Kunti, wife of Pandu, is the mother to five Pandava princes, of whom she has given birth to the three elder Pandavas. Kunti was the daughter of Surasen, father of Vasudev and grand-father of Sri Krishna. Kunti’s name at birth was Pritha, meaning Earth.
Surasen had promised to give his first child to his cousin, Kuntibhoj. At a young age, Kunti willingly leaves Surasen’s house to become the adopted daughter of Kuntibhoj, in order to fulfil her father’s promise. Thus, she was born with an element of sacrifice embedded in her character.
One day Rishi Durvasa, known as a very difficult master, arrives at Kuntibhoj’s court, announcing that he would be staying there for a year. The thought of how and who would take care of him puts Kuntibhoj in a dilemma. Here, Kunti volunteers and assures her adopted father that she would take care of the Rishi.
Rishi Durvasa was known to curse his disciples for having even a slight scowl on the face; needless to mention being cursed at the smallest of mistakes or expressing displeasure in any form. For a year, Kunti cared for Rishi Durvasa, going through a hard routine and catering to what may sound to us as whims of the Rishi. The Rishi would wake her up in the middle of the night and ask for a full meal to be prepared. On being offered the meal, he would eat a morsel and throw the rest out of the window, shouting angrily that the food was disgusting. Once, he complained of the plate being too hot, hearing which Kunti bent and offered her back to be used as a table. The Rishi put the scorching vessel on her back, scalding her completely. Kunti did not flinch in the least and willingly accepted the harsh treatment meted out to her. Through the whole year, Kunti underwent all hardships thrown at her without the slightest sign of displeasure on her face.
After a year, Rishi Durvasa was very pleased to see Kunti go through all the tests he had put her up to. He blessed her special powers and a mantra which could invoke cosmic divine forces. Hence, the name Kunti. ‘Ku’ means to call, the one that has the power of invoking or calling divine forces from a higher dimension.
Kunti was very young when she underwent this process. Out of curiosity, she tested one of the mantras, invoking Surya (the Sun God). Surya blessed Kunti with a son, later known in the Mahabharata as Karna (and would be subject to ridicule). This put Kunti at her wit’s end as she was still unmarried. She put the child in a basket and set the child adrift in the water of the river Ganga. Later, she married Pandu and mothered the Pandava princes.
When Rishi Ved Vyas wrote the Mahabharata, he wrote it in form of a simple story but each line is laden with symbolic meaning. Let us try and unravel this in the case of Kunti.
Before a master separates from his disciple (with whom he has limited time to work), he wants to ensure that the disciple’s ego has dissolved completely. If not done, the master knows that even an entire lifetime of work with the disciple could go in vain. In order to free the disciple of the ego, the master becomes wrathful and takes on a form that is difficult to deal with. He does this to test whether the disciple is completely free from ego or not. Rishi Durvasa symbolises this aspect of the master.
If a disciple willingly goes through the whole process of suffering and a difficult testing period, he comes out of it a different person. This disciple is free from the bondage of ego. Once the ego is dissolved, that void is filled with certain divine powers of working with the natural forces of life. Kunti symbolises this disciple who is free from ego and who has smilingly undergone such difficult tests and time under a wrathful master.
The curiosity of Kunti (the disciple) represents the lack of ‘viveka’ when she used the mantra. Viveka is intelligence along with the power of discernment. Pandu means white, representing the intellect within us. Kunti’s marriage with Pandu symbolises the dawn of maturity in Kunti which brings the right use of power, leading to the birth of the five Pandavas. Pandu also had another wife, Madri. Using the mantras and calling from a higher dimension, Kunti gave birth to Yudhisthira, Bhima, and Arjuna. She also helped Madri give birth to twins, Nakula and Sahdeva.
Our body-brain system has five centres or the Pandavas. The Pandavas, namely Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahdeva represent the intellectual, sex, emotional, moving, and the instinctive centres respectively.
Of the Pandavas, Arjuna represents our inner disciple. The disciple uses his body-brain system to increase his level of consciousness till he merges with supreme consciousness, Sri Krishna. For this, we must know the sciences of the working of the body-brain system.
From the next article, we shall study each of the Pandava brothers in detail.