How is Krishna related to the Pandavas?

·3-min read

Krishna and the Pandavas are first cousins. Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, is the paternal aunt of Krishna. Which is to say, Kunti is the sister of Krishna’s father, Vasudeva. Here is how the relationship works.

Even though Kunti was raised by Kuntibhoja, she is in fact the biological daughter of a king called Shursena who gives her off to his friend to raise since he has no children of his own. By virtue of being the daughter of Kuntibhoja, Pritha comes to be known as Kunti. Kuntibhoja doesn’t just raise her has his own, he carries out all the duties that a biological father would, including arranging her swayamvara where she marries Pandu.

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Now, Shursena, Kunti’s biological father, has 15 children in all. One of them is Vasudeva. This means Vasudeva and Kunti are siblings.

Vasudeva grows up to marry Devaki, who is the sister of the mighty Kamsa, the king of Mathura. Kamsa is very fond of his baby sister and after her wedding, offers to drive the newlywed to their new home. It is here that a divine prophecy announces that the eighth son of his beloved sister would be his assassin. Kamsa immediately imprisons the two and proceeds to kill all their children, without realising that Vasudeva had already managed to hide away his eighth son, Krishna in a village with a local tribal leader, Nanda and his wife, Yashidha.

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Balarama, Vasudeva’s other son is born of Rohini, the second wife of Vasudeva. It is believed that the embryo transferred from the womb of Devaki to that of Rohini. Technically, Balarama and Krishna are step-brothers and Balarama is older to Krishna by a few years. As we know, Yashodha and Nanda raise Krishna as their own. After killing Kamsa, he is reunited with his biological parents and eventually rules Dwarka with Balarama.

Kunti gets married to Pandu and, using her boon, begets him three sons herself – Yudhishthira, Bhima, and Arjuna – and two more from his other wife, Madri – Nakula and Sahadeva. Following the death of Pandu and the sati of Madri, Kunti returns to Hastinapur – Pandu had retired to the forest following a curse that prevented him from having sexual intercourse – with the five sons and stakes claim to the throne through Yudhishthira.

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The battle for the throne eventually leads to the Kurukshetra war in which her nephew, Krishna supports her sons, the Pandavas. Krishna even serves as Arjuna’s charioteer in the war.

While Krishna and the Pandavas, especially Arjuna, become thick friends and Krishna becomes their ambassador and spokesperson in Hastinapur, their blood relationship hardly ever comes up throughout the entire epic.

Arjuna eventually marries Krishna’s sister (which is to say his cousin), Subhadra. As a result, Krishna and Arjuna also become brothers-in-law. It is a match that Balarama initially resents and even sends his soldiers to capture Arjuna. However following Krishna’s intervention, he calls off the hunt and accepts Arjuna as his brother-in-law. Eventually, Balarama also trains Subhadra and Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu is the art of war. In some folk versions of the epic, Abhimanyu also ends up marrying Balarama’s daughter Vatsala.

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