|Canto 3: The Status Quo||Chapter 1: Questions by Vidura|
Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 3.1.40
aho pṛthāpi dhriyate 'rbhakārthe
rājarṣi-varyeṇa vināpi tena
yas tv eka-vīro 'dhiratho vijigye
dhanur dvitīyaḥ kakubhaś catasraḥ
aho — O my lord; pṛthā — Kuntī; api — also; dhriyate — bears her life; arbhaka-arthe — for the sake of fatherless children; rājarṣi — King Pāṇḍu; varyeṇa — the best; vinā api — without him; tena — him; yaḥ — one who; tu — but; eka — alone; vīraḥ — the warrior; adhirathaḥ — commander; vijigye — could conquer; dhanuḥ — the bow; dvitīyaḥ — the second; kakubhaḥ — directions; catasraḥ — four.
O my lord, is Pṛthā still living? She lived only for the sake of her fatherless children; otherwise it was impossible for her to live without King Pāṇḍu, who was the greatest commander and who alone conquered the four directions simply with the help of a second bow.
A faithful wife cannot live without her lord, the husband, and therefore all widows used to voluntarily embrace the burning fire which consumed the dead husband. This system was very common in India because all the wives were chaste and faithful to their husbands. Later on, with the advent of the age of Kali, the wives gradually began to be less adherent to their husbands, and the voluntary embrace of the fire by the widows became a thing of the past. Very recently the system was abolished, since the voluntary system had become a forcible social custom.
When Mahārāja Pāṇḍu died, both his wives, namely Kuntī and Mādrī, were prepared to embrace the fire, but Mādrī requested Kuntī to live for the sake of the younger children, the five Pāṇḍavas. This was agreed upon by Kuntī at the added request of Vyāsadeva. In spite of her great bereavement, Kuntī decided to live, not to enjoy life in the absence of her husband, but only to give protection to the children. This incident is referred to here by Vidura because he knew all the facts about his sister-in-law Kuntīdevī. It is understood that Mahārāja Pāṇḍu was a great warrior and that he alone, with the help of bow and arrow, could conquer the world's four directions. In the absence of such a husband, it was almost impossible for Kuntī to live on even as a widow, but she had to do it for the sake of the five children.
Copyright © The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness