Birth of the Pandavas and the Kauravas
The 9th episode of Mahabharata we see that Pandu accidentally kills a sage named Kindama while hunting. As a penance, Pandu renounced the kingdom and became an ascetic. While he was living as an ascetic five sons were born to his wives Kunti and Madri. Meanwhile hundred sons were born to Dhritarashtra and Gandhari.
References in Mahabharata Wiki
Research and Analysis
Reader is invited to read two articles by Indraajeet Bandyopadhyay's on the same subject Part1, Part2
Niyogas that lead to the birth of the Pandavas
Vidura the first choice for Niyoga
I won't elaborate on this topic much since this was discussed at length by Indrajeet and also since I agree with most of his findings. In the article on episode6 we discussed the concept of Niyoga. Pandu himself was born through the practice of Niyoga. It is natural that when he could not beget children he would opt for the same practice to obtain children. We also saw in the article on episode8 a subtle connection between Yudhisthira and Vidura, and between Vidura and Kunti. It is possible that Vidura's marriage with the daughter of Devaka which I had discussed in the article on episode8 occurred soon after Pandu's marriage with Kunti. That will be the third year since Pandu ascended the throne. By the time Pandu left to forest to cure his impotency (first half of the fifth year), Vidura would have become a successful father after two and a half years of married life. By the time Pandu was contemplating about the route of Niyoga for obtaining children, Vidura's married life would be three years old and he would have become a father of two children. Mbh.1.114:-Vidura begot upon her (daughter of king Devaka) many children like unto himself in accomplishments. Pandu might have seriously thought about his brother Vidura for accomplishing Niyoga.
Conversation between Pandu and Kunti
As per Mahabharata this is what Pandu tells to his wife Kunti (Mbh.1.120):-
In times of distress, men solicit offspring from accomplished younger brothers. The self-born Manu hath said that men failing to have legitimate offspring of their own may have offspring begotten upon their wives by others, for sons confer the highest religious merit. Therefore, O Kunti, being destitute myself of the power of procreation, I command thee to raise good offspring through some person who is either equal or superior to me. O Kunti, listen to the history of the daughter of Saradandayana who was appointed by her lord to raise offspring. That warrior-dame, when her monthly season arrived, bathed duly and in the night went out and waited on a spot where four roads met. She did not wait long when a Brahmana crowned with ascetic success came there. The daughter of Saradandayana solicited him for offspring. After pouring libations of clarified butter on the fire in the performance of the sacrifice known by the name of Punsavana she brought forth three sons that were mighty car-warriors and of whom Durjaya was the eldest, begotten upon her by that Brahmana. O thou of good fortune, do thou follow that warrior-dame's example at my command, and speedily raise offspring out of the seed of some Brahmana of high ascetic merit
This is what Kunti told to Pandu in response to Pandu's command to beget children through Niyoga (Mbh.1.121) :-
O virtuous one, it behoveth thee not to say so unto me. I am, O thou lotus-eyed one, thy wedded wife, devoted to thee. O, Bharata of mighty arms, thyself shalt, in righteousness, beget upon me children endued with great energy. Then I shall ascend to heaven with thee; O prince of Kuru's race, receive me in thy embrace for begetting children. I shall not certainly, even in imagination, accept any other man except thee in my embraces. What other man is there in this world superior to thee?
From this answer it became clear to Pandu that Kunti won't embrace any stranger Brahmana or Kshatriya as part of Niyoga and beget children for him. After all, she indeed had bitter experiences with Brahmana Durvasa and some stranger Kshatriya in the past. In the article on episode8 we have seen how Bhishma chose Kunti for Vidura and how instead of this Pandu married Kunti with or without knowing this plan of Bhishma. We have also seen due to this disruption of the plan, Bhishma had to choose the daughter of Devaka as wife for Vidura. Perhaps Pandu and Kunti later became aware of this. Pandu might have thought if he chose Vidura for Niyoga, Kunti would feel comfortable.
Birth of Yudhishthira
Thus we can conclude that Pandu solicited Vidura to beget a child upon Kunti and she consented. At Mbh.1.122 we indeed see what Pandu then told to Kunti:- Fortunate one, summon thou the god of justice. Here the god of justice is an indirect reference to Vidura. Mahabharat already equated Vidura to the god of justice through chapters Mbh.1.106, Mbh.1.107 and Mbh.1.108.
The statements at Mbh.1.123 make it very clear that the man came in a chariot and whoever came was vary familiar to Kunti:-The god, arrived at the spot where Kunti was seated in his car (chariot). Smiling, he asked, O Kunti, what am I to give thee'. And Kunti too smiling in her turn, replied, Thou must even give me offspring' Then the handsome Kunti was united in intercourse with the god of justice and obtained from him a son. Thus it was none other than Vidura who probably came in a chariot from Hastinapura after getting the summon from Kunti. The brief conversation between them is indicative of their familiarity with each other.
Thus Yudhishthira was born.
Birth of Bhima
Answering the question, "who was the father of Yudhisthira" was easy since the hints given in Mahabharata were plenty, and it is like answering the question "If Rama is Sita's Husband, Who is Rama's Wife". But who fathered Bhima? From the birth of Yudhisthira one hint we have is that, for Kunti to accept the practice of Niyoga, the man should be familiar to Kunti and should not be some stranger. It was somebody who lived along with Pandu's family in the forest. We learn that in the forest Pandu lived with many sages. Some of them would be familiar to Pandu and Kunti. One among these sages was the sage Kindama. Researcher Indraajeet considers that it was sage Kindama who fathered Bhima upon Kunti, through the practice of Niyoga. Ganguli's version of Mahabharata do not however mention any extensive interaction of Kindama and his family with Pandu and his family, unlike what we see in the televised BR Chopra's Mahabharata serial.
In Ganguli's version Kindama is mentioned only once when Pandu accidentally killed him. However such extensive friendships between these two families is indeed possible. One clue left in Mahabharata, that Researcher Indrajeet noticed is the statement at Mbh.1.123:- the mighty god of wind, came unto her, riding upon a deer. The mention of deer is indeed a hint that the person was Kindama, who was slain by Pandu while engaged in an intercourse with a female deer. Researcher Indrajeet deserves appreciation in finding this subtle link.
Killing of sage Kindama
Mahabharata mentions that while hunting Pandu accidentally kills sage Kindama, and as a result of this he curses Pandu. Pandu killed Kindama in the middle of a sexual intercourse with his mate (strangely a female deer!). Hence, Kindama cursed that, Pandu shall die while engaged in a sexual intercourse, exactly like how he is dying. Mahbharata narration goes further to make us believe that it was this curse that made Pandu to abstain from sex with his wives and thus chose not to beget own children in them. This I guess, is a myth created to cover up Pandu's partial impotency.
It is possible that there were some distortions in the events mentioned in Mahabharata. As per Mahabharata, the killing of Kindama occurred before Pandu and Kunti discussed about Niyoga. But observing again the Pandu-Kunti conversation that we saw, there is no indication in Kunti's conversation with Pandu (receive me in thy embrace for begetting children) that Pandu is already cursed by sage Kindama.
This could be the probable sequence. Pandu asks his family friend sage Kindama who also was familiar to Kunti for Niyoga. Thus Kunti became pregnant and bore Bhima in her womb. During this time, while hunting deers, he saw the act of sage Kindama, engaged in a sexual intercourse with a large deer! Pandu could not bear this sight and killed Kindama with his arrows. He was probably filled with rage, realizing that he trusted such a man to impregnate his wife for Niyoga. Probably then Pandu decided not to opt for Niyoga anymore and intensified his treatment of impotency for full one year. Probably during this time Pandu meditated upon Indra who was the main god worshiped during those periods, especially by kings in the line of Kurus who had Indra-worshiping Bharadwajas and Gautamas as their priests. After one year of rigorous treatment Pandu decided to unite with Kunti to test if his impotency is cured. His rigorous treatment probably started when Kunti's second pregnancy was six months old, and after Kindama was slain. It ended after Kunti delivered Bhima and Bhima became more than six months old. Then Kunti became capable of begetting another child.
Birth of Arjuna
Fortunately the union between Pandu and Kunti became fruitful and thus was born Arjuna. Arjuna means the white one. Probably he was whitish in color like Pandu. We have seen in episode9 that Pandu was whitish or pale in color, due to lack of sufficient red-blood cells in blood or due to some other reasons and thus named Pandu. Arjuna was also an epithet of Indra. Since Pandu was a devotee of Indra, he gave this name to Arjuna. Probably he might have thought the treatment for impotency yielded result due to the blessings of Indra. Besides this, Arjuna was born in the month of Phalguni, which is associated with Indra. All these would have lead to the myth that Arjuna was the son of Indra.
Birth of Nakula and Sahadeva
If Pandu was capable of begetting children and if he decided not to opt for Niyoga anymore, how was Nakula and Sahadeva born to Madri? Were they too Pandu's own sons? It is possible that Madri approached Pandu for begetting a child from him, when she knew that Pandu's union with Kunti became fruitful. However then Arjuna was not born. Hence neither Pandu nor Kunti can say with certainty that everything is normal. It was only an experiment which has not yet produced any result positive or negative. They knew that pregnancies not always lead to healthy babies, like what happened to Gandhari in her second pregnancy when she gave birth to a ball of flesh. Hence Pandu might have advised Madri to opt for Niyoga and beget children. Pandu could as well have chosen to unite with Madri, but there is no guarantee of producing a healthy offspring and it would delay the need to have more children in the shortest period possible. Thus it was an alternate plan to increase the number of children in the shortest period of time accommodating for possible failure of pregnancies.
Who was then who fathered Nakula and Sahadeva? Here again I depend on the analysis of researcher Indrajeet. He finds that among all those who protected the Pandavas like a father protecting their sons, Vidura was the foremost. But another such person was sage Dhaumya. Dhaumya was with the Pandavas during their journey to Panchala. He was there with them while they were in the forest for twelve years. Strangely enough Mahabharata narration discusses about the Niyoga of Vasistha who begot children upon Madayanti, the wife of Ikshwaku king Kalmashapada, just before talking about Dhaumya as a priest for the Pandavas! This history is also mentioned during the Pandu-Kunti conversations on Niyoga just before talking about the birth of the five Pandavas!
Clues indicating that Arjuna was the true son of Pandu
As an indirect clue to the birth of Arjuna as the true son of Pandu we also see that as per Mahabharata, there were great celebrations on the occasion of Arjuna's birth, which was not there during the birth of any other Pandava. We also see that it was Arjuna's son Abhimanyu who was considered to be the next king after Yudhishthira, though Yudhisthira's son Prativindhya was elder than Abhimanyu. Perhaps the knowledge that Arjuna was the true son of Pandu was a secret kept by all the Pandavas and their mother Kunti. But Pandavas projected Yudhisthira as the king because he was the only one among them who was elder to Duryodhana. If Arjuna was projected as the king, Pandavas would have lost their right to the throne of Hastinapura to Duryodhana. The secret of Pandavas birth through Niyoga would have spilled over to Duryodhana, at some point of time. It was probably due to this (among many other reasons) that he did not share the throne of Hastinapura with the Pandavas, but banished them initially to Varanavata and then to Indraprastha. But the secret of Arjuna's birth from Pandu himself, still might have remained a secret for the Kauravas. But by the time Kurukshetra war was about to begin, this secret too probably got revealed to the Kauravas. That is why while conversing with Kunti, her eldest son Karna and the closest friend of Duryodhana told her he won't slay Yudhisthira, Bhima, Nakula or Sahadeva but slay only Arjuna. Because Karna knew that he and other Pandavas except Arjuna were born to Kunti (and Madri) by other men, while Arjuna was the real son of Kunti's wedded husband viz. the Kuru king Pandu. In future, if Karna were to become the king of Indraprastha only Arjuna can pose a threat to Karna, being the real son of Pandu. Yudhisthira, being similar in status to Karna and also being younger to him would happily give kingdom to Karna. Bhima or Nakula or Sahadeva too won't dispute Karna if he ever claimed the right to the throne.
It seems that during many redactions of Mahabharata, as it evolved, some redactors completely edited out the Niyoga incidents that resulted in the birth of the Pandavas. Later Indian society considered it taboo to discuss the concept of Niyoga. Hence they erased the narrations in Mahabharata, that mentioned Niyoga associated with the main heroes, viz. the Pandavas in Mahabharata. However Niyoga associated with others like that resulted in the birth of Dhirtarashtra, Pandu and Vidura were not erased since they were not the main heroes.
Bestiality of Kindama
Due to the size of subjects covered, the remaining part of this article is continued to next page:- episode9-Part3