Vasudeva (Sanskrit: वसुदेव, IAST: Vasudeva), also called Anakadundubhi (anakas and dundubhis both refer to drums, after the musicians who played these instruments at the time of his birth),[1][2] is the father of the Hindu deities Krishna (Vāsudeva, i.e. "son of Vasudeva"), Balarama, and Subhadra. He was a king of the Vrishnis, and a Yadava prince.[3] The son of the Yadava king Shurasena, he was also the second cousin of Nanda, the foster-father of Krishna.[4][5][6] His sister Kunti was married to Pandu.

Vasudeva carrying the newborn Krishna to Nanda's house in Gokula across the river Yamuna
Venerated inVaishnavism
TextsBhagavata Purana, Harivamsa, Vishnu Purana, Brahma Purana, Mahabharata
Personal information
SpouseRohini, Devaki, and various other wives
ChildrenBalarama, Krishna, Subhadra, and various other children

Vasudeva Takes the Infant Krishna Across the Yamuna River. Master at the Court of Mankot, c. 1700. Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh

The patronymic Vāsudeva (with a pronounced ā) is a popular name of Krishna, the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. "Vāsudeva" is a vṛddhi, a derivative of the short form "Vasudeva", a linguistic pragmatic in Sanskrit signifying "of, belonging to, descended from".[7] "Vasudeva" as an object of worship in Hinduism usually refers to the son Vāsudeva (Krishna), rather than his father Vasudeva.



Vasudeva was born to the Yadava king Shurasena in the Surasena kingdom. Vasudeva had many brothers such as Devashrava and Devabhaga, and sisters such as Kunti (mother of the Pandavas), Shrutasravas (mother of Shishupala), and others. According to the Harivamsa Purana, Vasudeva and Nanda, the Kshatriya chief of Gokula, were brothers or cousins.[8][9]

Wives and children


Vasudeva married Devaki, and also had other wives such as Pauravi Rohini, Madira, Vaishakhi, Bhadra, Sunama, Sahadeva, Shantideva, Shrideva, Devarakshita, Vrikadevi, Upadevi and Badarva. Rohini bore several sons, namely, Balarama, Sarana and Shatha.[10][11] Vrikadevi gave birth to Avagaha and Nandaka.[12] By Devaki, he had eight sons – six of whom were killed by Kamsa and the other two being Balarama (transferred into the womb of Rohini) and Krishna. He also had a daughter – Subhadra from Rohini.[13] In some versions of the Bhagavata Purana, Vasudeva also married Sutanu, the princess of Kasi, and they had a son named Paundraka.[14]



Vasudeva traced a number of descendants through his sons. Sarana had many sons like Satyadhriti and Marsti, and Shatha had a son called Sarthi. Balarama married Revati and had two sons – Nishatha and Ulmuka & a daughter – Vatsala/Shashirekha. Krishna had eight principal wives, and he begat many children from them, such as Pradyumna, Samba, Bhanu etc., and they also had many children. Vasudeva's daughter Subhadra married Pandava prince Arjuna, and they had a son Abhimanyu. Ultimately, it was Abhimanyu's son Parikshit who ascended the Kuru throne after Yudhishthira.

Many of the Yadavas killed themselves in the Yadava fratricide. Krishna, Balarama and Vasudeva later gave up their lives, and the Pandavas collected the remaining Yadava children and ladies with them to Indraprastha, where Pradyumma's grandson Vajra was crowned as king of Mathura, and some other survivors also were crowned as kings of different places (See Mausala Parva).

Vasudeva carrying baby Krishna across the Yamuna. Circa 1st Century CE, Gatashram Narayan Temple. Mathura Museum

The sons of Vasudeva were related to Bhagavatism that was largely formed by the 1st-millennium BCE where Vāsudeva (Krishna, the son of Vasudeva) was worshiped as supreme ultimate reality. This is evidenced by texts and archaeological evidence. As textual evidence, the Mahanarayana Upanishad records the verse:

नारायाणाय विद्महे वासुदेवाय धीमहि तन्नो विष्णुः प्रचोदयात्

nārāyāṇāya vidmahē vāsudēvāya dhīmahi tannō viṣṇuḥ pracōdayāt

We endeavor to know Narayana, we meditate on Vāsudeva and Vishnu bestows wisdom on us.

— Mahanarayana Upanishad, Chapter 7[15][16]
Krishna and Balarama meeting their parents (painting by Raja Ravi Varma)

This verse asserts that Narayana, Vāsudeva (Krishna), and Vishnu are synonymous.[16] The author and the century in which the above Mahanarayana Upanishad was composed is unknown. The relative chronology of the text, based on its poetic verse and textual style, has been proposed by Parmeshwaranand to the same period of composition as Katha, Isha, Mundaka and Shvetashvatara Upanishads, but before Maitri, Prashna and Mandukya Upanishad.[17] Feuerstein places the relative composition chronology of Mahanarayana to be about that of Mundaka and Prashna Upanishads.[18] These relative chronology estimates date the text to second half of 1st millennium BCE.[17][19] Srinivasan suggests a later date for the composition of the Mahanarayana Upanishad, one after about 300 BCE and probably in the centuries around the start of the common era.[20]

Other evidence is from archeological inscriptions, where Bhagavan is documented epigraphically to be from around 100 BCE, such as in the inscriptions of the Heliodorus pillar. An Indo-Greek ambassador from Taxila named Heliodorus, of this era, visited the court of a Shunga king, and addresses himself as a Bhagavata on this pillar, an epithet scholars consider as evidence of Vāsudeva worship was well established in 1st millennium BCE.[21] A popular short prayer for worshipping Vāsudeva is Dwadashaakshar.

Kashyapa incarnated as Vasudeva


Sage Kashyapa is said to have incarnated as Vasudeva, the father of Krishna, due to a curse of the deities Varuna or Brahma.

Once, the sage is said to have performed a yajna (a ritual sacrifice) in his hermitage. Kashyapa sought the help of the god Varuna for the offerings of milk and ghee. Varuna lent the sage a divine cow that would provide him the required offerings. After completing the sacrifice, Kashyapa delayed in returning the cow back to the deity. Varuna cursed the sage and his wife, Aditi, to be born on earth as Vasudeva and Devaki, the parents of Vishnu in his avatar of Krishna.[22]

In other iterations, Kashyapa is stated to have stolen a divine cow from Varuna for the performance of a ritual sacrifice. The deity requested Brahma for his intervention. For his theft of a cow, Brahma cursed Kashyapa to be born on earth as a cowherd. Since his wives, Aditi and Surasa, had assisted him in concealing the cows in his hermitage, they were also born on earth as his two wives, Devaki and Rohini.[23][24]

See also



  1. ^ Garg, Gaṅgā Rām (1992). Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World. Concept Publishing Company. p. 408. ISBN 978-81-7022-375-7.
  2. ^ Ph.D, Lavanya Vemsani (2016). Krishna in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Hindu Lord of Many Names: An Encyclopedia of the Hindu Lord of Many Names. ABC-CLIO. p. 297. ISBN 978-1-61069-211-3.
  3. ^ Williams, Joanna Gottfried (1981). Kalādarśana: American Studies in the Art of India. BRILL. p. 129. ISBN 978-90-04-06498-0.
  4. ^ Gopal Chowdhary (2014). The Greatest Farce of History. Partridge Publishing. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-4828-1925-0.
  5. ^ Sanghi, Ashwin (2012). The Krishna key. Chennai: Westland. p. Key7. ISBN 978-93-81626-68-9. Retrieved 9 June 2016.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Lok Nath Soni (2000). The Cattle and the Stick: An Ethnographic Profile of the Raut of Chhattisgarh. Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Department of Culture, Delhi: Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Department of Culture, 2000 Original from the University of Michigan. p. 16. ISBN 978-81-85579-57-3.
  7. ^ Fortson (2004:116f)
  8. ^ Lok Nath Soni, The cattle and the stick: an ethnographic profile of the Raut of Chhattisgarh. Anthropological Survey of India, Govt. of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Dept. of Culture (2000).
  9. ^ Soni, Lok Nath (2000). The Cattle and the Stick: An Ethnographic Profile of the Raut of Chhattisgarh. Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Department of Culture. p. 13. ISBN 978-81-85579-57-3.
  10. ^ "Shatha, Śaṭha, Satha, Saṭha, Śaṭhā: 19 definitions". 3 August 2014.
  11. ^ "Sharana, Sārana, Sarana, Saraṇa, Sāraṇā, Śaraṇa, Sāraṇa, Saraṇā: 25 definitions". 12 April 2009.
  12. ^ "Vrikadevi, Vṛkadevī: 2 definitions". 18 February 2017.
  13. ^ "The story of the previous birth of Shishupala and the sons of Vasudeva [Chapter XV]". 30 August 2014.
  14. ^ Bhagavata Purana Skandha X Chapter 66, Motilal Bansaridass Publishers Book 4 Appendix (66A) pages 1884- 1885, additional verses in Vijaya-dhvaja's Bhagavata Purana, Chapter 69
  15. ^ Hattangadi 1999, p. ॥ ७॥ Adhayaya.
  16. ^ a b SM Srinivaschari (1994), Vaiṣṇavism: Its Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Discipline, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120810983, page 132-134, 212-218
  17. ^ a b Parmeshwaranand 2000, pp. 458–459.
  18. ^ Feuerstein 1989, pp. 119–120.
  19. ^ Olivelle 1998, pp. 11–14.
  20. ^ Srinivasan 1997, pp. 112, 120.
  21. ^ John Irvin (1973-1975), Aśokan Pillars: A Reassessment of the Evidence, The Burlington Magazine. v. 115, pages 706-720; v. 116, pages 712-727; v. 117, pages 631-643; v. 118, pages 734-753; OCLC 83369960
  22. ^ Vemsani, Lavanya (2021). Feminine Journeys of the Mahabharata: Hindu Women in History, Text, and Practice. Springer Nature. p. 231. ISBN 978-3-030-73165-6.
  23. ^ Mani, Vettam (1 January 2015). Puranic Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Work with Special Reference to the Epic and Puranic Literature. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 397. ISBN 978-81-208-0597-2.
  24. ^ Preciado-Solis, Benjamin; Preciado-Solís, Benjamín (1984). The Kṛṣṇa Cycle in the Purāṇas: Themes and Motifs in a Heroic Saga. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 978-0-89581-226-1.



Further reading

  • RG Bhandarkar: "Vasudeva of Panini" 4.3.98. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1910.