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Krishna's great escape Bazaar art,1940's.jpg
Vasudeva carrying the newborn Krishna to Nanda's house in Gokula across the river Yamuna
Venerated inVaishnavism
TextsBhagavata Purana, Harivamsa, Vishnu Purana,"Brahma Purana", Mahabharata
Personal information
Siblings14 siblings including Pritha (sister) and Akrura (brother)
SpouseRohini, Devaki, Madiradi,vaisakhi,bhadra,sunamri and various other wives
ChildrenBalarama, Krishna, Subhadra and various other children
DynastyYadava/Yaduvanshi (chandravanshi)

According to Hindu scriptures, Vasudeva (Devanagari वसुदेव, IAST Vasubai, Vajbai), also called Anakadundubhi, (anakas and dundubhis both refer to drums, after the musicians who played these instruments at the time of his birth),[1][2] is the father of the Hindu deities Krishna (Vāsudeva, i.e. "son of Vasudeva"), Balarama, and, Subhadra. He was king of the Vrishnis and a Jadaun prince.[3] The son of the Yadav king Shurasena, he was also best friend of Nanda, the foster-father of Krishna.[4][5][6] His sister Kunti was married to Pandu.

The patronymic Vāsudeva (with a pronounced ā) is a popular name of Krishna, the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. "Vāsudeva" is a vṛddhi, a derivative of the short form "Vasudeva", a linguistic pragmatic in Sanskrit signifying "of, belonging to, descended from".[7] "Vasudeva" as an object of worship in Hinduism usually refers to the son Vāsudeva (Krishna), rather than his father Vasudeva.


Vasudeva was born to the Yadava king Shurasena in the Surasena kingdom. Vasudeva had many brothers such as Devashrava and Devabhaga, and sisters such as Kunti (mother of the Pandavas), Shrutasravas (mother of Shishupala), and others. According to the Harivamsa Purana, Vasudeva and Nanda, the Kshatriya chief of Gokula, were brothers.[8][9]

Wives and children[edit]

Vasudeva and Devaki traveling in a carriage

Vasudeva married Devaki, and also had other wives such as Pauravi (daughter of Bahlika), Rohini, Bhadra, Madira and Vrikadevi. Rohini bore several sons, namely, Balarama, Sarana and Shatha.[10][11] Vrikadevi gave birth to Avagaha and Nandaka.[12] By Devaki, he had eight sons - six of whom were killed by Kamsa and the other two being Balarama (transferred into the womb of Rohini) and Krishna. He also had a daughter - Subhadra from Rohini.[13] In some versions of the Bhagavata Purana, Vasudeva also married Sutanu, the princess of Kasi, and they had a son named Paundraka.[14]


Vasudeva traced a number of descendants through his sons. Sarana had many sons like Satyadhriti and Marsti, and Shatha had a son called Sarthi. Balarama married Revati and had 2 sons - Nishatha and Ulmuka & a daughter - Vatsala/Shashirekha. Krishna had 8 principal wives, and he begat many children from them, such as Pradyumna, Samba, Bhanu etc., and they also had many children. Vasudeva's daughter Subhadra married Pandava prince Arjuna, and they had a son Abhimanyu. Ultimately, it was Abhimanyu's son Parikshit who ascended the Kuru throne after Yudhishthira.

Many of the Yadavas killed themselves in the Yadava fratricide. Krishna, Balarama and Vasudeva later gave up their lives, and the Pandavas collected the remaining Yadava children and ladies with them to Indraprastha, where Pradyumma's grandson Vajra was crowned as king of Mathura, and some other survivors also were crowned as kings of different places (See Mausala Parva).

Vasudeva carrying baby Krishna across the Yamuna. Circa 1st Century CE, Gatashram Narayan Temple. Mathura Museum

The sons of Vasudeva were related to Bhagavatism that was largely formed by the 1st-millennium BCE where Vāsudeva (Krishna, the son of Vasudeva) was worshiped as supreme ultimate reality. This is evidenced by texts and archaeological evidence. As textual evidence, the Mahanarayana Upanishad records the verse:

नारायाणाय विद्महे वासुदेवाय धीमहि तन्नो विष्णुः प्रचोदयात्

nārāyāṇāya vidmahē vāsudēvāya dhīmahi tannō viṣṇuḥ pracōdayāt

We endeavor to know Narayana, we meditate on Vāsudeva and Vishnu bestows wisdom on us.

— Mahanarayana Upanishad, Chapter 7,[15][16]
Krishna and Balarama meeting their parents (painting by Raja Ravi Varma).

This verse asserts that Narayana, Vāsudeva (Krishna), and Vishnu are synonymous.[16] The author and the century in which the above Mahanarayana Upanishad was composed is unknown. The relative chronology of the text, based on its poetic verse and textual style, has been proposed by Parmeshwaranand to the same period of composition as Katha, Isha, Mundaka and Shvetashvatara Upanishads, but before Maitri, Prashna and Mandukya Upanishad.[17] Feuerstein places the relative composition chronology of Mahanarayana to be about that of Mundaka and Prashna Upanishads.[18] These relative chronology estimates date the text to second half of 1st millennium BCE.[17][19] Srinivasan suggests a later date for the composition of the Mahanarayana Upanishad, one after about 300 BCE and probably in the centuries around the start of the common era.[20]

Other evidence is from archeological inscriptions, where Bhagavan is documented epigraphically to be from around 100 BCE, such as in the inscriptions of the Heliodorus pillar. An Indo-Greek ambassador from Taxila named Heliodorus, of this era, visited the court of a Shunga king, and addresses himself as a Bhagavata on this pillar, an epithet scholars consider as evidence of Vāsudeva worship was well established in 1st millennium BCE.[21] A popular short prayer for worshipping Vāsudeva is Dwadashaakshar.

Kashyapa Incarnated as Vasudeva[edit]

Sage Kashyapa also incarnated as Vasudeva, the father of Lord Krishna due to a curse that Lord Brahma unleashed upon him. Once, the sage performed a Yajña (a Vedic ritual) in his hermitage in order to offer oblations to the Devas for the welfare of the beings in the world. To perform the ritual, Sage Kashyapa required offerings such as milk, ghee etc., for which he sought the help of Lord Varuṇa. When Lord Varuṇa manifested before him, Sage Kashyapa requested him for a boon of limitless offerings to perform the Yajña successfully. Lord Varuṇa offered him a holy cow which would provide him with limitless offerings. He then told the sage that the holy cow would be taken back once the Yajña was over. The Yajña went on for several days, and with the presence of the holy cow, the sage never faced any obstacles.

Realizing the miraculous power of the cow, he was overcome with greed and desired to own the cow forever. He did not return the cow to Lord Varuṇa even after the Yajña was over. Lord Varuṇa appeared in front of Sage Kaśyapa and told him that the cow was given to him as a boon, only for the Yajña, and now that the Yajña was over, it had to be returned as it belonged to the heaven. Sage Kashyapa refused to part with the cow and told Lord Varuṇa that whatever is offered to a Brāhmaṇa should never be sought back, and whoever does that would turn out to be a sinner.

Hence, Lord Varuṇa sought the help of Lord Brahmā who appeared before the sage and told him to get rid of his greed which is capable of destroying all his virtues. Nevertheless, Sage Kashyapa remained firm in his resolve, which enraged Lord Brahmā who cursed him, saying that he would be born on earth again as a cowherd. Sage Kashyapa repented for his mistake and pleaded Lord Brahmā to forgive him. Lord Brahmā also realized that he had cursed him in a haste, and told him that he would still be born as a cowherd or Gopa in the Yadava clan, and Lord Vishnu would be born as his son. This was how Sage Kaśyapa was born as Vasudeva and became the father of Lord Krishna.[22][23][24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Garg, Gaṅgā Rām (1992). Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World. Concept Publishing Company. p. 408. ISBN 978-81-7022-375-7.
  2. ^ Ph.D, Lavanya Vemsani (2016). Krishna in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Hindu Lord of Many Names: An Encyclopedia of the Hindu Lord of Many Names. ABC-CLIO. p. 297. ISBN 978-1-61069-211-3.
  3. ^ Williams, Joanna Gottfried (1981). Kalādarśana: American Studies in the Art of India. BRILL. p. 129. ISBN 978-90-04-06498-0.
  4. ^ Gopal Chowdhary (2014). The Greatest Farce of History. Partridge Publishing. p. 119. ISBN 978-1482819250.
  5. ^ Sanghi, Ashwin (2012). The Krishna key. Chennai: Westland. p. Key7. ISBN 9789381626689. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  6. ^ Lok Nath Soni (2000). The Cattle and the Stick: An Ethnographic Profile of the Raut of Chhattisgarh. Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Department of Culture, Delhi: Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Department of Culture, 2000 Original from the University of Michigan. p. 16. ISBN 978-8185579573.
  7. ^ Fortson (2004:116f)
  8. ^ Lok Nath Soni, The cattle and the stick: an ethnographic profile of the Raut of Chhattisgarh. Anthropological Survey of India, Govt. of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Dept. of Culture (2000).
  9. ^ Soni, Lok Nath (2000). The Cattle and the Stick: An Ethnographic Profile of the Raut of Chhattisgarh. Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Department of Culture. p. 13. ISBN 978-81-85579-57-3.
  10. ^ "Shatha, Śaṭha, Satha, Saṭha, Śaṭhā: 19 definitions". 3 August 2014.
  11. ^ "Sharana, Sārana, Sarana, Saraṇa, Sāraṇā, Śaraṇa, Sāraṇa, Saraṇā: 25 definitions". 12 April 2009.
  12. ^ "Vrikadevi, Vṛkadevī: 2 definitions". 18 February 2017.
  13. ^ "The story of the previous birth of Shishupala and the sons of Vasudeva [Chapter XV]". 30 August 2014.
  14. ^ Bhagavata Purana Skandha X Chapter 66, Motilal Bansaridass Publishers Book 4 Appendix (66A) pages 1884- 1885, additional verses in Vijaya-dhvaja's Bhagavata Purana, Chapter 69
  15. ^ Hattangadi 1999, p. ॥ ७॥ Adhayaya.
  16. ^ a b SM Srinivaschari (1994), Vaiṣṇavism: Its Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Discipline, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120810983, page 132-134, 212-218
  17. ^ a b Parmeshwaranand 2000, pp. 458–459.
  18. ^ Feuerstein 1989, pp. 119–120.
  19. ^ Olivelle 1998, pp. 11–14.
  20. ^ Srinivasan 1997, pp. 112, 120.
  21. ^ John Irvin (1973-1975), Aśokan Pillars: A Reassessment of the Evidence, The Burlington Magazine. v. 115, pages 706-720; v. 116, pages 712-727; v. 117, pages 631-643; v. 118, pages 734-753; OCLC 83369960
  22. ^ Debroy, Bibek (9 September 2016). Harivamsha. Penguin UK. ISBN 978-93-86057-91-4.
  23. ^ Preciado-Solis, Benjamin; Preciado-Solís, Benjamín (1984). The Kṛṣṇa Cycle in the Purāṇas: Themes and Motifs in a Heroic Saga. Motilal Banarsidass Publishe. ISBN 978-0-89581-226-1.
  24. ^ Mani, Vettam (1 January 2015). Puranic Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Work with Special Reference to the Epic and Puranic Literature. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-0597-2.


Further reading[edit]

  • RG Bhandarkar: "Vasudeva of Panini" 4.3.98. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1910.