Various scriptures such as the Mahabharata have prescribed a maximum of three wives for Kshatriya men:

"Bhishma said, 'For the Kshatriya, O delighter of the Kurus, two wives have been ordained. The Kshatriya may take a third wife from the Sudra order. (Mahabharata, Anushashana Parva, Section XLVII)

Now, Shree Krishna, despite being a Kshatriya, had a total of 16108 wives:

The holy and illustrious Ananta (who had taken birth as Balarama) proceeded to the region below the Earth. Through the command of the Grandsire, he, aided by his Yoga power, supported the Earth. Vasudeva was a portion of that eternal god of gods called Narayana. Accordingly, he entered into Narayana. 16,000 women had been married to Vasudeva as his wives. When the time came, O Janamejaya, they, plunged into the Sarasvati. Casting off their (human) bodies there, they re-ascended to Heaven. Transformed into Apsaras, they approached the presence of Vasudeva. (Mahabharata, Svargarohanika Parva, Section V)

So why did He exceed the number of wives as prescribed by the Smriti?

  • 3
    "That limit is only for normal humans" - Scriptural reference?
    – user14995
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 17:13
  • 1
    Related: Did Krishna have 16108 wives? Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 17:14
  • @NarayanaSharma Aham Brahmasmi :P
    – user9969
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 17:37
  • @SuryaKantaBoseChowdhury, Bhishma himself kidnapped 3 kshatriya women (Amba, Ambika, Ambalika) to wed Vichitraveerya. So the rule of 2 wives plus 3rd from shudra-order is not set in stone.
    – ram
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 16:52

1 Answer 1


The first quote in your question is saying about the possible varnas. It is not imposing the maximum limit on the total number of wives.

For the proper interpretation of the quote, we need to understand the context. The discussion between Yudhishthira and Bhishma is about the property distribution to offsprings of a person based on the varnas of the offsprings mother. The discussion never told the maximum number of wives possible for a person. It is saying the maximum number of Varnas compatible to marry.

Observe the words of Yudhistrira at the beginning of the chapter that is useful in interpreting the following conversation

It has been laid down, O grandsire, that a Brahmana can take four wives, viz., one that belongs to his own order, one that is a Kshatriya, one that is a Vaisya, and one that is a Sudra, if the Brahmana wishes to indulge in the desire of sexual intercourse.

Thus, for a Brahmin, it is allowed to marry from all four varnas. But not for Kshatriya. Kshatriya cannot marry a Brahman woman. The next chapter also confirms the same.

Observe the following quote you mentioned

Bhishma said, 'For the Kshatriya, O delighter of the Kurus, two wives have been ordained. The Kshatriya may take a third wife from the Sudra order.

In the above quote the two wives has to be interpreted as wives from two varnas i.e., Kshatriya and Vaishya. It does not mean he cannot marry more women. Kshatriya can also marry Sudra, the third varna. You can think that if there is a maximum limit of three wives, then why does he need to marry from different varnas? Why can't Kshatriya marry the three women from Kshatriya itself?

And you can find many examples, other than Krishna, in scriptures that the Kshetriya kings married multiple Kshatriya women.

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