I am wondering if there are examples of incest relationships such as between Father/Daughter, Brother/Sister in Hindu mythology?

I would be thankful if you could mention the source.

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    Brahma-Sarasvati, Yama-yamuna, Arjun-Subhadra, maybe many more, which will make it a list question. Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 12:25
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    @Aryan, Do you think the first man and first women were son and daughter of different Gods. Obviously not, they must have been the children of one God so that's why they would definitely be brother and sister, but since they were made to grow the population, they had to be in marital or marital like relation. Similarly, who would their sons /daughter marry? Again they had to marry some family member, may be brother or cousin. This was not taboo and required in the beginning of the universe. Later as population grew, society developed rules for marriage, etc according to which we live today.
    – Aby
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 12:35
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    @Aby your comment does not add much of a value to the question. I am certain that incest pretty much existed throughout history. I am only seeking textual references from Hindu mythology and not passing judgement on anything.
    – Aryan R
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 1:07
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    @Aby the story you are referring to isn't mentioned in Hindu scriptures(there were no Adam and eve).
    – Mr_Green
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 16:43
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    @Mr_Green Well, there's Manu and Shatarupa (Swayambhuva Manu that is). They're at least somewhat analogous, although they're not the exclusive progenitors of the human race. For instance Kashyapa was human, and yet he was the son of Brahma's son Marichi, so he wasn't a patrilineal descendant of Swayambhuva Manu at all, although his maternal grandmother was Swayambhuva Manu's daughter Devahuti; see this family tree: vedadev.ru/images/SB%20Family%20Tree03.jpg Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 17:26

2 Answers 2


There are two famous cases of incest or attempted incest in Hindu scripture, and in both cases the practice is unequivocally condemned:

  1. Brahma and Saraswati: As I discuss in this answer, when Brahma created Saraswati, he immediately fell in love with her, and she evaded him by going in different directions, but he sprouted a head in each of the four directions until finally she went above him and he grew a fifth head pointed up toward Devaloka. This chapter of the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajur Veda describes what happened next:

    Pragâpati [Brahma] conceived a passion for his own daughter... 'May I pair with her!' thus (thinking) he united with her. This, assuredly, was a sin in the eyes of the gods. 'He who acts thus towards his own daughter, our sister, [commits a sin],' they thought. The gods then said to this god who rules over the beasts (Rudra), 'This one, surely, commits a sin who acts thus towards his own daughter, our sister. Pierce him!' Rudra [i.e. Shiva], taking aim, pierced him.

    So Shiva cut off Brahma's fifth head, which is why he only has four heads today.

  2. Yama and Yami: As discussed in the scriptures in my answer here, Yama god of death and Yami goddess of the Yamuna river were twin children of Surya the sun god and his wife Sanjana. Yet Yamuna developed a desire to marry Yama, on the bizarre grounds that they slept together in the womb, and thus they should do likewise outside the womb. But Yama refused her advances, as described in Book 10 Hymnn 10 of the Rig Veda:

    I will not fold mine arms about thy body: they call it sin when one comes near his sister. Not me,—prepare thy pleasures with another: thy brother seeks not this from thee, O fair one.

Besides those two instances, there are various examples of cousin marriage and uncle-niece marriage, but those aren't considered incest.

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    When did Yama and Yamuna commit incest? Yama had clearly refused the advances and even Yamuna apologizes for her act. This no way consists of incest as per actual english meaning.
    – user808
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 18:03
  • @Krishna That's why I said "There are two famous cases of incest or attempted incest in Hindu scripture." Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 18:31
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    It may be remotely called attempted incest. But, you cannot call it incest per se, because the meaning of incest is different.
    – user808
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 8:20
  • @Krishna Yeah, I wasn't calling it that. By the way, have you seen my question on the Pratishthasara and Vijnanalalita Agamas? hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/7601/36 Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 14:21
  • -Yes, i have seen it. It is also a news to me. I have no idea of those schools
    – user808
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 16:38

Incest means sexual activity between closed blood relatives. It doesn't strictly limit to immediate family members like, father/mother, dauther/son. According to wikipedia article, at 3rd degree relatives, the common genes are 12.5%.
Now above is scientific meaning. According to Hinduism, the rules are bit changed. e.g. Gotra of a female changes upon marriage.

The sexual relation via marriage between 5th/6th degree cousins/relatives are generally acceptable and are not considered incest.

On main question, I can remember only 1 proven incest relationship (scientific way) which was between Arjun and Subhadra.
Arjun was biological son of Kunti and fathered by Lord Indra. Subhadra was biological daughter of Vasudev. Vasudev and Kunti were real brother-sister, hence Arjun and Subhadra were 1st cousins. With their mating they had son Abhimanyu.

I also came across another incest example between a (Yudhishtira like) righteous Brahmin and her biological granddaughter. This is found in Telugu Mahabharata during Anushasana Parva, during which Bhisma lying on bed gives some moral advises to Yudhishtira & brothers:

...Later Sudarsanaa was given in marriage to Agni. Agni and Sudarsanaa begot a son called Sudarsana. After marriage, Sudarsana begot a son called Oghavanta. Oghavanta begot a son and daughter called Ogharadha and Oghavati respectively. Oghavati attained marriageable age.
Oghavathi was given in marriage to Sudarsana, who is no other than her grand father. After marriage, Sudarsana took a vow that he will conquer death while adopting Grihastha dharma...

Afterwards, the Dharamadev tests the Sudarasana by going to his house in absence but disguised as a guest and asking to share bed with his wife. After lot of turmoil, the wife (i.e. granddaughter) agrees to sleep with the guest. When the Sudarasana returns home, he calls for his wife. But figures out the situation behind the closed doors. Sudarasana feels happy that he and his wife are able to serve the guest appropriately. With that Dharama takes his original form and says that he has conquered death and is eligible to go to higher worlds with physical body. His wife was intact and her half would flow as a river Oghavati through Kurukshetra and half would join along with him.

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    ..and now a days it is common Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 12:30
  • Genetic disease get diluted by cross breeding. Marriage of same gothra ( as it amounts to a sort of incestual weakness by lineage progression ) is prohibited under the assumption of DNA purity of any Gothra But in Bhradwaj Gothra it was relaxed after this Gothra population multiplied.
    – Narasimham
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 10:18

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