Daughter of the great Yadava king Sura, Kunti or Pritha—is Krishna’s paternal aunt. She was adopted by Kuntibhoja, a cousin of Sura who was childless. That she was devoted to the service of the gods and guests while still a young girl is evidenced by the fact that even the irascible Durvasa was pleased with her service and taught her a mantra that would enable her to have sons from any god that she wished to invoke.
Unfortunately, Kunti did not fully realize the implications of this boon, and overcome by curiosity she decided to invoke Surya, the Sun, with it. The mantra was, of course, potent and Surya appeared in person before her. The powerful mantra also ensured that she conceived by Surya. Unlike Parashara—who brought up his son Vyasa, born of Satyavati out of wedlock—Surya did not help Kunti care for the newborn son, Karna. For fear of public disgrace, Kunti set the child afloat in a basket on a river, praying with tears in her eyes as she did so:
Svasti te’stvāntariksebhyah pārthivebhyaśca putraka;
Divyebhyaścaiva bhūtebhyastathā toyacarāśca ye.
Śivāste santu panthāno mā ca te paripanthinah.
O child! May good befall you at the hands of all that inhabit the land, the waters, the sky, and the celestial regions. May all your paths be auspicious! May no one obstruct your way!
And because the birth of karan took place before her marriage she is known as kumari maa.