Sage Atri was one of the “Manasputra”, the mind-born sons of Brahma. Atri’s son was Chandra (Moon) and Budha was son of Chandra. Likewise Sage Marichi, another Manasaputra, had a son named Kashyapa. Vivasvaan (Sun) was the son of Kashyapa. From Vivasvaan was born Vaivasvata Manu. Vaivasvata Manu got a daughter named Illa. Now both Budha and Illa had a son named Pururava. In Pururava’s lineage were born Kings like Nahusha and Yayati. Yayati’s eldest son was Yadu. And Yadu’s descendants came to be known as the Yadavas. Since one of the member in the lineage was Vrishni, the clan was also called Vrishni Dynasty.
Sriman Narayana had to take birth as Sri Krishna and He chose Vrishni, the ancient martial clan of Bharatavarsha. In fact while explaining His manifestations to Arjuna, Sri Krishna says “Vrishninaam Vaasudevo” amongst the descendants of Vrishni, I am son of Vasudeva. If Sri Krishna is a Kshatriya, why is the Yadava clan seen as Gopalakas (Cattle Rearers)?
Many have a wrong notion that Sri Krishna, belong to Yadava which is now categorised as “Other Backward Classes” (OBCs) category, here I would like to mention that the “Backward or Forward” or for the matter “Caste” came after the British set their foot on to our land. Yes, as Sri Krishna mentions Varnashrama was there.
With the colonial mindset, we are confused with words like “Kula”, “Jaati” and “Varna”. As I understand Kula is the family profession. In ancient time they preferred to get the young married in same Kula as it would help the newly married to adjust to the family profession like a girls who knows what her weaver father was doing will find it easy to adjust to the profession of her husband if he too is a weaver. Jaati is the word used for “Species” like we say breed of animals and so we all are “Manushya Jaati” (Human Species), which the British used to divide us by calling it “Jaati” (Caste).
Coming to whether Sri Krishna was a Cattle Rearer or King. Sri Krishna was born in Gopalaka Kula but was a Kshatriyas by Varna. Varna is a division of society based on occupation. We had Kalachuris also known as Kalachuris of Mahishmati who were Savithas (Barber) as Kula “Vritti” (Job) but became Kings as Varna. Then we have the founder of Kadambha of Banavasi, Mayura Verma who was a Pundit. Nandas of Magadha who had the founder Mahapadma Nanda again a barber. Though they were born in different Kula they all could become kings which is Varna. It was not like a King’s son will be King because he is Kshatriya. Anybody who had the Guna and Karma of a Kshatriya was eligible to be the King. Just like how a doctor’s son is not a doctor if he is not practicing medicine. Hence Yadavas who were Gopalakas by Kula ruled the land like Kshatriyas by Varna.
Also the British misinterpreted our ancients when there was mention of “Ucch and Neech” (Gradation). In particular Sriman Madhva is targeted for his Bedha (Distinction Theory). Acharya explains that the Bedha is because of the Trigunas and it has nothing to do with Kula or Varna. Though we are all the same at the core there is a difference in the way we behave and treat others, this makes us acquaint-able or not. This is Bedha, like how we prefer a crispy note against a soiled one even though both are valued the same.
This Bedha is explained very well in “Vyadha Gita ” where a butcher is held in higher esteem than an ascetic. And there is an incident from Chandogya Upanishad, Sriman Madhva clarifies excellently as to who should be called “Dvija” (Twice Born) in the sense, eligible for Upanayana (Upa means additional, Nayana is Eye… Activation of Third Eye). Not that those born in a Brahmin family are only eligible.
Sriman Madhva write thus:
Arjavam Brahmane Saksat, Sudro Narjava Lakshanah.
Gautamas tviti Vijnaya, Satyakamam Upanayat.
Meaning: Straightforwardness is the quality of a Brahamana and crookedness is that of a Sudra. Knowing this fact, Sage Gautama initiated Upanayana to Satyakama.