மரபு விக்கி இருந்து
There was a king by name Sura in the dynasty of Yadu. If we trace the origins of the Yadu dynasty, it would take us to the story of king Yayati, who exchanged his old age for the youth of his son Puru. Yayati had five sons, born to Devayani and Sarmishta, who were known as Yadu, Dhurvasu, Thrkyu, Anu and Puru. The dynasty of Yadu, in which Krishna was born, originated from the eldest son of Yayati and was known by his name. The lineage of Dhurvasu was known as Yavanas; that of Thrkyu Bhojas; the line that started from Anu was known as Milechas; and that of Puru, Pauravas. Kauravas and Pandavas come in the original line of Pauravas, some forty-seven generations (roughly) after Yayati.
Sura was a very highly respected king. King Kuntibhoja was the son of Sura’s paternal aunt. Apart from being relatives, the two were close friends and held each other with love, affection and respect. Kuntibhoja was a saintly king, widely read and treading the path of rectitude. Blessed was his life in all respects, except in one. And that happened to be the most vital of all blessings that a man would yearn for. He did not beget children. So great was the affection that prevailed among them that Sura promised to give the first child born to him to Kuntibhoja, in adoption.
The first child that was born to Sura was a daughter. She was christened as Prtha. Sura remembered the promise he made to Kuntibhoja and gifted him with his daughter, in adoption. Kuntibhoja showered his love on Prtha, who grew up as his only child. Prtha is more popularly known as Kunti, after her foster father.
A son was born to King Sura after that. That son, second child of Sura, younger brother of Prtha – Kunti – was Vasudeva. Krishna was born to him and Devaki, in prison. Therefore, Kunti becomes the paternal aunt of Krishna. Arjuna’s other name Partha, is actually the metronymic of Prtha. Partha is nothing but ‘son of Prtha’.
Kunti grew up into a very wise and evolved soul. She played a very silent role in the epic; but a very important one at that. She had her say in the administration, people listened to her with respect whenever she offered advice. In fact, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has culled her teachings and has published them in one compact book under the title ‘Teachings of Kunti,’ with interpretations.
Kunti was known for her patience and respect for elders, which quality she displayed even as a young girl. Sage Dhurvasa visited the palace of Kuntibhoja and the responsibility of looking after the sage, who is known for his anger and his penchant for cursing people, fell on Kunti. However, she had no difficulty in discharging that onerous responsibility and the fact that even Dhurvasa was delighted by the way she looked after him.
Sage Dhurvasa foresaw what would befall this poor girl, in the years to come. He thought that this girl should be saved from the peculiar circumstances in her life that would make her remain childless. Her husband would be handsome, valiant and would love her from the bottom of his heart. But, he would be precluded from procreation by the peculiar twist of events. Dhurvasa therefore taught her a mantra. The deity whom Kunti wished would appear before her and bless her with a child when she uttered the mantra.
And, from this incident starts a whole new series of events with so many gripping, moving and emotional scenes, setting brother against brothers, none – excepting Krishna and Bhishma, apart from Kunti – knowing the real relationship of her eldest son, Karna, and a mother in a pitiable condition of remaining unable to call her son a son in public, till his death.
Know when to use it
‘Think twice before using the power that is vested in you,’ is what the story of Kunti shrieks out loud and clear. More. When power is vested in the hands of a person, whose age or attainments are disproportionate to what is given to him or her, he or she should be made fully and completely aware of the consequences of its use, even accidentally.
We have adequate instances of such warnings in the Mahabharata, whenever a divine astra is gifted to someone. ‘Do not use this missile unless the situation demands it,’ says Acharya Drona to Arjuna, when imparting him the knowledge of the use of Brahmastra. A short narration of how to use and when to use as also what would follow by its use precedes the gifting of every missile, including the Paasupataastra, received from Lord Maheswara. We see that adequate care is taken to inform the recipient on how to use it and also when to use it.
Sage Dhurvasa, who was pleased with this young girl Kunti and who foresaw the peculiar situation in which she would be placed in later years, which would come in the way of her begetting children, taught her a mantra to invoke any deity for being blessed with a child. The girl, Kunti, was too young at that time. May be the sage thought that she would not be able to understand or may be he was under the impression that she already knows what would happen by a premature use of the mantra, he did not instruct her not to use it without a valid reason. He taught her how to use it, but did not tell her when to use it.
After the sage left, Kunti was thinking about the peculiar power that has been given to her. She was unable to believe that such a thing could happen. She was so curious in her innocence to verify if such a thing would happen at all. In a sudden and irresistible impulse to test the mantra, she invoked Sun with the mantra. She could not believe it when he appeared before her in all effulgence, bound by divine words uttered by her. Kunti was scared. Realisation ‘dawned’ on her with the appearance of the ‘Sun’.
She pleaded with him to go back. ‘I am unmarried and cannot be found going about with a child. Please understand my plight and please go back,’ she wept bitter tears. But then it was too late. ‘The command that you invoked on me by the mantra is extremely potential and is irreversible. I cannot but obey the command. I cannot go back without what I am told by the command enshrined in the mantra,’ said the Sun.
Now, it was beyond the power of Kunti to take back her own words and beyond the power of Sun to return without fulfilling the purpose for which the mantra was uttered. Kunti was bound by her own spell. ‘Do not be afraid,’ the Sun pacified her. ‘You will be blessed with a son who would be a warrior of extraordinary calibre. And I promise that your maidenhood would be restored after you deliver the child.’
There was no choice left either for Kunti or for the Sun. She delivered a healthy and beautiful baby. The baby was born with a protective armour and earrings. Her maidenhood was restored. But what to do with this baby? How can it be brought up? Who will take care of this child? Kunti was afraid of social customs. She put the baby in a chest, filled the sides with diamonds - intended as a gift to the person who happened to find the box with the baby and to support him in his endeavour to bring up the child properly - and left the chest floating in a river, carried away by its strong currents.
And there floats away in that box an immaculate warrior, a complex person, a noble soul and a wicked character - a Jekyll and Hyde personality - the eldest Kaunteya, (child of Kunti) about twelve years elder to Dharmaputra, abandoned by the parent at birth, pushed around by the society during growth and deserted by his own charioteer, dulled by the curse of his master, by which the art that he mastered failed him at the time of death.
Of precautions and strange problems
Sometimes it so happens that despite all the precautions, the problem persists not because the solution was not right but because…
‘Are you the solution, or the problem?’ we ask people at times. What we do not realise is that when we raise that question, there is a likelihood that we might be part of the problem we are supposed to solve. We take abundant precaution to ward off undesirable and untoward situations. It is necessary that we do so. But the strange course of Time, the great decider, keeps throwing one challenge after the other at us. Sometimes it so happens that despite all the precautions, the problem persists not because the solution was not right but because the person who wanted to avoid a problem, became part of the same problem! Here is one such situation.
Kunti soon grew up into a young lady and King Kunti Bhoja conducted her Swayamvara, where she garlanded Pandu as her husband. Within a short time, Bhishma desired that Pandu should have a second queen too, in order to preserve the lineage of Kuru. Begetting children has been considered as one of the sacred responsibilities of a person. Parimelazhagar, the celebrated commentator of Thirukkural, mentions in his prologue to chapter 7 of Thirukkural, ‘On Obtaining Children’, that a person owes three basic duties. The duty that he owes to the sages is discharged by kELvi, or education, the duty that he owes to Gods is discharged by vELvi, or sacrifices, the duty that he owes to the ancestors is discharged by begetting Children.
This was the idea behind polygamy practised in those days. If one wife does not bear children, due to physical conditions or even premature death, the other wife might deliver. Bhishma therefore looked for a second queen for Pandu and found the bride in Madri, younger sister of Salya, the King of Madra. This is the same Salya, who by chance of events joined the Kauravas in the Great War, charioted Karna on the seventeenth day, appointed as the commander-in-chief and was killed by Dharmaputra on the eighteenth day of the War. Mahabharata mentions that Bhishma paid a rich dowry to Salya in order that he gave her sister in marriage to Pandu.
Pandu was the only choice for a king for Hastinapur, since Dhrthrastra was born blind. Bhishma had crowned him before Pandu was chosen by Kunti as her husband. Within a month of his marriage with Madri, Pandu decided to discharge his duty that he owed to the kingdom, by expanding it. He undertook Dhik Vijaya and annexed large territories including Videha, Kashi, Sumbha and Pundra and came back victorious. He dedicated the rich treasures of his exploits to Satyavati, after obtaining the consent of Dhrtharashtra.
A considerable time had passed by this time and both the queens remained childless. Pandu then decided to move to the jungle, stay there for sometime with his wives, relax and come back to the kingdom. They went to the jungle with all royal retinue and stayed there happily spending their days.
Pandu loved hunting and during this stay in the jungle, he looked for game and came across a pair of deer, copulating. The Book prevents any creature from being killed during this particular time of procreation. But the order of events had their way and Pandu bent his bow on the stag, by sudden impulse. He should have had the empathy to desist from doing so, considering the situation. He did not. It is not that Pandu was given to cruelty. He did so out of sudden impulse, so happy having spotted game after a considerable time spent in search.
It so turned out that the pair of deer was a Rishi by name Kindhama and his wife, who had assumed this form. The Rishi was greatly agonised in that Pandu did not take the situation into consideration and intervened at the time of exchange of love. Even if he did not know that it was a sage and his wife, he should have respected the love that prevailed during that time, though animal they be.
‘Since you did not have the heart to at least wait for some more time, considering our condition, granting that you did not know that it was me the sage Kindhama, I curse you now. You will die the moment you indulge in the act of procreation.’
Bhishma thought that Pandu should preserve the lineage and got him to Madri, in addition to Kunti. Now, the strange incidents put the clock back again to the very same condition in which Ambika and Ambalika were, with a minor difference. Though Pandu was alive – unlike Vichitravirya – and there were two queens, the Kuru Vamsa was faced with the same old challenge.
Buffeted by circumstances
Emergencies and peculiar circumstances do batter us in life. Left with no choice, we sometimes resort to sanctions and concessions. But one should know that such concessions should be availed only for a reasonable number of times and one should know when to stop, too. This is what this incident, involving Kunti, tells us.
The curse of sage Kindhama that prevented him from the act of procreation greatly anguished Pandu. He decided to give up his kingship and live in the jungle forever, until his death. He came back to the palace, gave away large sums, gold and diamonds from his treasury to scholars, to the poor and to the needy. And then he returned to the jungle, accompanied by Kunti and Madri and led the life of a hermit for a long time.
The thought that the Kuru lineage would stop with him was nagging him every now and then, especially so in view of the fact that the marriage of his elder brother Dhrthrastra with Gandhari had not yet borne fruit at that time. ‘Every many owes a duty to the sages, God and his ancestors,’ he would tell Kunti and Madri almost everyday. (See: Of precautions and strange problems for the three duties that a person owes.) I have discharged my duty to the sages and to God. I have also discharged the duty that I owe to my country and peers. The only duty that I am unable to discharge is the one that I owe to my ancestors. That duty can be discharged only by begetting children,’ he would bemoan every time.
Years rolled by. Pandu spent his time in penance and performed austerities along with Kunti and Madri, and was greatly respected by the sages in the forest. It occurred to him one day that the solution to his problem has a precedence. The scriptures accept the appointment of a gnyaathi in such circumstances. Obtaining children through another person. That should not sound strange for us who live in an age of test tube babies, artificial insemination and surrogate mothers. In fact, Pandu was born that way.
He opened the subject with Kunti, to convince her about the situation and to accept his solution. She was hesitating to open the subject all this time. She had the solution with her in the form of the mantra taught to her by Dhurvasa. But she had her own reservations about using the mantra. When Pandu learnt that the panacea was close at hand, he was so happy and he convinced her that it was a peculiar circumstance that demands the use of the mantra and therefore it was absolutely right for them to use it. He suggested that she invoked Dharma so that they get a boy, who is the every embodiment of rectitude. And thus was Dharmaputra – Yudhisthira – born.
After a year of the birth of Dharma, who would be known for his wisdom and penchant for Dharma, Pandu wanted another child who would establish their kingdom by his strength. Kunti invoked Vayu and Bhima was born to them. The next year, Pandu asked her to invoke Indra and Arjuna was born. Pandu wanted more children asked Kunti for a fourth child. Kunti firmly refused. ‘There should be a limit to any desire,’ she said. We were childless and we now have three unparalleled children. That should suffice. You know my lord that this is not a normal situation. We are resorting to a solution that is prescribed for emergencies and peculiar circumstances. I will not subject myself to any such request, even if it is from you, any further,’ she answered.
It was at that time that Madri opened her heart to have children of her own. She expressed that desire to Pandu. Pandu asked Kunti to teach the mantra to Madri. The handsome twins, Nakula and Sahadeva were born to her by invoking the twins, Aswini Devas.