To be clear, please don't conflate reading and reciting the Vedas to having understood the Vedas.

  1. I didn't come across anywhere in KMG Mahabharata where Karna is said to have read/recited vedas. At most he was fully conversant with the vedas and understood the eternal saying of the vedas (Udyog Parva)

  2. Maharishi Matanga, who was born a Chandala, because of his penance got the boon of God like status. But I could not find any reference of him teaching vedas to any disciple

  3. Jabala was son of a prostitute. and his father was unknown. For all we know he is from a Anuloma marriage. So his example would not count

  4. Romaharṣaṇa , a Suta, who was killed by Balarama had obtained Brahmin like status. Thus Balarama was exiled for 12 years in accordance with Manusmriti. However there is no mention of Romaharsana teaching the Vedas. He was killed when reciting the Puranas to other Brahmins.

And to emphasize, I am not looking for varna migration or getting into guna vs birth based varna classification. I am specifically looking for examples and/or statements in scriptures that categorically show Pratiloma or Shudra born have read/recited/taught Vedas or were allowed to do so

EDIT : Seems that even seasoned users are getting confused between pratiloma and anuloma born. Without getting into details, anuloma born are those where father is of higher caste than mother. Pratiloma born are those where mother is of higher caste than father

  • What does Karna have to do with this question, being the son of a God and Kunti?
    – S K
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 18:18
  • 1
    'don't conflate reading and reciting the Vedas to having understood the Vedas' - you mean there are some people who have understood the Vedas without ever reading them? How is this even possible? Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 22:27
  • @SK - Karna's real birth was unknown to pretty much everyone. He was considered to be Suta, a pratiloma born Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 1:45
  • @sv - I can get the teachings of Ramayana from a knowledgeable person without reading or reciting each and every verse. And thus it won't be incorrect to say I have understood Ramayana Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 3:23
  • If the condition for Pratiloma is mother should be of higher caste than father, then their children need not be Shudra. For example: Yadu born out of Devayani, a Brahmin woman and Yayati. Sri Krishna, who was a descendant of Yadu, was renowned as Supreme Yogi Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 9:23

4 Answers 4


The answer to the question is yes, as the great Vyasa himself was the son of Satyavati, daughter of an Apsara, whose caste is indeterminate due to the circumstances of her birth. Vyasa was born from the union of Satyavati with the great Maharshi Parashar. As we all know Vyasa was the original codifier and classifier of all Veda.

Ref. Mahabharata, Amshavatarana Parva, Chapter 63, Gitaprem Press, Gorakhpur (ISBN 81-293-0005-2)


The basic idea of reading/reciting/teaching the Veda, needs some clarification.

The Veda, to be precise, the Rig Veda contains pure SPIRITUAL concepts. They were the experiences of the sages, said in the ecstasy and in extempore poetic manner.

In order to understand that poetic and cryptic poetry called Rig Veda, one should be another sage of having experienced similar ecstasy and a poet.

Mere recitation of such poetry results in NOTHING.

For example, it was narrated in the books that Sri Sankaracharya recited Kanakadhara stotram, in ecstasy, which showered the lady's house with goose berries made of pure gold.

Many might have recited Kanakadhara Stotram afterwards. How many of them got that type showering of gold in their houses?

So it is ascetic power and knowledge of the sage that involves in such poetry. Mere recitation does not yield anything but mental satisfaction.

Coming to the question part, yes, there was a mention of Sage Kavasa, the son of a slave girl, in Aitareya brahmana.

Not only he was a Sage, remember Saraswati followed him, indicating his SPIRITUAL illumination, but was accepted by Rishies of that age also.

Krishna Dvaipāyana also known as Veda Vyasa, compiler of Veda, was the the son of Satyavati, adopted daughter of the fisherman Dusharaj and the wandering sage Parashara, who is credited with being the author of the first Purana, Vishnu Purana.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Pandya
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 11:09

Yes. Vidura was born a Shudra but he was skilled in vedas.

Vyasa blessed Vidura's mother that her son would be very righteous.


'Amiable one, thou shalt no longer be a slave. Thy child also shall be greatly fortunate and virtuous, and the foremost of all intelligent men on earth!' And, O king, the son thus begotten upon her by Krishna-Dwaipayana was afterwards known by the name of Vidura.

Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura were acquainted with vedas it clearly mentions well-read.

And Dhritarashtra and Pandu and Vidura of great intelligence were from their birth brought up by Bhishma, as if they were his own sons. And the children, having passed through the usual rites of their order, devoted themselves to vows and study. And they grew up into fine young men skilled in the Vedas and all athletic sports. And they became well-skilled in the practice of bow, in horsemanship, in encounters with mace, sword and shield, in the management of elephants in battle, and in the science of morality. Well-read in history and the Puranas and various branches of learning, and acquainted with the truths of the Vedas and their branches they acquired knowledge, which was versatile and deep.

Vidura was the god of justice himself, who was born in the Sudra order.


"Vaisampayana continued, 'Cursed for this fault by that illustrious Rishi, the god of justice had his birth as Vidura in the Sudra order. And Vidura was well-versed in the doctrines of morality and also politics and worldly profit. And he was entirely free from covetousness and wrath. Possessed of great foresight and undisturbed tranquillity of mind, Vidura was ever devoted to the welfare of the Kurus.'"

  • Sorry. As I mentioned in question body, reading and reciting is different than understanding. Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 23:24

Not only a Sudra recited Veda mantra, but the Sudra Rishi is, in fact, attributed with a Vedic hymn (Rigveda 10.30). His name was Kavasha Ailusha. His account can be found in the Aitareya Brahmana (2.19).

(Story of the Sudra Rishi Kavasha): The Rishis, when once holding a sacrificial session on (the banks of) the Sarasvati, expelled Kavasha, the son of Ilusha, from (their) Soma sacrifice, (saying) How should the son of a slave-girl, a gamester, who is no Brahman, remain among us and become initiated (into all sacrificial rites)? They turned him out (of the place) into a desert, saying, that he should die by thirst, and not drink the water of the Sarasvati. After having been driven (from this place), into a desert, he, being vexed by thirst, saw (the mantra called) *Waters or Apām Napāt: Pra devatrā brahmaṇe gāturetvapo etc.,i.e. may there be a way leading to the gods for the Brahman (may he be received among them). [Rigveda 10.30]. By this means, he obtained the favour of the waters. They went out (of their house) to (meet) him. Sarasvati surrounded him on all sides. Therefore that place is called Parisaraka (from Enam-Kavasham- Parisasara). As Sarasvati had surrounded him on all sides, the Rishis said, the gods know him; let us call him back. All consented and called him back.

This account is also found in Kaushitaki Brahmana (12.3, 12.1).

References -

  1. Aitareya Brahmana of Rigveda Vol. II translation and notes by Martin Haug (p.112-114)
  2. The Rigveda: The Earliest Religious Poetry of India translated by Stephanie W. Jamison and Joel P. Brereton.
  • Is this say dasi or shudra women as the actual verse?
    – Haridasa
    Commented Jun 6 at 22:52

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