In the Rigveda Kanva was part of Kasiyapa’s family. His father was Medhatithi. Kanva became a teacher with many disciples at his asrama (hermitage) on the Malini River in the Himalayas. He was credited with writing as many as fifty chapters of the first section (mandala) and the entire tenth section of the
In the Mahabharata Kanva had an asirama on the Parvenu River. One day Kanva discovered (sakuntala (one raised by the birds). This little girl had been abandoned by her parents, the great brahmin sage Visvamitra and the celestial temptress Menaka. Indra had sent Menaka to spoil Visivamitra’s austerities, and the fruit of their dalliance was abandoned but kept alive by the birds.
Many of the Puranas used another name for Kanva, that of Kasiyapa. This led to quite a few mistakes when events about Kasiyapa-Prajapati—who would have lived about twenty generations prior to this Kasiyapa (Kanva)—are confused. One of those confusions occurred around which sage was bribed so that the giant serpent Takshaka would be successful in killing King Parikshit. It should not have been Kanva. Besides his excellence as a hymnist, his major fame was his adopted daughter, Siakuntala, who became the subject of love stories in every Indian language.