Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Birth of the Pandavas


When he came of age, Pandu was crowned the king of the Kurus, and he ruled from his capital city of Hastinapura. There was a chieftain of a clan called Yadavas, whose name was Soora. He had a cousin named Kunti Bhoja, who had been issue less. Soora then gave his eldest daughter, who had been named Prita, to his cousin. From that day, that girl came to be known as Kunti. She was the woman that Bhishma chose to be the bride of Pandu. Later Pandu also married Madri, the sister of Salya, the king of the Madra.

Dhritharashtra was married to Gandhari, the princess of the Gandhara kingdom. When she learned that her husband was blind, she tied her eyes with a dark cloth, and never took it off. As a result, she also became blind. Along with her, ten of her younger sisters were also married to Dhritharashtra. (This was a common practice in those times.)

A few years later, Pandu went hunting in the forest, accompanied by his wives and his court. He shot dead a stag, while it was in the act of mating with its wife. Unfortunately, the stag turned out to be a sage, who had taken this form along with his wife, in order to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh without human inhibitions. The sage, before dying, cursed the king, saying, "Since you have killed a creature in the tenderest of all moments, may you also die the instant you approach a woman with amorous intent!".

Pandu was grieved beyond words. Besides, he was at this time issue less. He apprised Bhishma of the curse and stated his intention to spend the rest of his life in the forest, leading the life of a hermit. Bhishma saw the force of his arguments and did not hinder him. His wives and some of his trusted courtiers also accompanied him to the forest. Dhritharashtra was crowned the new king of Hastinapura.

During his wanderings in the forest, Pandu met some sages. While discussing the concept of heaven and salvation with them, he was appalled to learn that a man without children could never aspire for heaven. He then sought their blessings, and they blessed him, saying, "You will have many worthy and illustrious sons."

After this incident, Pandu began to think of ways by which he might obtain children. He spoke to Kunti about it, and suggested her that she beget children by suitable, illustrious men. At this point Kunti narrated an incident that occurred when she was a girl.

She said, "O King, When I was a little girl in my father Kunti Bhoja's palace, the great sage Durvasa visited us. Everyone knew of the Rishi's fiery temper and wanted to keep him in the best of humors. It fell to my lot to attend to him, and to make all arrangements for his stay. So well did I discharge this duty, that when his stay ended, he granted me a boon. He gave me a Mantra (incantation), which would summon any deity that I wished. He said that I would be with child from that deity. The son born would inherit the properties of his divine father. As I was very young, I did not understand the full implications of this boon. Once the sage had gone, I wished to test the efficacy of this Mantra, and meditating upon Surya (the sun), I uttered this incantation. The next moment the Lord of the skies appeared in person before me, impelled by the power of the Mantra. I was frightened, and pleaded him to go away. This, however, he could not do, for the Mantra bound him as well as me. He did grant me a boon that I would regain my virginity after our encounter. A son, shining like the sun, clad in divine armor and possessing earrings that glittered with dazzling aspect, was born to me. Since divine births are not subject to the nine month gestation of mortals, the child was born to me without any delay. Fearful of the ridicule of society, steeling my heart, I put him in a casket and set him adrift. I have not met him again. However, since you have yourself suggested that I beget children with suitable men, I feel that it is time to use the Mantra. Tell me, which God would you like to be the father of your child?"

When Pandu heard his wife's tale, he was overjoyed. He thought for a while and said, "Since truth is the best virtue that a man may possess, I wish that you beget a child from Yama, the Lord of Justice. He would be an apt choice to father our first child."

Then Kunti utilized the Mantra, summoned Yama and as before, without having to wait for the nine month gestation, a son was born to her. They named him Yudhishtra. At this time, Dhritharashtra was still childless, and hence Yudhishtra was the eldest prince of the Kuru dynasty.

A year passed. Pandu said to his wife, "Kunti, it is said that a man who has but a single child is no better than a man who has none. The future is uncertain. In case something happens to our only child, we will still be in the same predicament as before. Therefore, use the Mantra one more time and bear another child."

However, this whole process of using the Mantra was not very agreeable to Kunti. She tried to dissuade her husband from pressing this matter. At last, she yielded. This time they chose the mighty wind Vayu, to be the father of their child. The son born thus was named Bheema.

Meanwhile, Gandhari was getting worried that she was still childless. The great sage Vyasa visited her and she beseeched him to grant the boon of a child. She asked him for a hundred mighty sons. The sage granted that boon. She soon became pregnant. However, nearly a year passed and she still hadn't delivered a child. At this moment, news was brought to her that Yudhishtra had been born in the forest. In her impatience, she struck her own abdomen to try and induce labor. It seemed to have worked, for she soon went into labor. Great was her chagrin, when she gave birth to a great lump of flesh! At this point sage Vyasa again appeared. He consoled her and had hundred little pots to be brought. He divided the lump of flesh into a hundred pieces and put one in each pot. At the end there was a small piece of flesh left, this he put in a new jar. A few months from this operation, Duryodhana was born from the first jar. His ninety-nine brothers were born shortly thereafter, along with his only sister Dushala (she was that tiny lump of flesh in the separate jar).

Many ill omens accompanied Duryodhana's birth. There were comets seen in the sky. Dogs started braying and Jackals were seen prowling in the city. Concerned by these omens, Dhritharashtra sent for astrologers skilled in the art of interpreting omens, and asked them the meaning of the omens that were being seen.

They all were unanimous that the omens were uniformly bad. They said, "O King, These omens suggest that your first-born son will be the cause of utter destruction of the Kurus. We would advise you to sacrifice him, if you want to preserve your race. It has been said that, to save a family you may sacrifice a man, to save the clan you may sacrifice a family, to save a village you may sacrifice a clan, and to save a kingdom you may sacrifice a village. In this case, to save the kingdom of Kurus, you should sacrifice your first-born. Your son will bring nothing but misery to all. Save yourself, and the Kurus while there is still time!."

However, blinded by his love for his new born son, the King would not agree to this. Duryodhana was born exactly one day before Bheema's birth in the forest. From an early age, Duryodhana showed a great aptitude for war and demonstrated immense strength.

Once again, Pandu wished for another child. Kunti summoned Indra to be the father. The child born was named Arjuna and it was foretold at his birth that he would be a peerless warrior, just like his divine father. Madri also wished for children of her own, and so Kunti taught her the incantations. Madri invoked the twin Ashwinis, and begot the twins Nakula and Sahadeva through them. The five sons of Pandu were known as the Pandavas.

One fine spring day, the forest was filled with blooming flowers and the sweet songs of birds. Intoxicated by these surroundings, Pandu could no longer control himself. His wife Madri was nearby and she was a woman of great beauty. Forgetting about the sage's curse, he was filled with desire for his wife and approached her, his mind full of lust. The sage's curse came into effect and he was struck dead on the spot.

Madri was inconsolable. She blamed herself for her husband's death. She decided that life held no meaning for her without Pandu and announce her intention of committing suicide by jumping into Pandu's funeral pyre. (This practice is called Suttee). Kunti and the others tried to dissuade her, but could not shake her resolve. After committing her twins Nakula and Sahadeva to Kunti's care, Madri committed suicide in the manner described above.

After the period of mourning was over, Kunti asked the rest of the sages for advice. The eldest among them said, "You must now look after the welfare of your children. They have a strong claim to the throne of Hastinapura. Besides, they need to be educated in a manner befitting princes. You must take them to Hastinapura and commend them to the care of their uncle and that of Bhishma, the grand-sire of the Kurus. We will escort you to the capital, any time you wish to go."

After discussing this with her older children, Kunti felt that this was the best course of action to follow. She went to Hastinapura with her sons, accompanied by her faithful courtiers and the sages from the forest. Their royal relations were very much grieved to learn of Pandu's death, and very cordially welcomed the young princes and their mother. Vidura was especially pleased with the good manners and excellent qualities of the Pandavas.

Some time after the Pandavas came to live in Hastinapura, Vyasa visited his mother Satyavati. He told her that due to the jealousy of Duryodhana, many problems would arise for the Kurus. He advised her to retire from the capital, go to the forests and lead the life of an ascetic, for she would not be able to bear the sad events that were to come in the future. Satyavati discussed this proposal with her daughters-in-law. Finally all three of them decided to follow Vyasa to the forest.

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Last Modified At: Sun Nov 7 16:20:04 2004