We can say that Kunti’s motherhood is like a moon — lustrous and glorious because as a mother of Pandava. However, it also has a dark spot due to her motherhood to Karna — her premarital child.
Unknown of serious effects, Kunti uses Mantra given by Durvasa, simply out of her childhood curiosity. One morning gazing at the sun, she calls forth God of Sun with use of Mantra. God of Sun appears before her and begets a son. A son is born with the golden armor covering his chest and the golden earrings. Afraid of her social status and security, Kunti deserts her son. We if have to understand the reason of this awful decision of Kunti, we have to go back to her past.
Kunti is not the one who is grown up in a caring and protective environment. This develops a sense of insecurity in Kunti since childhood. This sense of insecurity and a burden of responsibilities impact the decisions that she takes in rest of her life. It is said that if a child lives with fear, it learns to be apprehensive. Kunti grows up as an apprehensive character that fears a lot of a social disapproval.
Kunti’s real father — Shoorsena gives her away to his childless friend. This act of giving away a girl resembles an act of trading a material. Kunti’s adoptive father appoints her for a duty of serving Brahmins visiting to his court. It is customary in that époque to invite Brahmins, to serve them, to please them and to get a boon for a son. Kuntibhoja also appoints Kunti on this duty to serve a Brahmin. A Brahmin who visits Kuntibhoj’s court named as Durvasa is well known for his austerities and temper.
Kunti has no option but to abandon a son born before marriage. She has no support from her adoptive parents whose act of appointing her to serve a Brahmin at tender age shows how little he cares about the adopted daughter. The doors of her real father are closed for her; as she never gets a support from them even in the later part of her life. By revealing that she has given birth to a premarital child, she does not want to bring disgrace to her parents. She has no clue whether she would be accepted by the society and would anybody accept her as a wife with a premarital child. The social status of unmarried mothers and their children is precarious even today, after passing thousands of years to Mahabharata story.
Kunti identifies Karna for the first time in the arena of competition arranged for Pandava and Kaurava. In that arena of competition, everybody considers an act of Karna to challenge Arjun amidst the competition of princes as an act of arrogance. Karna is denied a fair participation in that competition because he is considered as that of lower class being brought up by a charioteer. Even he is not aware of fact that he is a son of Kunti.
At this point of time of her life, Kunti is not in position to explicitly admit motherhood of Karna. She is a widow who lives on a support of her in-laws whose treatment to her is not so fair. She is in a phase of life where she struggles for security and status of her own along with her sons, to whom she gives birth with due consent of her husband. Despite that, she has to face the questions about their right to Kuru dynasty. Amidst this situation, she must be afraid of revealing identity of her first born, where the consent of her husband for conception is out of question. By that time Kunti’s association with Gods is whispered in corridors and not announced in a court. If she would have accepted motherhood of Karna publicly in the arena, it would have been like opening a court for the discussions.
Kunti must be facing a great emotional turmoil at that movement and again having no option, she must have chosen to remain silent. Kunti has always acted upon thoughtfully rather than impulsively. She
would have thought that publicly acknowledging her pre-marital child would bring another coup of thunder in her life. It might affect upbringing of Pandava. Therefore, she might have thought that sacrifice of future of one son is better than scarifying of future of five sons. From this incidence Kunti emerges as a strong person. They say that a woman is too emotional. However, Kunti’s actions show that she can handle her emotions for greater good, till the end of the story of Mahabharata.
It is an awkward situation for a mother that her son has to face challenges due to his social status even though he possesses merits; and she, the one who has brought that son in this world cannot stand out for him. This throws light on social status of a woman. This question of social status plants the seeds of internecine war of Mahabharata; because Duryodhana takes undue benefit of lower social status of Karna. Duryodhana offers Karna a kingdom and power with a motive that Karna can emerge as strong enemy of Pandava with his merits. While providing support to Karna, Duryodhana expects royalty and total submission from him. This coup of events changes directions of life of Kunti as well as Karna. Once again, paths of life of a mother and a son get separated. Kunti’s silence during this event is always questioned; however this event also put into question the social barriers on a woman, which can have devastating effects.
Kunti silently suffers anguish in her heart for long period of time of not being able to recognize her first born. However, at the outbreak of Kurukshetra war Kunti reveals to Karna a truth about his birth which has been kept as a secret for long period of time. Kunti knows that Karna — her first born is the greatest enemy and threat to Pandava. Being mother of Karna, she also knows that he is great in person and invincible warrior. As a mother, it is obvious to think that all her virtuous sons should join hands together to rule the entire world. However, she being a good judge of a situation knows that although Karna possesses many great virtues, he lacks thoughtful leadership due to his blind faith towards Duryodhana. Karna follows Duryodhana without judgment of right or wrong. Even if Pandava accept leadership of Karna, he will not leave a side of Duryodhana — an evil person who has done wrong to her sons and her beloved daughter-in-law. Kunti has followed the rules of Dharma even amidst the most critical situations of her life. At this outbreak of war, she knows that defeat of Kaurava side is essential to uphold the rules of Dharma. Therefore she does not hesitate to sacrifice her son in the fire altar of war in the interest of Dharma. Here, Kunti makes us to praise her for her prudent judgment of Dharma — she is the one who always choose a substance of Dharma over its form. This judgement of Dharma and its careful application makes Kunti an extraordinary character. From this incidence again Kunti emerges as a strong person who handles her emotions and treads a path of success with thoughtful actions.
Kunti reveals her secret of being mother of Karna only after conclusion of Kurukshetra war. Pandava, particularly Yudhishthira and Arjuna, blame her for hiding this truth for long time and hold her responsible for Karna’s death. This shows a typical male tendency to hold a woman as responsible and blame her in every situation. Yudhishthira, the one who has been respectful throughout his life, curses his mother for remaining silent. However, a curse of Yudhishthira that a woman will not be able to hold secret does not seem to have taken its course in the world of women. Woman’s heart is like a deep ocean of secrets. Only some of that are expressed in the form of waves. The day when this ocean of secrets flows freely without restricting to the shore, the terrain of a men’s world will be flooded.