9. Kunti Devi
SURA, the grandfather of Sri Krishna, was a worthy scion of the Yadava race. His daughter Pritha was noted for her beauty and virtues. Since his cousin Kuntibhoja was childless, Sura gave his daughter Pritha in adoption to him. From that time she was known by the name of Kunti after her adoptive father.
When Kunti was a little girl, the sage Durvasa stayed for a time as a guest in her father's house and she served the sage for a year with all care, patience and devotion. He was so pleased with her that he gave her a divine mantra. He said:
"If you call upon any god repeating this mantra, he will manifest himself to you and bless you with a son equal to him in glory." He granted her this boon because he foresaw by his yogic power the misfortune that was in store for her future husband.
The impatient curiosity of youth made Kunti test then and there the efficacy of the mantra by repeating it and invoking the Sun whom she saw shining in the heavens. At once the sky grew dark with clouds, and under cover of them the Sun god approached the beautiful princess Kunti and stood gazing at her with ardent soul scorching admiration. Kunti, overpowered by the glorious vision of her divine visitor, asked: "O god, who art thou?"
The Sun replied: "Dear maiden, I am the Sun. I have been drawn to you by the spell of the son-giving mantra that you have uttered."
Kunti was aghast and said: "I am an unwedded girl dependent on my father. I am not fit for motherhood and do not desire it. I merely wished to test the power of the boon granted by the sage Durvasa. Go back and forgive this childish folly of mine." But the Sun god could not thus return because the power of the mantra held him. She for her part was mortally afraid of being blamed by the world. The Sun god however reassured her:
"No blame shall attach to you. After bearing my son, you will regain virginity.''
Kunti conceived by the grace of the Sun, the giver of light and life to all the world. Divine births take place immediately without the nine months weary course of mortal gestation.
She gave birth to Karna who was born with divine armor and earrings and was bright and beautiful like the Sun. In time, he became one of the world's greatest heroes. After the birth of the child, Kunti once again became a virgin as a result of the boon granted by the Sun.
She wondered what she should do with the child. To hide her fault she placed the child in a sealed box and set it afloat in a river. A childless charioteer happened to see the floating case, and taking it, was surprised and delighted to see within it a gorgeously beautiful child.
He handed it over to his wife who lavished a mother's love on it. Thus Karna, the son of the Sun god, came to be brought up as a charioteer's child. When the time came for giving Kunti in marriage, Kuntibhoja invited all the neighboring princes and held a swayamvara for her to choose her husband.
Many eager suitors flocked to the swayamvara as the princess was widely famed for her great beauty and virtue. Kunti placed the garland on the neck of King Pandu, the bright representative of the Bharata race, whose personality eclipsed the lustre of all the other princes assembled there. The marriage was duly solemnised and she accompanied her husband to his capital Hastinapur.
On the advice of Bhishma and in accordance with the prevailing custom, Pandu took a second wife Madri, the sister of the king of Madra. In the old days the kings took two or three wives for making sure of progeny and not for mere sensual desire.