Birth of Vidura, Dhritarashtra and Pandu
The 6th episode of Mahabharata deals with the events leading to the birth of next generation viz. Vidura, Dhritarashtra and Pandu. When Satyavati's second son Vichitravirya too died along with his first son Chitrangada, the throne of Hastinapura became empty. Threatened with extinction Satyavati asks Bhishma to marry the widows of Vichitravirya and beget children. Bhishma could not accept this but chose to remain celibate. Then Satyavati asks her eldest son Vyasa born to sage Parasara to do the same. Vyasa agrees and thus was born Vidura to the maid of princess Amvika, Dhriatashtra to Amvika herself and Pandu to younger princess Amvalika. Dhritarashtra was born blind. Pandu was not of good health and was anemic. Vidura was a healthy baby. When they grew up and their education was completed, Satyavati chose Pandu to be the next king.
References in Mahabharata Wiki
Research and Analysis
Practice of Niyoga
Niyoga was an ancient practice followed, especially by royal families, where a king dies without a successor or is incapable of begetting children. The kings lineage is then threatened with extinction and the kingdom becomes king-less leading to anarchy. Some times a king adopt an able citizen as his son and installs him at the throne thus ensure that the kingdom has a ruler as his successor. In other cases king or the elder members of the royal family request able men to beget children in the wives of the king. This is called Niyoga. The men who are chosen for this task are preferably the brothers of the king or some sage in a respectable lineage.
Niyoga of Angira-Gautama Dirghatamas
Mahabharata explicitly mentions Niyoga practiced by king Vali. See:- Mbh.1.104 Bhishma explains concept of Niyoga through the history of Dhirgatamas. In the case of Vali, the sage Dirghatamas belonged to the Angira race. There are references in Mahabharata which consider Dirghatamas as the father of sage Gautama who founded the Gautama branch of Angira clan. But other references mention Dirghatamas himself as a Gautama. Thus Dirghatamas belonged to the Angira race or one of its branch viz. the Gautama race.
King Vali was son-less and chose sage Dhirgatamas of Angira race to impregnate his wife following the principles of Niyoga. The queen however was reluctant and sent her sudra servant to Dirghatamas. Upon that Sudra women (Ausinari) was born the famous sage (and king?) Kakshivat and ten other sons. King Vali again sent his wife to Dirghatamas and thus were born five kings Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Pundra and Suhma, who became founders of their own dynasties and kingdoms.
Why there were eleven sons born to the servant and five sons to the queen Sudeshna, not just one each? Perhaps there were more women involved. The eleven sons like Kakshivat were born to eleven servants of the queen Sudeshna and the five sons like Anga and Vanga were born to five wives of Vali including Sudeshna. Perhaps they were born in successive years. Perhaps more men in the line of Angira or Gautama were involved. Perhaps this was the result of complete dominance over Vali's race by the Angiras or the Gautamas resulting into the disintegration of Vali's empire into the five kingdoms viz. Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Pundra and Suhma? This king Vali of eastern India seem to be related to the king Vali (Bali or Mahabali) who ruled in the west coast of India (from Kerala in the south till the Narmada valley in the north). This Vali too lost his kingdom to the Kasyapas which resulted into the myth of Vamana (belonging to the Kasyapa race) coming to king Vali asking for three foot of land.
Niyoga of Angira-Bharadwaja
As we have seen earlier in episode1 the case of Emperor Bharata's successor Bhumanyu was either a case of king adopting a capable citizen as his heir or a case of Niyoga. In one version, we have Bhumanyu as the son of sage Bharadwaja who was adopted by Bharata as his son. Another version says Bhumanyu was born to Bharadwaja upon the wife of Bharata. Then it becomes a case of Niyoga. In case of Bharata, the sage was a Bharadwaja. He could be the founder sage Bharadwaja or a member of the Bharadwaja race. Bharadwaja race was yet another branch of the Angira race.
Shift of dominance from Angiras to Bhargavas
Just like Bharadwajas and Gautamas were two branches of the Angira race, my analysis at mbh-higher-level-unique-noun-categories shows that Vasisthas and Agastyas were two branches of the Bhargavas. Vyasa belonged to the Vasistha clan. Birth of Vidura, Dhritarashtra and Pandu fathered by Vyasa was yet another case of Niyoga explicitly mentioned in Mahabharata. Thus the birth of Vidura, Dhritarashtra and Pandu becomes a case of entry of Vasistha genes into the Kuru lineage, which till then was dominated by Bharadwaja since the time of Bhumanyu. This also indicate a shift of dominance from Angiras to Bhargavas. Angira sages considered Indra as the primary divinity. Bhargava sages considered Mitra and Varuna as the primary divinities and reduced importance of Indra.
Bhargavas also gave importance to Yama, who took the role of Varuna in later periods as the god of Justice. See my article on Yamuna where Yama also is discussed.
Indirect mentions of Niyogas in Mahabharata
Though Mahabharata did not explicitly mention that the birth of the five Pandavas were through Niyogas, it shows several signs that leaves no doubt in the mind of a careful reader of the epic, that it was yet another case of Niyoga. Another suspect case is the birth of Rama of Ayodhya and his three brothers born to the three wives of Dasaratha. In this case, there is neither explicit nor indirect mention of any Niyoga. It is highly likely that they are children born normally to their parents through the medicinal or therapeutic power of Yajna.
Analyisis of the social conditions that legitimized Niyoga
We learn from chapter Mbh.1.10 that this practice of Niyoga became common when Bhargavas annihilated many Kshatriya rulers. Then Kshatriya ladies beget children by approaching sages and capable Brahmanas.
Kshatriya violence against Brahmanas
Mahabharata has several account from which one can conclude that at some period in prehistory, there were large scale violence between Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, especially between the Brahmanas belonging to the Bhrigu's race and the Kshatriyas belonging to the Haihaya race, spanning several generations. Their mutual coexistence was evolved after several epochs of mutual violence. Some times these violent incidence claimed innocent lives, even those of babies yet to be born, while they were inside their mother's womb! Earlier the Kshatriyas were very hostile to Brahmanas and some of them went on to annihilate the Brahmanas. See Mbh.1.179:-
There was a celebrated king of the name of Kritavirya. That bull among the kings of the earth was the disciple of the Veda-knowing Bhrigus. That king, O child, after performing the Soma sacrifice, gratified the Brahmanas with great presents of rice and wealth. After that monarch had ascended to heaven, an occasion came when his descendants were in want of wealth. And knowing that the Bhrigus were rich, those princes went unto those best of Brahmanas, in the guise of beggars. Some amongst the Bhrigus, to protect their wealth, buried it under earth; and some from fear of the Kshatriyas, began to give away their wealth unto other Brahmanas; while some amongst them duly gave unto the Kshatriyas whatever they wanted. It happened, however, that some Kshatriyas, in digging as they pleased at the house of particular Bhargava, came upon a large treasure. And the treasure was seen by all those bulls among Kshatriyas who had been there. Enraged at what they regarded as the deceitful behaviour of the Bhrigus, the Kshatriyas insulted the Brahmanas, though the latter asked for mercy. And those mighty bowmen began to slaughter the Bhrigus with their sharp arrows. And the Kshatriyas wandered over the earth, slaughtering even the embryos that were in the wombs of the women of the Bhrigu race. And while the Bhrigu race was thus being exterminated, the women of that tribe fled from fear to the inaccessible mountains of Himavat.
Resistance of Bhargava Aurva
A Bhargava named Aurva in his childhood, escaped this relentless slaughter, protected by his mother (her name is mentioned as Arushi the daughter of Manu at Mbh.1.66 and Bhargava Chyavana is mentioned as Aurva's father). When Aurva grew up, he revenged the wrongs committed on his race by annihilating the Kshatriyas. This conflict situation probably continued till the period of Parasurama (alias Bhargava-Rama). That was five generations! Aurva's parents » Aurva » Richika » Jamadagni » Parasurama. Among this Richika seems to be a race name, and probably equivalent to the Rishika race who were mentioned as residing to the north of Loha (Leh). Thus there could be more than five generation involved. Parasurama revenged the atrocities committed to his race and the murder of his father Jamadagni by annihilating the Kshatriyas. The epic though attributes the entire annihilation of Kshatriya race upon Parasurama, saying he did it successively by making twenty one rounds of attacks upon the Kshatriya kings all over India. Though the Bhargava retaliation might have amplified during the period of Parasurama, it probably started much before Bhrigu-Rama during the period of Aurva. Thus the twenty-one rounds of attack might have spanned four generations starting from the period of Aurva to the period of Parasurama.
Resistance of the Vasisthas (Vasistha, Saktri and Parasara)
Vasisthas were a branch of the Bhargavas. One Vasistha is mentioned as defending the attack of Vishwamitra a Kshatriya with the help of a Mlechcha army consisting of the Palhavas, Dravidas, Sakas, Yavanas, Savaras, Kanchis, Paundras, Kiratas, Sinhalas, the barbarous tribes of Khasas, Chivukas, Pulindas, Chinas, Hunas, Keralas, and numerous other Mlechchhas. This list is long and some of them can be later additions. If we observe the geographies in which these tribes existed we find that the Dravidas, the Keralas, the Kanchis and Sinhalas were from the south, the Chinas (China), the Kiratas (Nepal), the Khasas (Khasakstan) were in the north, the Paundras were in the east and the Palhavas, Sakas, Yavanas, Savaras and Hunas were from the west and north-west of India. Thus this could be a resistance against Kshatriyas that was spread in a vast region. A common factor in all these tribes was that they were not part of the four orders of Varna (Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra) and were often considered as Sudras or as Mlechhas. Most of them were also sea-faring nations and had trade relationships with each other. Mahabharata contains a reference which mentions about an alliance of Brahmanas with the Vaishyas and the Sudras to fight against the Kshatriyas. This could be such an alliance except that there was no clear definition if they were Sudras or Vaisyas since most of them were engaged in trade and industries and since they were not yet assimilated into the four order system. Even the Vasisthas, Agastyas, Bhargavas, Bharadwajas and Gautamas had many warriors among them like Bhargava-Rama, Bharadwaja-Drona and Gautama-Kripa (in addition to many sages) but later when they were accepted into the four order system they were counted as Brahmanas and not as Kshatriyas. In the battle with Vasistha, Vishwamitra was defeated. After the defeat, Vishwamitra became a sage like Vasistha but their enmity continued.
Viswamitra turned another Kshatriya ruler viz. Kalmashapada of Ikshwaku race against the Vasisthas. In a quarrel between Kalmashapada and Vasistha's son Saktri, Kalmashapada killed Saktri and several other members of Vasistha's race. Parasara, the son of Saktri was one among the prominent member among the Vasisthas who retaliated against the Kshatriyas like Kalmashapada (who were then described as Rakshasas). He is mentioned as conducting a Rakshasa-Satra (massacre of Rakshasas) which in reality was a massacre of the Kshatriyas.
The revenge of Bhargava Parasurama
Among all the Bhargavas and Vasisthas who resisted the oppressive Kshatriyas, Bhargava Parasurama was the most prominent one. Probably the resistance of Bhargava Aurva and Vasistha Parasara were short in duration. Bhargava Rama spent his whole life fighting against the Kshatriyas. He also gave military education for anybody who was not a Kshatriya. In his old ages, Bhargava Rama gave up his weapons and military life and became an ascetic. His descendants probably continued the hatred towards Kshatriyas. They continued to be known by the title Parasurama. Parasu means battle-axe and it was one of the prominent weapons used in ancient warfare in India and other countries including Greece. The ancient Phalanx formation in Greece and China too extensively used battle-axes as a formidable weapon. The Rishikas to the north of Loha (Leh) probably popularized it in ancient Indian warfare and Parasurama became the master of this weapon. Consequently anybody who after the period of Parasurama conversant with this weapon and especially if he belonged to the Bhargava race would be known by the title of Parasurama or Bhargava Rama. They became champions of military science in all forms like archery, not just battle-axe. Bhishma and Karna learned from such masters of military science, both of whom were known as Parasurama but separated by generations from the original Parasurama who was probably and elder contemporary of Raghava Rama, the son of Dasaratha and king of Ayodhya. Parasuramas never taught military science to a Kshatriya. But they taught it to anyone other than a Kshatriya. Perhaps Bhishma was not considered as a Kshatriya by the Parasurama who taught him military science, since he belonged to the Gangeya tribe which was equivalent in status to the Matsya tribe and to the Sudra tribe (See episode3). The Parasurama who taught military science to Karna discovered Karna to be a Kshatriya and immediately terminated his education and cursed him for lying that he was a Brahmana.
Parasurama's hatred was only to the Kshatriyas and he taught military science to any one belonging to any order other than the Kshatriya order. Mahabharata contains a reference which mentions about an alliance of Brahmanas with the Vaishyas and the Sudras to fight against the Kshatriyas.
In olden days, Rama, the son of Jamadagni, in anger at the death of his father, slew with his battle axe the king of the Haihayas. And Rama, by cutting off the thousand arms of Arjuna the Haihaya king, achieved a most difficult feat in the world. Not content with this, he set out on his chariot for the conquest of the world, and taking up his bow he cast around his mighty weapons to exterminate the Kshatriyas. And the illustrious scion of Bhrigu's race, by means of his swift arrows annihilated the Kshatriya tribe one and twenty times. And when the earth was thus deprived of Kshatriyas by the great Rishi, the Kshatriya ladies all over the land had offspring raised by Brahmanas skilled in the Vedas. It has been said in the Vedas that the sons so raised belongeth to him that had married the mother. And the Kshatriya ladies went in unto the Brahamanas not lustfully but from motives of virtue. Indeed, it was thus that the Kshatriya race was revived.
The thousand arms of Arjuna the Haihaya king is to be understood as the thousand military commanders or soldiers of the king. The term 'arm' is a military-term used to denote portions of a military-formation or an army-wing, or the chiefs of the army.
The consequence of Parasurama's revenge was that most of the kingdoms of ancient India became king-less and plunged into anarchy. The widowed Kshatriya ladies were afraid of giving birth to a Kshatriya child. Some of them sought Brahmanas for begetting children so that Bhargava Rama's wrath won't fall upon them. Thus the practice of Niyoga was born and it was legitimized. The rules of Niyoga was established in later stages. In the final form Niyoga can be performed by men who belonged to respectable races of sages as well as by kings close relatives like his brothers.
Niyoga of the Vasisthas
At Mbh.1.122 a king named Saudasa is mentioned as sending his wife Madayanti to Vasistha and obtaining a son by the name Asmaka. This is a case of Niyoga involving a Vasistha. At Mbh.1.183 Madayanti is mentioned as the wife of Kalmashapada belonging to the Ikshwaku race. Here Vasistha is mentioned as begetting a son upon his queen Madayanti. At Mbh.12.233 and at Mbh.13.137 it is mentioned that King Mitrasaha, gave his own dear wife Madayanti unto the high-souled Vasishtha. We have other reference where Saudasa is mentioned as belonging to the Ikshwaku race and as the king of Kosala. But since in all these cases the queen's name is mentioned as Madayanti all of them were probably referring the same king of Kosala in the race of Ikshwaku viz. Mitrasaha-Kalmashapada-Saudasa. (It is also possible that they were different and their wives names were unknown and so substituted with the name Madayanti.) What is revealed from all these is that, Vasisthas were assoicated with the Ikshwakus. They became mutual enemies for some period during the time of Saktri and Kalmashapada. This was probably due to the conspiracy of Vishwamitra. But before and after this period of violence, they coexisted as the ruling class (IKshwaku) and as the priest class (Vasisthas). It also reveals that Vaisisthas were engaged in the practice of Niyoga by which childless Ikshwaku kings obtained children.
Birth of Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Satrughna of Ikshwaku's race occurred during the period of Parasurama (the original Parasurama or his immediate descendant). In Ramayana there was mention of an encounter of this Parasurama and Raghava Rama. Parasurama chose not to kill Raghava Rama. The epic explains this, stating that both of them were incarnations of the same god Vishnu. Epic also gives an extra ordinary explanation to the birth of Rama and his three brothers much like the birth of the five Pandavas in Mahabharata. The epic says, that Dasaratha's three queens conceived as the result of a Putra-Kameshti-Yajna (sacrifice for obtaining children). Dasaratha, was childless. However there is no indication in the epic that he was incapable of begetting children. Rama and his brothers probably were born to the three queens of Dasaratha as normal sons through the medicine created as part of the Yajna, which was assisted by sages like Vasistha and Vibhandaka's son Risyasringa. The Vasisthas were employed as the royal priests (Kula-Gurus) of the kings in the line of Ikshwakus. We have also seen that Vasisthas were a branch of the Bhargavas. This could be why Parasurama chose to be friendly with Raghava Rama during their encounter after knowing that he had the patronage of Vasistha. Krishna also is considered as the incarnation of Vishnu. Krishna too had kinship with the Bhargavas. Krishna's lineage, viz. the Yadu lineage originated from Devayani the daughter of Bhargava Sukra.
The epic also mentions Niyoga of a Brahmana who beget upon the daughter of Saradandayana four sons with great warrior Durjaya among them (Mbh.1.120). We also find mention of the birth of three Salwas and four Madras born to queen Bhadra the wife of king Vyushitaswa belonging to the Puru's race (Mbh.1.121.
Protest of Women against Niyoga
This practice of Niyoga was never favored by women of royal houses and often they protested it with what ever way possible as we can see in the case of king Vali's wife Sudeshna. But in those days, there was no other way offspring can be born and the affairs of the kingdom always took precedence to the freedom and choices of women, even if they were queens. Mahabharata contains several incidents where royal politics and political revenge resulted into disregarding of the freedom of women. Insult of Pandavas's wife Panchali was the result of such a political revenge by Duryodhana and Karna. Niyoga was a practice where royal politics took dominance and queen had no choice other than agreeing to it, becoming an instrument to produce the next successor for the kingdom.
Niyoga of Vyasa
Order of Conception and Birth of Vidura, Dhritarashtra and Pandu
The reader is requested to read Indraajeet's article on the same subject. I tend to agree with most of the analysis of Indrajeet on the birth order of Vidura, Dhritarashtra and Pandu.
The narration (Mbh.1.106) of how Vyasa proceeded with his Niyoga giving birth to Vidura, Dhritarashtra and Pandu upon the wives of Vichitravirya is pretty straight forward. However there are some points worth noting. Some references in Mahabharata mentions the Sudra women who gave birth to Vidura to be a wife of Vichitravirya.
There are also some indirect references that indicate that Vidura was the eldest among the three. Among these, the statement at Mbh.1.109 gives the most prominent clue:- Pandu became king, for Dhritarashtra, owing to the blindness, and Vidura, for his birth by a Sudra woman, did not obtain the kingdom. If Vidura was younger to Dhritarashtra and Pandu there is no reason to explicitly mention that Vidura for his birth by a Sudra women did not obtain the kingdom, because always it was the eldest son who was supposed to be the king by default. This statement has a relevance only if Vidura was the eldest among them. Another doubt is how Amviaka can deceive Vyasa by sending her maid. If Vyasa already knew Amvika during the first attempt of Niyoga she cannot send her maid to Vyasa during the third attempt, though the epic narration would like us to believe so. However if the incident of sending of the maid (Sudra women) happened first, then this is possible. Thus Vyasa was deceived by Amvika during the first attempt of Niyoga and thus Vidura was born first. After understanding the deception, next time Amvika was sent to Vyasa and Dhritarashtra was thus born next. This also corresponds with the Niyoga of Dirghatamas, where Vali's wife Sudeshna sent her Sudra maid resulting in the birth of Kakshivat and subsequently Sudeshna was sent for the second time.
Variations of analysis of the conception order and birth order
The variations of this analysis are the following:- Among all the three ladies, Amvika was the most reluctant to embrace Vyasa. She might have sent her Sudra maid first and then her sister Amvalika second to Vyasa. This will make Pandu elder to Dhritarashtra. However one point to be noted here is that the order of birth need not be same as the order of conception. Since these three are conceived within a few days, probably in three successive days, their births might have taken in any order, separated by only few days between them. Perhaps Dhritarashtra was born first, then Pandu and then Vidura, as described by the epic. Perhaps not. They can also be conceived with a gap of a few weeks between them. In this case Vidura would have certainly born first, Pandu next and then Dhritarashtra. Subsequently, since Amvika was elder than Amvalika, people might have forgotten their conception order or birth order and might have considered Dhritarashtra the eldest. This could have resulted in the confusion of who should be the next king. Sure, Dhritarashtra's blindness was certainly a factor that deprived him the throne. But we see that Dhritarashtra indeed ruled his kingdom as king in spite of his blindness after Pandu decided to leave the palace and stay in a forest. So this possibility of Pandu being senior to Dhritarashta either by conception or by birth is very strong. Vidura, since he was born of a servant might have been deliberately pushed to the status of the youngest.
In the case of Vidura, him being conceived first and also born first is very strong. Consider that Vyasa mistook the Sudra women to be Amvika and that Amvika and the Sudra women succeeded in hiding this deception from Satyavati and Vyasa. It will take minimum a month to discover the deception, after observing the menstrual periods of Amvika and her Sudra servant. So there is a probability that Vidura is minimum a month elder to Dhritarashta and Pandu. Subsequently Amvika was sent again, or she requested her younger sister Amvalika to go in her place. In any case, (Amvika goes first or Amvalika goes first) dates of their conception and delivery were confusingly close. This raised questions on who should become the next king among Dhritarashta and Pandu (Vidura was obviously out of the race due to his birth by a Sudra women). Due to Dhritarashtra's blindness and also probably because he is younger to Pandu either by birth or conception, Pandu was chosen as the next king.
Vidura, the Kshatta
To explain how Vidura became known as Kshatta, we need to widen the possibilities of who were the real parents of Vidura (Father: Vyasa or Vichitravirya? mother: a Sudra women, Amviak, Amvalika or a Kshatriya women?) and on the varna (caste) of his parents (Vyasa:Brahmana, Kshatriya or Sudra? Vichitravirya: Kshatriya or Sudra?). It also depends on the definition of the term 'Kshatta' which has several variations.
An important point that fails to be ignored in connection with the birth of Vidura, Dhritarashtra and Pandu is the frequent mention of Vidura as Kshatta. Vidura is often mentioned as Kshatta, Kshatri and Kshattri, which is a caste name. Duryodhana several times addressed Vidura as a Kshatta to highlight the inferiority of his birth and to insult him. As per some references a Kshatta / Kshattri is a son born of a Sudra-man begotten upon a Kshatriya-woman. If this definition is true, and if we take the Sudra-man who fathered Vidura as Vyasa then who was the Kshatriya-woman who was the mother of Vidura? Ambika? Ambalika? or a Kshatriya servant?
Another interesting situation arise if we consider Vichitravirya as a Sudra, due to his birth from Satyavati who is a fisher-women (Matsya, Dasa) and thus a Sudra women. Then Vidura can be a genuine son born to Vichitravirya upon the any one of the Kshatriya ladies viz. Amviak or Amvalika or some other Kshatriya lady. Maybe Vudura, thus born to Sudra-Vichitravirya upon a Kshatriya women was not accepted by orthodox elders of the palace like the Gautamas, who deemed him to be a Kshatta, unfit to become king? Vyasa too though born to Satyavati, due to his Brahmana father viz. Parasara might have got the status of a Brahmana, and his sons upon Kshatriya ladies Amvika and Amvalika, viz. Dhritarashtra and Pandu might have got a higher status in society and were never termed as Kshattas.
Other Puranic definitions invert the definition of Kshatri as the son of a Kshatriya-man begotten upon a Sudra-woman. Here if we can take Vyasa to be a Kshatriya (as he possess Kshatriya genes also) and the Dasi (Sudra) mother of Vidura as the Sudra-woman under question, then there is no problem. But one then is left with the doubt, if the Kshatriya-man here is king Vichitravirya himself, and the Sudra-woman is the Dasi (Sudra) mother of Vidura. This will make Vidura the only legitimate son of Vichitravirya, and also the eldest, but lost the right to the throne since he was the son of a Sudra woman. All of these theores depend on the actual definition of term 'Kshattri' and partially on the varna-composition of Vidura's parents and grand parents.
In Mbh.13.48where it describes the mixed castes, there is a reference that says:- The son that is begotten by a Brahmana upon a Sudra wife is called Parasara, which I guess is a translation error. Instead of "Parasara" it could be "Parasava". Vyasa's father was a Parasara. There is also mention of a Parasara-race (Mbh.12.320). A sage panchasikha is mentioned as belonging to the Parasara's race. The Parasara who was the father of Vyasa was the son of Saktri, who was the son of Vasistha. Parasara's mother is mentioned as Adrisyanti. Was she a Sudra? In those days, anybody who was not accepted into the four orders (Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra) like the Apsaras, the Nagas, the Sakas, the Yavanas were considered as Sudras. Taking Saktri to a Brahmana and assuming his wife to be a Sudra (or one who do not belong to the four orders), their son Parasara can then be technically called a 'Parasava'. There are Mahabharata versions which consider Parasara as a Matsya ruler (not a sage originally but who became an ascetic in his old days), making him a probable Kshatriya king or a Sudra chief connected with the Matsyas. We have also seen that Parasara had warrior qualities as he had waged war (Rakshasa-Satra) against the Ikshwakus like Kalmashapada, terming them as Rakshasas. The name Para-sara means the vivifier of the dead (Mbh.1.179) where as the name Para-sava means one born of a corpse (Mbh.13.48). Thouh there is difference in the meaning the similarity is striking.
Now let us consider the case of Vyasa's mother Satyavati. The Matsya tribe was a Sudra tribe and a very ancient tribe, (see: Human Migration and India) possibly more antique than the Kurus, the Bharatas and the Purus), though some of the Matsya branches were a royal lineage (though the genes of Uparichara Vasu). Thus Satyavati belongs to a Sudra or Sudra like caste. Considering her to be belonging to the Uparichara Vasu (Kshatriya Man) + Matsya woman (Sudra Woman) lineage, she had the genes of Kshatriyas and Sudras mixed in her and can be termed as an 'Ugra' following the Mahabharata (Mbh.13.48) terminology. If we take Satyavati to be a generic Matsya, meaning a fisher-women, she is then a Nishada as per the terminology of Mbh.13.48 (Sudra Man + Kshatriya Woman). Since she is mentioned as plying boat, she can as well belong to a special sub-sect of Nishadas called Dasas (Mbh.13.48). In all these cases she had genes of both Kshatriyas and Sudras.
Thus Vyasa had Brahmana (+ Sudra (?) ) heritage from his father Parasara and Kshatriya + Sudra heritage from his mother Satyavati. The only lineage missing from Vyasa among the four orders is that of a Vaisya. (Or was it really missing? Because Satyavati can be a 'Dasa', and 'Dasa' can have Vaisya genes.) Another implication of all these is that caste was then a meaningless entity difficult to ascertain like it is even now! See aslo Yudhisthira's conversation with Nagas upon the subject of caste and its meaninglessness.
I guess, in spite of the above lineage, Mahabharata considers Vyasa to be a Brhamana, probably because his father Parasara was a Brahmana. He can as well, be considered as a Kshatriya or as a Sudra or as a Parasava or belonging to an undefined caste of mixed genes since Satyavati was not a pure Sudra. If we consider Vyasa to be a Brahmana or as a Kshatriya, his sons in Kshatriya woman Ambika and Ambalika viz. Dhritarashtra and Pandu can be considered as Kshatriyas. If we consider Vyasa to be a Sudra, then Dhritarashta and Pandu are to be considered as Nishadas (of the occupation of fishermen or Matsya) following the terminology in Mahabharata Mbh.13.48 or as 'Vratyas' following the terminolgy in Mahabharata Mbh.13.49. Now see what happens to Vidura. If Vyasa is to be considered as a Brahmana, Vidura (mother being Sudra) becomes a Parasava!. If Vyasa is to be considered as a Kshatriya, then Vidura becomes an Ugra. If Vyasa is to be considerd as a Sudra, then Vidura becomes a straight Sudra.
Thus we can conclude that Dhritarashtra and Pandu were given higher status than Vidura since their mothers were Kshatriyas where as the mother of Vidura was a Sudra, but in close observation the caste distinctions becomes meaningless and fuzzy.
Fable about the birth of Vidura as an incarnation
The chapters Mbh.1.107 and Mbh.1.108 are an example of how fables are added into Mahabharata. By the addition of these two chapters Vidura is transformed into the incarnation of the god Yama, the lord of justice due to the curse of a sage named Mandavya! However the story of the sage Mandavya seems to be a real incident. Mandava seems to be a place in Videha. One of the princess of Videha, viz. Mandavi to was from this place. Kingdom of KingVideha was famous for its Upanishadic lore often centered around Yama, the lord of Justice and death (like the Kathopanishand, where a Brahmana boy named Nachiketas questions Yama on the secret of life and death). Sage Mandavya was awarded death penalty by the king of the country (probably Videha).. He was executed by hanging him from a stake, thus impaling him. He was punished along with other thieves who too were impaled. The king's guards mistook the sage to be an ally of the thieves who hid in his asylum with stolen wealth. This sounds like the Biblical story of crucification of Jesus Christ. It also shows how the justice system of the kings worked.
The myth makers make use of this factual information and tactfully creates a myth that the sage Mandavya cursed the god of Justice viz. Yama for an improper punishment like this (in exchange of his childhood deed in which he pierced an insect with a blade of grass). The fable says it was thus that the god of justice was born as Vidura, in the womb of a Sudra! The origin of this incarnation myth of Vidura is thus probably Vidhaha kingdom during the era of Upanishads or after that. Many other fables, incarnation-myths, stories of curses and boons were all later additions added to the epics and to the Puranas . The fables about the birth of the five Pandavas, of Dhristadyumna and Panchali, of Devavrata-Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Karna, of Rama and his three brothers, and of Krishna and Balarama were all later additions. All of these are added as a few lines of verses or as few chapters to the main body of narration (usually appended to the beginning or end of the existing thread of narration). They were added several centuries after the composition of the main body of narration.