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One of the arguments given by people (incorrectly) to show oppression in Hinduism is that the Brahmins were elites and unfairly discriminated against the lower caste people, also known as anti-Brahminism.

The counter argument given is that there have been many Rishis who had parents of lower caste (Sudras or Dalits). Although, due to their knowledge they came to be known as Rishis. Hence, caste was determined back then by merit and not by birth.

This website lists a number of such examples of Rishis with lower caste parents, without any references. Rishi Vyasa, Rishi Valmiki, Rishi Aitareya, Rishi Parashara, Rishi Vashishtha and Rishi Vidura are mentioned.

Can all or any of these examples be traced back in the scriptures?

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You may find the birth of Vyasa In Devi Bhagavatam.

Hearing this firm resolve of Bhîsma; the fisherman gave over his beautiful daughter
to the king S’antanu. Thus S’antanu married the dear Satyavatî; but he was quite
unaware of the wonderful birth of Vyâsa Deva.

Stayavati, mother of Vyasa was daughter of fisherman.

Birth of Vidura can also be traced in Devi Bhagavatam.

Thus S’antanu married Satyavatî; two sons were born to her and they died in course
of time. Out of Vyâsa Deva's semen, Dhritarâstra was born. Ambikâ Devî, the mother
of Dhritarâstra closed her eyes on seeing Veda Vyâsa; hence Dhritarâstra was born
blind. Seeing Dhritarâstra blind Satyavatî asked Vyâsa to go to Ambâlikâ (Pându's
mother); the princess Ambâlikâ, mother of Pându turned pale at the sight of Vyâsa;
hence her son became of a pale colour out of Vyâsa's wrath. Hence the name of the
son was Pându. Next the maid servant, expert in the science of amorous pleasures,
satisfied Vyâsa; hence her son Vidura was born of Dharma's part and became truthful
and holy.

Mother of Vidura was a maid.

  • First of all Vidura was a shudra and was jnani due to the niyoga performed by vyasa. Vyasa is of mixed caste that is a mix of Kshatriya kanya Matsyagandha/Satyavati (see this en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyavati#Birth_and_early_life) and bramhana (great bramharishi Parashara). – Yogi May 14 '16 at 18:44

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