, Kunti (Sanskrit: कुन्ती Kuntī) or Pritha was the daughter of Shurasena,[1] and the foster daughter of his cousin Kuntibhoja.[2] She is the sister of Vasudeva. She was married to King Pandu[3] of Hastinapur and was the mother of Karna and the first three Pandava brothers Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna.[4] She was the paternal aunt of Krishna, Balarama, and Subhadra. She was the step and the foster mother of Nakula and Sahadeva. She was very beautiful and intelligent. She is often regarded as one of the protagonists of the Mahabharata.

Spouse(s) Pandu, accidentally bore Karna from Surya

Karna with Surya, Yudhishthira with Yama,

Bhima with Vayu and Arjuna with Indra


Birth and early lifeEdit

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.

Birth of KarnaEdit

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 Radha.

Marriage to PanduEdit

Kuntibhoja organized Kunti's swayamvara. Kunti chose King Pandu of Hastinapur, making her the Queen of Hastinapur.

Arrival of MadriEdit

Soon after, during his mission to expand his empire, Pandu married Madri, a princess of Madra in order to secure the vassalage of Madra. Madri was of the view that Kunti was inferior by birth to her because Yadavas were cattle herders while she was a princess. Kunti was disturbed by her husband's act, but eventually reconciled with him.[citation needed]

Pandu's CurseEdit

While hunting in a forest, Rishi Kindama and his wife, who had taken up the form of deer to mate, were shot and killed by Pandu as he mistook them as deer. The dying sage placed a curse on Pandu, since he had not only killed them in the midst of lovemaking, but was not remorseful for his action. King Pandu argued with sage Kindama by misquoting sage Agastya's ruling on the right of Kshatriyas on hunting.[citation needed] Sage Kindama then decided to curse him to die if he ever should become intimate with his wife. Pandu renounced the kingdom and went into exile with Kunti and Madri.

The Pandavas and HastinapurEdit

Pandu could not make love with his wives due to the 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 (by which she used to bear Karna) 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, on the condition that she only use it once. Madri cleverly summons the Ashvins, who give her twin sons Nakula and Sahadeva.

One day, Pandu, forgetting his curse, attempted to join physical relations with his wife Madri. But, as a result of Kindama's curse, he died. Madri committed sati as she was the cause of his death. Kunti stood helpless in the forest with her children.

After the death of Pandu and Madri, Kunti took care of all five Pandava children, taking them back to Hastinapur. As the rivalry culminates between Pandavas and Kauravas, she decides to go back to Kunti Bhoja. But her attempt was stopped by Bhishma.[citation needed] She performed the puja for the Kala Bhairava for his return.

In exileEdit

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.

Slaying DemonsEdit

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. Later, 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.

Sharing DraupadiEdit

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 (signifying Kanyadan). Kunti misunderstood them and asked the Pandavas to share whatever they had brought. Kunti was shocked after realizing the implications of her words, and scolds her children for treating a woman like alms. However, Draupadi forgives Kunti as it was her(Draupadi's) very own karma that made Kunti give such orders and she accepts this as her fate.

Return and game of diceEdit

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 King Dhritarashtra to remain in the capital thereby separating the sons from the mother (Act of vengeance by Dhritarashtra).[citation needed].She choose to stay in Vidura's house rather than the royal palace.

Kurukshetra warEdit

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 as he could not betray his friend. But, he promised Kunti that he would not kill any of his brothers except Arjuna thus following both Mitra dharma and Putra dharma. Kunti also asked him further promises like he should not use the same weapon twice against Arjuna, etc.which were granted by Karna. In return 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 Gandhari.


After the Kurukshetra war, Kunti moved to a forest near the Himalayas with her brothers-in-law Vidura and Dhritarashtra and sister-in-law Gandhari, where all four of them later perished in a forest fire, attaining heaven.[5][6]


  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

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