Yadav

Caste community of India

Yadav (literally, descended from Yadu; also called Ahir or Yaduvanshi), is a caste/clan/tribe of the Indian subcontinent that is predominantly found in India, but also in Nepal and Pakistan. The Ahir/Yadavs were traditionally warrior-pastoralists.[1] As the name of one of the five Aryan clans mentioned in the Rig Veda as Panchjanya, meaning "five people", It is the common name given to the five most ancient Vedic tribes. People of the Yadav/Ahir caste generally follow Vaishnav traditions. In the 1881 census records of the British Empire it is stated that "the Yadavas, who in their turn are identified with the Gwals and Ahirs, were the dominant race at that time.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] The Yadavs are Kshatriyas and a branch of the Lunar dynasty that descends from Yayati's oldest son Yadu, and parallels the branch (which includes the Kurus) that descends from Yayati's youngest son Puru.[9]

The Yadavs, mentioned in the Mahabharata, were Pastoral-Kshatriyas among whom Krishna was brought up. The Gopas, whom Krishna had offered to Duryodhana to fight in his support when he himself joined Arjuna's side, were no other than the Yadavs themselves, who were also the Ahirs. In the Mahabharata it is mentioned that when the Yadavas (belonging to the Abhira group) abandoned Dwaraka and Gujarat after the death of Krishna and retreated northwards under Arjuna's leadership, they were attacked and broken up.[10]Yadav single largest community/human race alive in the world.

Origin and History

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Yadavs are the descendants of Yadu, the eldest son of King Yayati. It is said that Yadu was expelled by Yayati from his kingdom and became a rebel. His successor was Madhu, who ruled from Madhuvana, situated on the banks of river Yamuna, which extended up to Saurastra and Anarta (Gujrat). His daughter Madhumati married Harinasva of Ikshvaku race, from whom Yadu was born again, this time being ancestor of Yadavas. Nanda, the foster father of Krishna, was born in the line of succession of Madhu and ruled from the same side of Yamuna. Jarasandh, Kansa's father-in-law, and king of Magadha attacked Yadavas to avenge Kansa's death. Yadavas had to shift their capital from Mathura (central Aryavart) to Dwaraka (on the western coast of Aryavart) on the Sindhu. Yadu was a legendary Hindu king, believed to be an ancestor of the god Krishna, who for this reason is sometimes referred to as Yadava.[11]

The Yadavs of the Mahabharata period were known to be the followers of Vaisnavism, of which Krishna was the leader. They were the gopas (cowherd) by profession, but at the same time they held the status of the Kshatriyas, participating in the battle of Kurukshetra. The present Ahirs are also followers of Vaisnavism. In the Epics and the Puranas the association of the Yadavas with the Abhiras (Ahirs) was attested by the evidence that the Yadava kingdom was " mostly inhabited by the Abhiras (Ahirs)".[12]

In the Indian History particularly with reference to the Vedic period the Yadavs had a great past, a glorious past and Yadavas were known for their bravery and diplomatic wisdom. The Mahabharata period which was the period of Yadavas is known for republican and democratic government.[13]

Ramprasad Chanda, points to the fact that in the Indra is said to have brought Turvasu and Yadu from over the sea, and Yadu and Turvasu are called Barbarian or Dasa. After analyzing the ancient legends and traditions he comes to the conclusion that Yadavas were originally settled in the Kathiawar peninsula and subsequently spread to Mathura.

Of the Yadus, Rigveda provides two very interesting data, first, that they were arajinah - without King or non-monarchical, and second that Indra brought them from beyond the sea and made them worthy of consecration. A. D. Pusalkar observed that Yadvas were called Asuras in the epic and puranas, which may be due to mixing with non-aryans and the looseness in observance of Aryan Dharma. It is important to note that even in the Mahabharata Krishna is called Sanghmukhya - Head of Sangh (congress). Bimanbehari Majumdar points out at one place in the mahabharata Yadavas are called Vratyas and at another place Krishna speaks of his tribe consisting of eighteen thousand vratyas. It is interesting to note that much later,[14]

Abhira of Deccan were called Andhra-Vratyas, and Puranas refer to them as Vratyas on many occasions. A Vratya is one who lives outside the fold of the dominant Aryan Society and practice their own form of austerity and esoteric rites. some scholars conjecture that they might have been the source of non-aryan beliefs and practices introduced into Vedic religion.[15]

Genetically, they are in Indo-Caucasoid family.[16]

Subdivisions

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The Yadavs are divided into different subdivisions which have different ritual ranks (Yaduvanshi, Goallavanshi and Nandavanshi). There is nonetheless a strong belief amongst them that all Yadavs belong to.[17]

The Haihayas

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The Haihayas were an ancient confederacy of five ganas (clans), who were believed to have descended from a common ancestor, Yadu. These five clans are Vitihotra, Sharyata, Bhoja, Avanti and Tundikera. The five Haihaya clans called themselves the Talajanghas[18] According to the Puranas, Haihaya was the grandson of Sahasrajit, son of Yadu.[19] Kautilya in his Arthaśāstra mentioned about the Haihayas.[20] In the Puranas, Arjuna Kartavirya conquered Mahishmati from Karkotaka Naga and made it his capital.[21]

Later, the Haihayas were also known by the name of the most dominant clan amongst them — the Vitihotras. According to the Puranas, Vitihotra was the great-grandson of Arjuna Kartavirya and eldest son of Talajangha.[18] Ripunjaya, the last Vitihotra ruler of Ujjayini was overthrown by his amatya (minister) Pulika, who placed his son, Pradyota on the throne.[20][22] The Mahagovindasuttanta of the Dighanikaya mentions about an Avanti king Vessabhu (Vishvabhu) and his capital Mahissati (Mahishmati). Probably he was a Vitihotra ruler.[23]

The Shashabindus

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In the Balakanda (70.28) of the Ramayana, the Shashabindus are mentioned along with the Haihayas and the Talajanghas.[24] The Shashabindus or Shashabindavas are believed as the descendants of Shashabindu, a Chakravartin (universal ruler)[25] and son of Chitraratha, great-great-grandson of Kroshtu.[24]

The Chedis

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The Chedis or Chaidyas were an ancient Yadava clan, whose territory was conquered by a Kuru king Vasu, who thus obtained his epithet, Chaidyoparichara (the overcomer of the Chaidyas)[26] or Uparichara (the overcomer). According to the Puranas, the Chedis were descendants of Chidi, son of Kaishika, grandson of Vidarbha, a descendant of Kroshta. And the son of King Chidi was Maharaja DamGhosha (Father of Shishupal in Mahabharata). And then the lineage was called Hindu Ghosis.

The Vidarbhas

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According to the Puranas, the Vidarbhas or Vaidarbhas were descendants of Vidarbha, son of Jyamagha, a descendant of Kroshtu.[18] Most well known Vidarbha king was Bhishmaka, father of Rukmin and Rukmini.[27] In the Matsya Purana and the Vayu Purana, the Vaidarbhas are described as the inhabitants of Deccan (Dakshinapatha vasinah).[28]

The Satvatas

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According to the Aitareya Brahmana (VIII.14), the Satvatas were a southern people held in subjection by the Bhojas.[29] The Satapatha Brahmana (XIII.5.4.21) mentions that Bharata seized the sacrificial horse of the Satvatas.[30] Panini, in his Ashtadhyayi mentions the Satvatas also as being of the Kshatriya gotra, having a sangha (tribal oligarchy) form of government[31] but in the Manusmriti (X.23), the Satvatas are placed in the category of the Vratya Vaishyas.[32]

According to a tradition, found in the Harivamsa (95.5242-8), Satvata was a descendant of the Yadava king Madhu and Satvata's son Bhima was contemporary with Rama. Bhima recovered the city of Mathura from the Ikshvakus after the death of Rama and his brothers. Andhaka, son of Bhima Satvata was contemporary with Kusha, son of Rama. He succeeded his father to the throne of Mathura.[33]

The Andhakas, the Vrishnis, the Kukuras, the Bhojas and the Surasenas are believed to have descended from Satvata,[34] a descendant of Kroshtu.[18] These clans were also known as the Satvata clans.

The Andhakas

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According to the Ashtadhyayi (IV.1.114) of Panini, the Andhakas were of the Kshatriya gotra, having a sangha (tribal oligarchy) form of government[31] In the Drona Parva (141.15) of the Mahabharata, Andhakas were categorized as the Vratyas (deviators from orthodoxy).[35] According to the Puranas, the Andhakas were the descendants of Bhajamana, son of Andhaka and grandson of Satvata.[18]

According to the Mahabharata, the allied army of the Andhakas, the Bhojas, the Kukuras and the Vrishnis in the Kurukshetra War was led by Kritavarma, son of Hridika, an Andhaka.[34] But, in the same text, he was also referred as a Bhoja of Mrittikavati.[29]

The Bhojas

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According to the Aitareya Brahmana (VIII.14), the Bhojas were a southern people, whose princes held the Satvatas in subjection. The Vishnu Purana (IV.13.1-61) mentions the Bhojas as a branch of the Satvatas.[29] According to this text, Bhojas of Mrittikavati were descendants of Mahabhoja, son of Satvata.[36] But, according to a number of other Puranic texts, the Bhojas were descendants of Babhru, grandson of Satvata.[18] In the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata (85.3533) and in a passage of the Matsya Purana (34.30) the Bhojas are mentioned as the mlecchas. But another passage of the Matsya Purana (44.69) describes them as pious and the performers of the religious rites.[29]

The Kukuras

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Kautilya in his Arthaśāstra (XI.1.5), describes the Kukuras as a clan, having sangha (tribal oligarchy) form of government, whose leader uses the title of rājā (rājaśabdopajīvinah).[37] According to the Bhagavata Purana, the Kukuras occupied the territory around Dwarka. The Vayu Purana mentions that the Yadava ruler Ugrasena belonged to this clan (Kukurodbhava).[38] According to the Puranas, Ahuka, an Kukura, had two sons by a Kashi princess, Ugrasena and Devaka. Ugrasena had nine sons and five daughters, Kamsa being the eldest. Devaka had four sons and seven daughters, Devaki was one of them. Kamsa usurped the throne of Mathura after imprisoning Ugrasena. But later he was killed by Krishna, son of Devaki, who re-installed Ugrasena to the throne.[39]

The Nashik Cave Inscription of Gautami Balashri mentions that her son Gautamiputra Satakarni conquered the Kukuras. The Junagadh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman I includes the Kukuras in the list of the peoples conquered by him.[38]

The Vrishnis

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Images of Samkarshana and Vāsudeva, the two most celebrated Vrishni heroes, on a coin of the Indo-Greek king Agathocles (c. 190–180 BCE)

The Vrishnis are mentioned in a number of Vedic texts, which include the Taittiriya Samhita (III.2.9.3), the Taittiriya Brahmana (III.10.9.15), the Satapatha Brahmana (III.1.1.4) and the Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana (I.6.1).[40] The Taittiriya Samhita and the Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana mention about a teacher, Gobala belonging to this clan.[41]

Although, Panini, in his Ashtadhyayi (IV.1.114) includes the Vrishnis in the list of the clans of the Kshatriya gotra, having a sangha (tribal oligarchy) form of government,[31] but in the Drona Parva (141.15) of the Mahabharata, the Vrishnis, like the Andhakas were categorized as the Vratyas (deviators from orthodoxy). In the Shanti Parva (81.25) of the Mahabharata, the Kukuras, the Bhojas, the Andhakas and the Vrishnis are together referred as a sangha, and Vasudeva Krishna as Sanghamukhya (seignor of the sangha)[35] According to the Puranas, Vrishni was one of the four sons of Satvata.[18] Vrishni had three (or four) sons, Anamitra (or Sumitra), Yudhajit and Devamidhusha. Shura was son of Devamidhusha. His son Vasudeva was father of Balarama and Krishna.[34]

According to the Harivamsa (II.4.37-41), the Vrishnis worshipped goddess Ekanamsha, who, elsewhere in the same text (II.2.12), described as daughter of Nandagopa.[42] The Mora Well Inscription, found from a village near Mathura and dated to the early decades of the Common era records the installation of the images of the five Vrishni viras (heroes) in a stone shrine by a person, named Tosha. These five Vrishni heroes have been identified with Samkarshana, Vasudeva, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Samba from a passage in the Vayu Purana (97.1-2).[43]

 
A Vrishni silver coin from Alexander Cunningham's Coins of Ancient India: From the Earliest Times Down to the Seventh Century (1891)

A unique silver coin of the Vrishnis was discovered from Hoshiarpur, Punjab. This coin is presently preserved in the British Museum, London.[44] Later, a number of copper coins, clay seals and sealings issued by the Vrishnis were also discovered from Sunet, near Ludhiana.[45]

The Shaineyas

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The Shaineyas are believed to have descended from Shini, son of Anamitra, son of Vrishni. In the Mahabharata and the Puranas, the most notable Shaineya was Yuyudhana, son of Satyaka and grandson of Shini. He was a contemporary of Krishna. According to the Puranas, Asanga and Yugandhara were his son and grandson respectively.[34]

Akrura and the Syamantaka

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A number of Puranas mention Akrura, a Vrishni, as the ruler of Dvaraka.[46] His name is found in the Nirukta (2.2) as the holder of the jewel.[47] In the Puranas, Akrura is mentioned as the son of Shvaphalka, who was great-grandson of Vrishni[34] and Gandini. In the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata Purana and the Brahma Purana, he was mentioned as the keeper of the Syamantaka, the most well-known jewel of the Yadavas.[47][48] According to the Puranas Akrura had two sons, Devavant and Upadeva.[34]

The fratricidal war and its aftermath

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According to the Mausala Parva (7.185-253) of the Mahabharata a few years after the Kurukshetra War, Andhaka-Vrsni Yadava clans of Dvaraka were destroyed due to a fratricidal war.[49] Both Balarama and Krishna died soon after this war. Later, son of Kritavarma became ruler of Mrittikavati and grandson of Yuyudhana became ruler of the territory near the Sarasvati River. The rest of the surviving Yadavas took refuge in Indraprastha. Vajra, great-grandson of Krishna was installed as their king.[50]

Vajra is mentioned as the great-grandson of Krishna in the Vishnu Purana. According to a section of this text (IV.15.34-42), he was the son of Aniruddha and Subhadra.[51] But according or another section (V.32.6-7), he was the son of Aniruddha and Usha, daughter of Bana and granddaughter of Bali.[52] Bahu (or Pratibahu) was his son and Sucharu was his grandson.[51] Elsewhere in this text (V.38.34), he was mentioned as installed as king in Mathura instead of Indraprastha.[53]

The narrative of the Yadava fratricidal war is also found in two Jataka tales of the Pali Buddhist canon: the Ghata Jataka and the Samkicca Jataka. According to the Ghata Jataka, Vasudeva, Baladeva and eight other Andhaka-Venhu (probably, a corrupt form of Andhaka-Venhi, Pali equivalent to Sanskrit Andhaka-Vrishni) brothers seized Dvaravati and killed its king Kamsa. Later, these brothers fought amongst themselves and except Vasudeva and Baladeva everybody died. Vasudeva and Baladeva also died soon after. The Samkicca Jataka mentions that the Andhaka-Venhus killed each other.[54] Kautilya also in his Arthaśāstra (I.6.10) mentioned about the destruction of Vrishni clan because of their foolhardiness.[55]

Yadava kinship system

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According to a modern historian, Romila Thapar, the kinship system of the Yadavas shows traces of matrilineal structure, which is found from the mention of their cross-cousin marriages. This is particularly prohibited in the Indo Aryan kinship system.[56] The Vishnu Purana mentions that Krishna married Rukmini, a Vidarbha princess. His son Pradyumna married Kakudvati, daughter of Rukmin, brother of Rukmini. Pradyumna's son Aniruddha married Subhadra, granddaughter of Rukmin.[51]

[57]

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References

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  1. Association, American Anthropological (2001). Abstracts of the Annual Meeting. American Anthropological Association. The Ahir/Yadavs were traditionally warriorpastoralists from North Western India.
  2. Report on the Census of British India taken on the 17th of February 1881: Vols. I-III. 17 February 1881. The Yadavas, who in their turn are identified with the Gaolis and Ahirs, were the dominant race at that time.
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  10. Bahadur), Sarat Chandra Roy (Rai (1974). Man in India. A.K. Bose. The Yādavas, mentioned in the Mahabharata, were pastoral kshatriyas among whom Krishna was brought up. The Gopas, whom Krishna had offered to Duryodhana to fight in his support when he himself joined Arjuna's side, were no other than the Yadavas themselves, who were also the Abhiras. In the Epics and the Puranas the association of the Yādavas with the Abhiras was attested by the evidence that the Yådava kingdom was" mostly inhabited by the Abhiras. In the Mahabharata it is mentioned that when the Yadavas (though belonging to the Abhira group) abandoned Dwaraka and Gujarat after the death of Krishna and retreated northwards under Arjuna's leadership, they were attacked and broken up.
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