I'm going to start by saying I love the epics: Mahabharata, Ramayan, Dashavatar, etc. At the age of 17, I was still very closed minded and regarded the sacred texts as absolute good, but one thing that bothered me was the mistreatment of the Nishadas in the Mahabharata. Now my opinion of the Mahabharata has completely changed, and I have to credit Indrajit Banerjee's article for aiding the transition http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=1439. I now believe that the Mahabharat is not a sacred text, but rather a text of society, but the truth needs to be teased out of its many folds. So we'll start with the Karna story, because that's where Banerjee began. The truth is that a human and the sun cannot create progeny, and Banerjee's story that it was the rishi "Durvasa" who was most likely not the actual Maharishi Durvasa but rather a nickname for a brahmana that was easily angered. Now Banerjee says the mantra the brahmana gave her was actually body language, but I disagree with it, I believe that it was actually a kind of pheromone perfume akin to axe body spray or cologne that made a woman irresistable. Kunti tried it on, got the brahmana horned up, they had sex, exit the brahmana from the story, enter Karna into the story. Now pertaining to society, and as we've seen that royalty carry recessive disorders in their bloodline from ultraselective mating, such as hemophilia in the European royalty (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haemophilia_in_European_royalty), "Indian royalty" were not immune from this ultraselective breeding leading to recessive disorders. The princesses of Kasi were not able to conceive normal offspring. Amba self immolated herself, so she's out of the reproductive picture. Ambika and Ambalika go on to produce Dhritarashtra (blind) and Pandu (sickly), but Vyas is clever and makes it known that his seed is perfect and the defect is within the princesses (queens) of Kasi, because through the royal maid, he produces Vidura who was ... the embodiment of perfection. With that much of the story, the "thesis" of the Mahabharata has been established as a story of the problems with society. Now coming back to Kunti, we have a dignified queen who made the mistake of losing her innocence as a young teenager that just reached menarche, and losing it to a male who was probably older than her father. Now I'm no expert but I'm willing to bet that event scarred her for life, and she never used that perfume again on a whim. For the sake of science let's say Pandu had a heart condition or a brain aneurysm which made physical exertion and sexual arousal or intercourse fatal (either leading to a myocardial infarction or to rupture of the aneurysm). Now Pandu wanted children, no argument with that, and they went on a retreat to mountain resort to get away from the pressures of city life, and possibly avoiding destruction of the royal house from angry subjects with an unfit king (much like the Russian revolt of 1917 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_II_of_Russia#Final_months_and_execution_.281918.29). Now I'm sure on this retreat, they were not alone, and the sex deprived wives of Pandu saw attractive fit gentlemen who they were more than willing to give themselves to, but the dignified wives of Pandu dared not disgrace the royal family they married into. However Pandu wanted children, so he gave them permission to have intercourse outside of wedlock. Now reputable men, and those that feared the wrath of Bheeshma (who for all intents and purposes was the ruler that should have been, whose sole purpose in life was to protect the family name), would not dare defile the wives of Pandu (or wives of anybody if they were reputable people), so they had to be coaxed [enter in Kunti's irresistable perfume]. Now they had to select traits in their mates that they would like to see in their offspring. A righteous mate's semen could produce Dharmaraja, a mate of great physical strength could produce Bheema, a mate who has achieved more than anyone else of his age could produce Arjuna, and a pair of twins who have in their blood line a genetic predisposition for producing twin offspring could produce Nakula and Sahadeva. And obviously the great wives of Pandu who have been released from the bonds of marriage for a very short amount of time would choose extremely handsome and able bodied mates. Now why did Kunti allow Madri only one chance to use her perfume? This part is great ... Madri had a threesome with a pair of handsome twins. Now mating outside of wedlock was and is a societal taboo, even if the husband permits it, but having a threesome out of wedlock takes it to another level in and of itself. Now were the fathers of the Pandavas gods? Of course they were not, they were men of qualities that were desirable, and written off as gods by Vyas in his rendering of the Jaya, to make adultery acceptable under those circumstances.