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What is the caste that Lord Sri Krishna was born into? Was it kshatriya (warrior) or Yadava (shepherd)? People from the yadava community claim that Sri Krishna is a Yadava and was born into their caste.

Is Lord Krishna a Kshatriya or a Yadava or is he born into a kshatriya dynasty named Yadavas?

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    He was born a kshatriya - Yadu dynasty is a kshatriya clan. He grew up in a vysya household. Nanda and Yashoda are vysyas. Not shepherds. – user1195 Nov 17 '16 at 12:54
  • dynasty seems better word than cast..just suggesting if u wish to replace cast with dynasty in Ur question header... – YDS Dec 2 '17 at 17:59
  • @YDS Actually, I was interested in caste only because in my state, many people claim that he is not a Kshatriya and he is a shepherd. That's what raised this question. By saying that I don't see Lord Krishna in caste lens or limit him to a caste. He is almighty. – Sarvabhouma Dec 2 '17 at 18:03
  • It appears in the search engines. So? @YDS – Sarvabhouma Dec 2 '17 at 18:15
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There are verses in "Shreemad Bhagvatam" that points towards "Lord Shree Krishna's" relation with Pandavas. Although he has been raised in Gokula, Kunti mother of Pandavas was sister of Vasudeva (Father of shree Krishna"). So we can say that Shree krishna was a kshatriya.

तं मातुलेयं परिरभ्य निवृतो भीम: स्ययन प्रेमजवाकुलेइंद्रिय:।
  यमौ किरीटी च सुह्यत्तमं मुदा प्रवृद्धबाष्पा: परिरेभिरेsच्युतम।।27।।

Tam Matuleyam Paribhya Nivritto Bhimah Sasyan Pramjava kule indriya Yamo kiriti Ch Suhruttmam Muda Pravrubgdbashpah Paribhirechhutam.

Meaning - Then Bheema smiled and hugged his "Maternal Cousin Shree krishna" Nakula ,Sahadeva and Arjuna also hugged Shree Krishna and their eyes filled with tears from the great love towards Shree Krishna.

SB 10.71.27

In that chapter there is also a Verse of conversation between "Uddhava" and Shree Krishna.Where Uddhava is telling Shree krishna to help His "Paternal Cousins" pandavas.

यदुक्तमृषिणा देव साचिव्यं यक्ष्यतस्यत्वया ।
कार्यम पैतृषयव सेयस्य रक्षा च शरणैषिणाम् ।।2।।

Yadukatamrushina Dev Sachivyam Yakshyatastvaya Karyam Paitushvaseyasya Raksha ch Sahranaishinaam

Meaning - Bhagvan , as told by "Devarshi Narada" you should help your "Paternal Cousins" in their Yagna. Also its a duty of you to help those who surrender to you.

SB 10.71.2

  • @SwftPushkar there are some typos in your answers. May be you can fix them. So they are cousins. Paternal or maternal? Why did the theory came into existence that Krishna is a cow shepherd? – Sarvabhouma Nov 18 '16 at 8:16
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    @ShreeCharan - I think it's because he is raised by Nanda in Gokula.And from the deep affection of cow shepherd people towards Shree krishna that theory might have came. – SwiftPushkar Nov 18 '16 at 8:36
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Krishna was born a Kshatriya. The Yadavas are a sub clan of Sona vamsa, which is a Kshatriya sub clan.I think Nanda Baba and Yashoda are of the same yadava clan, as stated in this Ethnographic Profile taken from wikipedia. You can also read this Quora article.

  • moonstar2001 said that Nanda and yashoda were vysyas. You are saying they might be yadavas. Which is right? – Sarvabhouma Nov 18 '16 at 2:35
  • @SreeCharan I think nanda baba and yashoda are yadavas, because nanda baba is the cousin of vasudeva – vidyarthi Nov 18 '16 at 2:37
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    Then cattle grazers are Krishna's friends aren't they. How is nanda related to Vasudeva. – Sarvabhouma Nov 18 '16 at 2:39
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Birth-wise Krishna was a Vaishya (the 3rd division), though he lived a princely life like a Kshatriya. Krishna's caste was Yadu / YAdava or Vrushni.

The castes are like family names, which are carried by a person to his son. Probably you meant classes/divisions, which are only 4, based on qualities: i.e. Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra.

A son/daughter's birth-wise class/division is considered according to their father's lineage. For daughters, it changes after marriage & for sons it may change based on merits & virtues.
However son always carries his father's caste (viz. surname) throughout his life.

Now Krishna's mother Devaki might [or might not] be of Kshatriya lineage, however his father Vasudeva was from Vaishya (business) category. To be very specific, in such case the division is decided as below:

The son begotten by a Vaisya upon a Kshatriya woman becomes a Vandi or Magadha. The duties assigned to him are eloquent recitations of praise. [this answer]


Here is how Krishna's class can be considered Vaishya:

  • Vasudeva was a (real or cousin) brother of Nanda-baba (foster father of Krishna), who was the chief among the cowherds. Same thing is true for many Yadu-s. Moreover it was not unusual in many regions to have a Brahmana or Vaishya or Shudra kings as well. Vasudeva's father Sura also could have been a Vaishya king.

    Vasudeva was yadhava king. He was the brother of cowherds tribe chieftain Nanda Baba who was a Surasena. [Wikipedia]


    Dhritarashtra said, 'Hear, O Sanjaya, the celestial feats of Vasudeva, feats that Govinda achieved and the like of which no other person hath ever been able to achieve. Whilst being brought up, O Sanjaya, in the family of the cowherd (Nanda), that high-souled one, while yet a boy, made the might of his arms known to the three worlds. [Dronabhisheka Parva]

  • Another strong reference, is that Kunti was a "real sister" of Vasudeva from same father Sura (or Surasena). Now MAdari refers Kunti as of lower division based on birth.

    There was amongst the Yadavas a chief named Sura. He was the father of Vasudeva. And he had a daughter called Pritha, ... gave from friendship this his firstborn daughter unto his childless cousin and friend, the illustrious Kuntibhoja--the son of his paternal aunt [Sambhava Parva]


    ... [Madari,] the daughter of the king of the Madras privately addressed Pandu, saying, 'O slayer of foes, I have no complaint even if thou beest unpropitious to me. I have, O sinless one, also no complaint that though by birth I am superior to Kunti yet I am inferior to her in station. [Sambhava Parva]

  • When a Kshatriya begets a child with a Vaishya woman, the Kshatriya order is usually maintained for that child. However the son born under such circumstances, is also referred as "Karna". Kunti's son from Sun before marriage, was actually named as "RAdheya", was also later known as "Karna". It's quite likely that Karna would have been named/referred so, by some intelligent people (like Bhishma, Vidura), finding similarity of his face with Kunti. This further solidifies that Kunti was from Vaishya background, so was her brother Vasudeva, Krishna's father.

    During that year, O king, was begotten upon her by the illustrious Dhritarashtra a son endued with great intelligence who was afterwards named Yuvutsu. And because he was begotten by a Kshatriya upon a Vaisya woman, he came to be called Karna. [Sambhava Parva]

  • Even the Krishna's Narayani army, consisting mainly of Yadava-s, was referred as the army of cowherds. The profession of cowherd is considered for Vaishya division as per BG 18.44.

    In the left foot, O monarch, was stationed Kritavarma accompanied by the Narayana troops, and those invincible warriors, the gopalas [source]

  • Usually a person with non-Kshatriya quality used to take the top ministry under the Kshatriya king, e.g. Vidura, who was born to a Shudra maid or Yuyutsu, born to a Vaishya queen. Similarly Vasudeva was also a prime minister under Kamsa's kingship. Moreover many times Krishna has been referred belonging to cowherd tribe, even though his time with his foster father Nandababa was reasonably less:

    Duryodhana began to afflict Vasudeva with keen and bitter words, "O son of Kansa's slave, [Shalya Parva]


    Bhurisravas said, ... thou hast, unseen by me, cut off my arm ... A man quickly catches the behaviour of those with whom and amongst whom he moves. This is seen in thee, O Partha! Being of royal lineage especially, in Kuru's race, how hast thou fallen off from the duties of a Kshatriya, ... Who else, unless he were a friend of Krishna's, would inflict such a wrong ... The Vrishnis and the Andhakas are bad Kshatriyas, ever engaged in sinful deeds, and are, by nature, addicted to disreputable behaviour [Jayadratha-Vadha Parva]


    Kansa: I will put to death Vasudeva himself, the cowherd Nanda, and my foolish father, Ugrasena, [Vishnu Purana]

  • An indirect reference: Krishna's one of the name "Rannchhod" is due to him running away from the battlefield. This is least likely to be a Kshatriya like quality as per Gita:

    BG 18.43 - The natural duties of the Kshatriyas are heroism, boldness, fortitude, capability, and also not retreating from battle, generosity and lordliness.

  • Traditionally the "cowherds" community belonged to the "Vaishya" (business) class. Refer BG 18.44. Now there are few references, which again suggests Krishna's lineage towards that:

    the king of Chedi (Shishupala) could bear no more, He then replied in rage unto Bhishma in these words... O Bhishma, in unceasingly praising with devotion, from ignorance alone, Kesava so unworthy of praise. How dost thou, from thy wish alone, establish the whole universe in the servitor and cowherd of Bhoja (Kansa)? [Sisupala-badha Parva]


Of course being a living symbol of supreme reality, the divisions don't bind to the lord Krishna. However, I am just being in the scope of the Qn and discussing Krishna's "birth based division".

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    I have found a verse in SB ,where it's said that Shree-Krishna after securing his people ,went out of Mathura without carrying any weapon.So technically he did not left the battlefield (out of fear ) or so , but only to protect his people , knowing that his people are suffering just because of him & Balarama.Cause Jarasandha's was furious mainly because Shree Krishna killing Kamsa. – SwiftPushkar Jul 2 '17 at 12:32
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    And it's Jaradandha who said this to Krishna (Rann-Chhod) . There is one another instance in SB , where shree-Krishna and Balarama ran away and jumped from mountain.But for specific reason.I will give you that later on.So he did not actually left the battlefield while fighting , but here whole Mathura was the battlefield. – SwiftPushkar Jul 2 '17 at 12:36
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    vedabase.com/en/sb/10/50/57 – SwiftPushkar Jul 2 '17 at 12:40
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    Krishna is definitely a Kshatriya, as is Kunti. Madri is just saying that she is older than Kunti even though she married Pandu later. – Keshav Srinivasan Jul 2 '17 at 15:20
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    And it's ridiculous to say "Now Krishna's mother Devaki might be of Kshatriya lineage, however it's most likely that his father Vasudeva was a Vaishya!" Vasudeva's ancestor Vrishni and Devaki's ancestor Andhaka were both sons of the lunar dynasty king Satvata; see this chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam: vedabase.com/en/sb/9/24/chapter-view – Keshav Srinivasan Jul 3 '17 at 3:52
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At that time there was no caste (jaati) system. Do not confuse varna system with caste/jaati system. At that time yadava was a clan(kul) though.

Centuries later yadava caste/mostly cow owners - identified themselves with that mahabharata time clan. But reverse is not true, ie we can not identify Krishna with the caste system of centuries later. Because there was no caste system at that time.

  • I don't take Jaati as caste. Jati and caste are not same. Its meaning changes with the context There are many definitions of Jaati. Some of them also mean species, nation. Ancient varna system has changed to present day caste system. In present day situation, varna and caste are same. Varna doesn't exist anymore only caste is there. Similarly, Kula also means a caste in these days. It also has meaning of dynasty/clan. Finally, what is your conclusion? What is Varna (caste) Shri Krishna was born? What varna were Yadavas? – Sarvabhouma Sep 7 '18 at 5:43
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Lord Krishna himself says in Bhagavad Gita 10.37:

वृष्णीनां वासुदेवोऽस्मि ...

This is how Swami Gambirananda translates it:

Of the vrsnis [The clan to which Sri krsna belonged, known otherwise as the Yadavas.] I am Vasudeva;...


Is Lord Krishna a Kshatriya or a Yadava or is he born into a kshatriya dynasty named Yadavas?

The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, the Supersoul in the hearts of all living entities, descended in His original form as a human being in the dynasty or family of Yadu. ~SB 9.23.20-21

Because Yadu, Madhu and Vṛṣṇi inaugurated this dynasty, so it was known as Yādava, Mādhava and Vṛṣṇi. ~SB 9.23.29

Yadu was son of Yayāti as explained in What is the historical origin of Yadavas?

Mahārāja Yayāti was a kṣatriya ~SB 9.18.

So this is clear that Lord Krishna was born into a kshatriya dynasty named Yadavas (more specifically Vṛṣṇi which was sub clan of Yadavas).


The Mahabharata, Book 5: Udyoga Parva: Section VII also mention Lord Krishna as the foremost of all Kshatriyas:

Sanskrit shloka for the foremost of all Kshatriyas

Dhananjaya the son of Kunti selected Kesava who was not to fight on the battle-field, even Narayana himself, the slayer of foes, increate, born among men at his own will, the foremost of all Kshatriyas and above all the gods and the Danavas.

  • I think the block quotes added in the answer and the note about madhu sudan are redundant. This question is not related to the questions you linked. They ask why Rama/Vishnu is called with a specific name but here, I'm asking what is the caste of the dynasty he was born. Not the dynasty of Krishna. While you are citing other posts as sources, add link to answer not the question. – Sarvabhouma Dec 2 '17 at 19:03
  • Good find, But interestingly the equivalent word for "Kshatriya" is Not found in the original Sanskrit text. So doubtful. From the Sanskrit equivalent: "19 एवम उक्तस तु कृष्णेन कुन्तीपुत्रॊ धनंजयः अयुध्यमानं संग्रामे वरयाम आस केशवम 20 सहस्राणां सहस्रं तु यॊधानां पराप्य भारत कृष्णं चापहृतं जञात्वा संप्राप परमां मुदम". It seems that some English lines are added. However, just before those verse, it's found that the Narayani army was made up of "gopAla-s" i.e. cowherds. Which belongs to Vaishya division, as stated in my answer. – iammilind Jun 3 '18 at 12:52
  • Umm..why is the paragraph in bullet points? – Sarvabhouma Jun 3 '18 at 13:09
  • Well, they are not points. It is a paragraph. Bullets should be used for lists or points. – Sarvabhouma Jun 3 '18 at 13:40
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    @iammilind shloka is from the book, i provided screenshot of it..bcz the english translation of RV/Mahabharat is not found easily along with it's sanskrit verse.. bdw Mahārāja Yayāti was a kṣatriya (mentioned in SB)...Kartvirya Arjun was kṣatriya (Lord Parshuram came to be known as slayer of kṣatriya after killing Kartvirya Arjun, his sons, army)...then from where ur interpretation says that Vrsinis were Vaisyas??? – YDS Jul 8 '18 at 17:18

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