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Yajnavalkya is an ancient rishi who is associated with many texts in Sanskrit such as the Shatapatha Brahmana, Shukla Yajurveda and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. His discussions with Raja Janaka of Videha are quite well-known.

This Hindupedia page mentions two things about his origins - One that he was an incarnation of Brahma and son of Brahmabahu and Second, he was the son of Devarata. But it also says that there may have been different people of the same name.

I want to know the correct genealogy of Yajnavalkya, the guru of Raja Janaka. I am aware of his two wives Maitreyi & Katyayini but would like to know about his progeny as well.

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    One clarification here, was this Janaka same who was Sita's father or any other king in that lineage?
    – YDS
    Dec 27, 2017 at 14:46
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    Yajnavalkya's guru Vaishampayana was pupil of Krishna Dvaipāyana. And Yajnavalkya learnt the science of the Self from Hiranyanabha, a king of the Raghu Dynasty and a teacher of yoga. Hiranyanabha incarnated around 15 generations after lord Shri Rama. Most of the kings of Mithila are referred as Janaka, so I think this Janaka might not be same who was Sita's father.
    – YDS
    Jan 1, 2018 at 13:35
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    Being an incarnation doesn't necessarily imply no lineage. Krishna was an incarnation born in the Lunar Dynasty and Rama was born in the SOlar Dynasty. Irrespective of which Janak he taught I am more concerned about Yajnavalkya's past and future rather than that of the king he mentored. Jan 2, 2018 at 5:10
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    The question is about Brahmabahu's son not Brahmabahu himself so yes I am interested in the correct lineage. If Yajnavalkya's father was indeed born of Brahma's arms why isn't he mentioned conclusively in any creation description along with Manas Putras, Kardama etc.? Rhetorical questions don't work as answers on this website and if you find something to support the link I myself shared that would be more helpful rather than a train of discussion without any supporting references. Jan 3, 2018 at 5:06
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    Yes you can ask as many questions as you want as long as they are leading towards an answer that is supported by scriptural evidence. Picking up stuff from the question itself doesn't really help in doing that since the one asking the question knows what he has put and is looking for information beyond what he has already shared. Jan 3, 2018 at 8:37

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Ṛṣi Yājñavalkya is very venerable & renowned Ṛṣi, not only in itihāsa-purāṇas, but also in śruti. And in smṛtis, he is a śiromani, being the author of Yājñavalkya dharmaśāstra.

As for the gotra & pravara of Ṛṣi Yājñavalkya, there are two conflicting accounts.
As per Anuśāsana Parva (4.48-60), Yājñavalkya's gotra was Viśvāmitra. And he is called vikhyātaḥ (Ibid., 4.51) & a brahmavādinaḥ (Ibid., 4.60). But Nīlakaṇṭha's commentary Bhāratabhāvadīpa doesn't throw any light on the ślokas mentioning Yājñavalkya to be a Vaiśvāmitra here. Aligning with Anuśāsana Parva (4.45-60), both Vāyu Purāṇa (91.97-102) & Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa (2.66.66-74) also state that Yājñavalkya's gotra was Viśvāmitra.
The Viśvāmitra gotra-pravara lists in sūtras of Baudhāyana, Āpastamba, Kātyāyana & Laugākṣi, & Matsya Purāṇa (198.2-6), in Puruṣottama Paṇḍita's Gotrapravaramañjarī, state that the gotra of Yājñavalkya is Viśvāmitra & his pravara is tryārṣeya (i.e. 3-ṛṣi pravara such as 'Vaiśvāmitra, Daivarāta, Audala'), and those belonging to this pravara are also known as Kauśikas.

The Vasiṣṭha gotra-pravara lists of Matsya Purāṇa (adhyāya 200) & sūtras of Kātyāyana & Laugākṣi, in Gotrapravaramañjarī, state differently that Yājñavalkya's gotra was Vasiṣṭha and his pravara was ekārṣeya (i.e. one-ṛṣi pravara - Vāsiṣṭha). Since, there are two conflicting positions on the gotra & pravara of Yājñavalkya, there are three possible resolutions -
(i) one of the two accounts is erroneous.
(ii) there might be 2 Yājñavalkyas, one being a Vāsiṣṭha & another a Vaiśvāmitra.
(iii) Vaiśvāmitra and Vāsiṣṭha Yājñavalkya are similar figures from different kalpas, and the difference in gotra & pravara evident in śāstras, might be due to kalpabheda.

The number of sources saying that Yājñavalkya was a Vaiśvāmitra are more than those stating him as being a Vāsiṣṭha. Therefore, most likely the famed Ṛṣi Yājñavalkya was a Vaiśvāmitra (belonging to Viśvāmitra gotra & tryārṣeyapravara such as 'Vaiśvāmitra, Daivarāta, Audala').

Yājñavalkya is called the son of Brahmarāta (brahmarātasuto) in Viṣṇu Purāṇa (3.5.2), and the son of Devarāta (devarātasutaḥ) in Bhāgavata Purāṇa (12.6.64). However, the person named Devarāta here, is not the Rājā Devarāta, in the line of Nimi. According to me, either both the names (Devarāta & Brahmarāta) refer to the same person (highly probable) or possibly at least one of the names refer to an ancestor such as grandfather (rather than a father).
It's hard to know for certain, who are Devarāta or Brahmarāta. But since, Yājñavalkya is a Vaiśvāmitra (most likely), then we can point out that the Devarāta mentioned as his father in Bhāgavata Purāṇa (12.6.64), may most likely be Śunaḥśepa (adopted son of Viśvāmitra), who was also known as Devarāta as per Bhāgavata Purāṇa (9.16.30-33), Harivaṁśa (1.27.54-58), etc. This also seems to align perfectly with the Viśvāmitra gotra-pravara lists (referred to before), where Devarāta is one of the three pravara ṛṣis in the pravara of Yājñavalkya.
And so, we have ascertained the identity of Devarāta.

As per Skanda Purāṇa (6.129-131), Yājñavalkya had a son named Kātyāyana, with his wife Kātyāyanī. Note that this Kātyāyana is the author of śrautasūtras, etc. and not the renowned vārttikakāra of the same name.

kātyāyanaṁ sutaṁ prāpya vedasūtrasya kārakam // (6.129.71b)
jyeṣṭhā cānyātha kalyāṇī khyātā kātyāyanīti ca /
yasyā kātyāyanaḥ putro vedārthānāṁ prajalpakaḥ // (6.130.3)

In his commentary Tattvadīpikā on Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa (3.19.22), Maheśvaratīrtha reports a story from a dialogue of Bhīṣma (said by him to be found in Mahābhārata, but I haven't been able to locate it), as per which, Khara, Dūṣaṇa & Triśira were actually the sons of Yājñavalkya, in their prev. life, named as Candrakānta, Mahāmedha, & Vijaya respectively. But due to a śāpa from Śiva, they were reborn as rākṣasas. The 14 rākṣasas, who followed them, were their śiṣyas, in their prev. life. Their śāpa was to terminate when Viṣṇu, in his Rāmāvatāra, would slay them. The same is also told by commentary Tilaka on Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa (3.19.22)

Note: The numbering of ślokas from Mahābhārata, follows the Gītā Press version.

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  • Excellent but I think it needs one correction.. Devrata should be Shunahshepa himself as per Bhagwat Puran not his son so then Yagnavalkya would become Vishwamitra's grandson (by virtue of adoption). Brahmarata could very well be the same as Devrata since both names imply the one saved by the gods. Mar 11 at 12:38
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    Thanks, I have made the correction and cited Bhāgavata Purāṇa (9.16.30-33) and Harivaṁśa (1.27.54-58) for the fact that Devarāta was Śunaṅśepa himself. @Dr.VineetAggarwal
    – Bingming
    Mar 11 at 14:51
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    Perfect, I shall accept the answer as you have covered most points. Mar 12 at 5:02

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