Birth of Pandavas and Pandu’s death
Bhishma’s stepbrother Vichitravirya died at a very early age due to tuberculosis. Due to the untimely death of Vichitravirya, the throne of Hastinapur was left without an heir. Bhishma was unable to ascend the throne as he was bound with a vow and Bahlika (elder brother Santanu) was not interested in becoming the king of Hastinapur. Without any choice left, Satyavati had to invite Rishi Veda Vyasa to impregnate the widow queens (Ambika and Ambalika) of Vichitravirya under the Niyoga practice. When Veda Vyasa appeared in front of Ambika, she was scared by his sagely raw appearance, so she closed her eyes during the union. As a result, Ambika gives birth to Dhritarashtra who was born blind. As Dhritarashtra was born blind, Satyavati considers him as unworthy to ascend the throne of Hastinapur. She asked Vyasa to have niyoga with Ambalika. When Vyasa approached Ambalika, she turned pale at the sight of him. As a result, Pandu was born pale and was not blessed with the best of health.
Under the guidance of Bhishma and Kripacharya, Pandu became an excellent archer and became famous as Maharathi. As Dhritarashtra was blind, Pandu went to become king of Hastinapur. Under his rule, Pandu expanded his kingdom by conquering territories of Sindhu, Kashi, Anga, Trigarta, Kalinga & Magadha. Kuntibhoja father of Kunti arranged swayamvara for her. Many Kings and princes attended swayamvara, Pandu the king of Hastinapur, was one among them. Kunti chooses King Pandu as her husband. Bhishma also suggested Pandu marry Madri to secure the Madra kingdom.
In the same contemporary, Rishi Kindama lived along with his wife in a forest. Kindama was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, due to which he had achieved power where he could transform himself into deer when he was enjoying physical comforts. Once, Kindama and his wife were having intercourse, where Kindama had used his power to turn himself and his wife into deer. King Pandu who came for hunting, mistakenly shot Kindama assuming him to be a deer. Rishi was seriously injured. On hearing the human cry, King Pandu rushed to the spot only to realize what he had done. Rishi was enraged as Pandu not only killed him while having love, but was not remorseful for his action. Before dying, Rishi cursed Pandu that he would die if he approached his wife with the intent of making love.
After Kindama’s curse, Pandu handed the throne of Hastinapur to his blind half brother Dhritarashtra and retired to the forest. He renounced everything, and he lived as an ascetic with his wives. Thus, Dhritarashtra became the king of Hastinapur. Pandu once told of his wish of becoming a father and his despair at the prospect of dying childless to Kunti. Kunti then remembered the boon given to her by Rishi Durvasa. Pandu was delighted to hear this, he then requested Kunti to apply boon to get a son. Pandu wanted a truthful, knowledgeable and just son who can rule Hastinapur, so he suggested to invoke Dharmaraja / Yamaraja (God of death and justice). Kunti used her mantra to call Dharmaraja and God blessed her with a son. On the full moon of the Jyeshth masa (a month of the Hindu calendar) eldest Pandava was born, he was named “Yudhishthira”. Yudhishthira means “one who is steady in the war where yuddha means ‘war’, and sthira means ‘steady'”. Yudhishthira was even older than Duryodhana. Pandu then expressed his desire to have a powerful son, so Kunti called Vayu (the wind god). Vayu granted a son (Bhima) to Kunti and Pandu. Bhima in Sanskrit means “fearful” or “terrific”. Bhima was born on the same day as Duryodhana. Arjuna was born when Kunti invokes Lord Indra. Kunti later shared the boon given to her by Rishi Durvasa with Madri. Madri invoked the Ashwini Kumaras (divine physicians) to beget Nakula and Sahadeva. The name Nakula means (handsome) and Sahadeva means (with Gods). Nakula was the most handsome person in the Kuru lineage.
After many years of celibacy and meditation, Pandu had acquired cognition, which turned him into a wise man. Pandu had a premonition of his death. He called all his sons and asked them to eat his flesh after his death. By doing so, Pandavas will inherit the knowledge of their father. Once giving in to lust, Pandu forgot the curse of Rishi Kindama and engaged in intercourse with Madri (his second wife). Because of the curse, Pandu died immediately. Madri handed her children to Kunti. She held herself responsible for the Pandu’s death and committed Sati (woman sacrifices her life by sitting on top of her deceased husband’s funeral pyre). Kunti and the five Pandavas were depressed. Pandavas could not follow their father’s instructions of eating their father’s flesh. But youngest Pandava, Sahadeva noticed ants carry a tiny piece of Pandu’s flesh, he took that piece and placed it in his mouth. In an instant, he became enlightened about everything that had happened in the past, what would happen in the present and future. Krishna who was in Mathura at that time came to know that Sahadeva had been enlightened, by the blessing of his father Pandu. Krishna took the form of an old brahmin and appeared in front of Sahadeva but, Sahadeva who was now, a very knowledgeable person immediately recognized Krishna. Krishna told Sahadeva not to reveal what he knew to anyone. To which Sahadeva asked, “what if someone asks me?” To which Krishna responded “you can tell if someone asks, but not anything more than they ask and never tell anyone that you know everything” Krishna then continued “If you reveal to anybody, your head would split into pieces and you will die”. In return, Krishna agreed to protect Pandavas. Yudhishthira refers Sahadeva as intelligent as Brihaspati (the divine teacher of gods). He was very good at astrology as he knew all events beforehand.
Kunti was left all alone with her five sons. After the death of Pandu and Madri, Kunti returns to Hastinapur along with her children. Kunti adopted children of Madri and took care of them.