The Penance of Kunti Devi

Embracing Suffering on the Path to Attaining the Divine

4 min readMar 28, 2019


Kunti asking for Krishna’s blessings

The Battle of Kurushektra was over, and despite his initial reluctance, Krishna convinced Dharma to take the throne as King of Hastinapur. The crowning ceremony concluded and it was time for Krishna to depart. As he was about to board his chariot, his eyes searched for someone in the crowd. There stood Kuntidevi, the godmother, among the relatives.

Krishna greeted her and said, “I must be going now, Kuntidevi.”

“Of course,” replied Kuntidevi. “But before you leave, may I request a blessing from you?”

“Of course,” replied Krishna generously.

What could the old lady possibly ask for? A prayer bead, ritual materials, or good fortune for her five sons and their families? Or perhaps she sought solace for her deceased son, Karna…

“What is it you desire, Kuntidevi?” asked Krishna. “Whatever it is, it shall be granted.

Kunti asked, ‘Krishna, I want sufferings. I want pain. I want more sufferings and pain!’

Everyone present there were shocked.

Krishna asked Kunti, ‘Isn’t it true that you have already experienced much pain and suffering in your life? You were not raised in your own home, unable to nurture your own son Karna, became a mother unwillingly, lost your husband Pandu to fate, and lived in constant fear for the safety of your five sons. Despite having good children, you were forced to wander in forests, beg, and experience starvation and humiliation in Hastinapur. And to top it all off, you lost your grandchildren in the great battle of Kurukshetra. Isn’t this enough suffering for one lifetime?’

‘Isn’t this enough? You still want more sufferings? People only ask for pain-less life, why are you asking for pain? Why? Why?” he asked.

But Kunti’s smile shone through her sorrows. “In all my suffering, I have always turned to you,” she said. “It is through my struggles that I have come to understand your love and grace. Without suffering, I may never have known you, and so I ask for more. For I believe that suffering is the path to attain you.”

And so, Kunti’s penance became an inspiration to all, a testament to the power of faith and the transformative nature of suffering.

A life of pain and sufferings

It is a common misconception to believe that life can be lived without suffering or struggle. However, the reality is that there is no life without pain. Just like the two sides of a coin, pleasure and pain are integral parts of our lives and cannot exist without each other.

Suffering is a natural and inevitable occurrence that is meant to be faced and accepted as part of life’s journey. It is these challenges that make life interesting and enriching, and provide opportunities for growth and self-discovery.

Think about it: if there were no struggles or difficulties in life, would we ever think about God or our spirituality? It is the everyday struggles and obstacles that remind us of our dependence on a higher power.

By reflecting on the reasons for our suffering, we gain clarity and understanding about life’s greatest mysteries. Embrace the beauty and lessons of life’s struggles, for they hold the key to our growth and spiritual enlightenment.


  1. Kunti is one of the enigmatic characters in the Indian epic, Mahabharata. She is wife of King Pandu of Hastinapur and mother of Karna and the first three Pandava brothers Dharma, Bheema and Arjuna and step mother of Nakula and Sahadeva. She was the paternal aunt of Krishna, Balarama, and Subhadra.
  2. The Mahābhārata is one of the two major epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. It narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Gaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes and their succession. [Source: Wikipedia]

Source credit:

This article is a loose translation of a chapter from the book ‘Gnana Malargal’ (Flowers of Wisdoms) in Tamil, by Shri.Suki Sivam, an author-orator-philosopher.

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