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
Bestiality of Kindama
Reader is invited to read two articles by Indraajeet Bandyopadhyay's on the same subject Part1, Part2
The narration on the death of sage Kindama by the hands of Pandu raises several questions. Unlike what is shown in BR Chopra's televised version, Pandu was not apologetic as he killed Kindama. At Mbh.1.118 we see the following narration:-
Did Pandu shoot upon an unseen target?
Pandu While roaming about in the woods on the southern slopes of the Himavat that teemed with deer and wild animals of fierce disposition, saw a large deer, that seemed to be the leader of a herd, serving his mate. Beholding the animals, the monarch pierced them both with five of his sharp and swift arrows winged with golden feathers. That was no deer that Pandu struck at, but a Rishi's son of great ascetic merit who was enjoying his mate in the form of a deer. Pierced by Pandu, while engaged in the act of intercourse, he fell down to the ground, uttering cries that were of a man
This narration shows that Pandu saw the target of his arrows. It was not a Sabda-bhedi (sound-seeking) arrow which was shot without seeing the target. He saw the target and shot it. One confusion we have is that why Pandu considered his target to be large deer. Probably the narrator of Mahabharata interchanged the sexes, to make us think that what Pandu saw was a sage disguised as a large male deer. So the actual narration would have been a large deer serving her mate rather than a large deer serving his mate. Or it could be that the sage disguised as a deer (probably he fitted the horns of a male deer on his head and covered his body with deer skin) so that an onlooker from far away will consider him to be a deer. Probably Pandu recognized the sage's disguise and struck him with arrows purposefully.
Strange dialog between Pandu and Kindama
Subsequently a long dialog between the dying sage and Pandu is ensued. In this dialog Pandu was never apologetic of his act:- Kindama:- "even men that are slaves to lust and wrath, and void of reason, and ever sinful, never commit such a cruel act as this". Pandu:- "kings behave in the matter of slaying animals of thy species exactly as they do in the matter of slaying foes. Animals of thy species are slain by open or covert means. This, indeed, is the practice of kings. Then why dost thou reprove me? " Here what can be deduced is Pandu's rage, when he saw the sage, who was trusted by him so much, doing such an act of bestiality. As a king and as a husband he might have thought it appropriate to kill such a sage. The following words of Kindama reveals without doubt the nature of his bestiality:- I was engaged in sexual intercourse with this deer, because my feelings of modesty did not permit me to indulge in such an act in human society.. As per the sage, he was not doing any harm to anybody but only gratifying his sexual desire:- The time of sexual intercourse is agreeable to every creature. I was engaged in the gratification of my sexual desire. I was living in the woods in peace with all. Kindama also consider the act of Pandu cruel:- // This act must be regarded as extremely cruel. It behoveth thee not to do such an act as leadeth to hell. I have given thee no offence.
Did Pandu really kill Kindama?
Kindama was father to Kunti's second son, so Pandu might not have wanted to kill him. An argument put forth by Kindama raises doubt if Pandu's arrows initially killed only the deer, viz. Kindama's mate and spared Kindama. He was only injured by the arrows:- I did not blame thee for thy having killed a deer, or for the injury thou hast done to me. But, instead of acting so cruelly, thou shouldst have waited till the completion of my act of intercourse. The argument indeed is strange and reveals the character of Kindama, apart from his bizarre way of sexual gratification. It means that he had no feelings for the deer which he was using for his sexual gratification. He is disappointed only because his pleasure was interrupted! Pandu might have thought, this sage Kindama was chosen by him for the second Niyoga because he was a familiar person and a man of ascetic merit. But now he was revealed to be a man who had bizarre ways for sexual gratification and had no sentiments for his mate. He might have treated Pandu's wife Kunti too in the same manner. This thought might have enraged Pandu further and he might have shot more arrows upon the sage to silence him.
Thus Pandu killed Kindama, as a king and as a husband delivering justice after judging according to his conscience, the character and circumstances of the offender.
Kindama's curse on Pandu
Before Pandu silenced him with further arrows, Kindama might have had all these long dialog with Pandu and at the end he might have pronounced these words of curse upon Pandu:-
When, approaching thy wife lustfully, thou wilt unite with her even as I had done with mine, in that very state shalt thou have to go to the world of the spirits. And that wife of thine with whom thou mayst be united in intercourse at the time of thy death shall also follow thee with affection and reverence to the domains of the king of the dead. Thou hast brought me grief when I was happy. So shall grief come to thee when thou art in happiness'
I don't think Kindama's curse affected Pandu much. He already had some kind of impotency and some problem while trying to beget children upon his wives. Myth-makers simply interlinked this fact with Kindama's curse. That Kindama cursed Pandu could be a fact. But its realization upon the life of Pandu is a myth created by the myth-makers. It seems that myth-makers had edited Kindama's curse putting words in his mouth. It is true that he might have wished Pandu to suffer the same fate as his own:- a death while engaged in sexual intercourse with the opposite sex. But to tell that Pandu's mate too will follow Pandu to the region of the dead with affection and reverence is words put into Kindama's mouth by the myth-makers. This is a reference to what myth makers subsequently tell about the reaction of Pandu's wife Madri when Pandu was dead while having a sexual intercourse with her. This will be discussed in a subsequent section.
The Death of Pandu
Six months after the birth of Nakula and Sahadeva, when Pandu's second wife Madri became capable of begetting another son she approached Pandu. She might have wanted one more son so that she would get three sons, thus she would be equal to Kunti in number of sons. It was not the only reason. She knew that Arjuna was Pandu's original son born to Kunti. She might have wanted a similar son from Pandu, apart from Nakula and Sahadeva born through Niyoga. Pandu might have agreed to it. During his intercourse with Madri Pandu dies mysteriously. Mbh.1.125:- And the Kuru king Pandu, of virtuous soul, thus succumbed to the inevitable influence of Time, while united in intercourse with his wife.
Theories on the death of Pandu
One explanation for the death of Pandu (disregarding the myth of Kindama's curse) is that, he was having some illness of heart, and he died of stroke during the intercourse. After all Pandu was anemic since birth and thus had a whitish (pale) complexion, probably due to lack of sufficient blood in his body (or red-blood-cells). But we know that Pandu was a great warrior. He could have died of stroke during a tough battle as well. Or else he could have died while climbing the high Himalayan mountains.
Murder by Sakuni's spies?
Hence we need another explanation for Pandu's death. If we focus again on the Kindama's curse there is a clue. Kindama wished Pandu to die like him. He died pierced by arrows. His mate (the deer) too died by arrows. There is a high possibility that Pandu was assassinated! He had enemies at Hastinapura. Though Dhritarashtra would like to see Pandu to be permanently removed from the throne , he won't order to murder Pandu. But his brother-in-law Sakuni can plan such an attempt. He had indeed in a later occasion conspired with Duryodhana and some ministers of Dhritarashtra to murder Pandu's sons viz. the Pandavas at the city of Varanavata. This is one possibility. The spies of Sakuni might have killed Pandu by shooting arrows at him and Madri while they were least prepared to defend. They might have learned about the curse of Kindama upon Pandu from some cousin of Kindama and might have spread the rumor that Pandu died due to the curse of Kindama. It is also possible, this whole myth of curse is their making!
Murder by Kindama's relatives or friends?
Alternatively, it wasn't Sakuni's spies but some cousin or friend of Kindama skilled in archery who shot arrows at Pandu and Madri, to revenge the death of Kindama. This person might have witnessed how Kindama was killed by Pandu and might have wanted to kill Pandu in the same manner. The myth of curse can as well be created by the cousins of Kindama. It is also possible that Kindama's curse was real words uttered by him before his death, except that it was words of threat upon Pandu rather than words of curse upon him, which meant:- "Somebody will kill you the same way I was killed by you".
Did Madri die by observing Sati?
Mbh.1.125:- The daughter of the king of Madras, the wedded wife of Pandu, ascended the funeral pyre of her lord. Is this true? Did Madri entered the funeral pyre of Pandu and killed herself?
Madri did not entered into the funeral pyre of Pandu observing the absurd custom called Sati. Women of Madra kingdom enjoyed great freedom and they never had such a custom, in which a widow entered dead husband's funeral pyre. This was probably added by later editors of Mahabharata, to glorify the custom of Sati. We didn't see Vichitravirya's wives Amvika and Amvalika killing themselves after the death of their husband. Nor did Satyavati died after her husband Santanu's death. There is no chance Kunti will allow Madri to die, while Madri's twin sons (Nakula and Sahadeva) were only six months old babies. Nor will Madri herself think to leave her six month old sons in the hands of Kunti and then commit suicide by jumping into the funeral pyre of her dead husband.
Then Madri, clasping the body of her senseless lord, began to weep aloud. And Kunti with her sons and the twins of Madri, hearing those cries of grief, came to the spot where the king lay in that state. Then, O king, Madri addressing Kunti in a piteous voice, said, Come hither alone, O Kunti, and let the children stay there' Hearing these words, Kunti, bidding the children stay, ran with speed, exclaiming, Woe to me' And beholding both Pandu and Madri lying prostrate on the ground she went in grief and affliction.
During the attack Madri would have fatally wounded by the arrows of the attacker. Pandu might have died instantly. In case of Kindama, the deer died instantly and Kindama was able to talk though wounded. Here however Pandu died instantly, but Madri could speak a few words to Kunti. Children were asked to stay because it was a horrific scene. In the short period before she died, Madri would have asked Kunti to take care of her babies:- Thou wilt certainly bring up the children carefully. That indeed, would be very agreeable to me. I have no other direction to give. Everything else seems to be words put into the mouth of Madri and Kunti by myth-makers.
Madri indeed entered the funeral pyre of Pandu. But she entered it after she died soon after Pandu died, as a dead body.
Niyogas mentioned in the Pandu-Kunti dialog
This section is elaborated in Episode9-Part4