Brahmin gotra system

Brahmin gotra system

The word "gotra" means "lineage" in the Sanskrit language. Among those of the Brahmin caste, "gotras" are reckoned patrilineally. Each "gotra" takes the name of a famous Rishi or sage who was the patrilineal forebearer of that clan. And each Gotra is addressed by the suffix 'sa' or 'asa' as relevant.

The concept of Gotra was the first attempt among Brahmins to classify themselves among different groups. At the beginning, these gentes identified themselves by the names of eight rishis (Agastya, Atri, Gautam, Jamadagni, Shandilya, Vasishtha, Vishwamitra and Bharadvaja; the first seven of these are often enumerated as Saptarishis). It is to be noted that Vishwamitra was initially a Kshatriya king, who later chose and rose to become an ascetic rishi. Hence the gotra was applied to the grouping stemming from one of these rishis as his descendants.


Many lines of descent from the major rishis were later grouped separately. Accordingly, the major "gotras" were divided into ganas (subdivisions) and each gana was further divided into groups of families. The term "gotra" was then frequently started being applied to the ganas and to the sub-ganas.

Every brahmin claims to be a direct patrilinial descendant of one of the founding rishis of a certain gana or sub-gana. It is the gana or sub-gana that is now commonly referred to as "gotra".

Over the years, the number of "gotras" increased due to:
#Descendants of original rishi also started new family lineage or new "gotras",
#By inter marriage with other sub-groups of the same caste, and
#Inspired by another rishi whose name they bear as their own "gotra".

Pravara is the number of the most excellent (-cf. reference, Sanskrit-English Dictionary,Monier-Williams) rishis who belonged to that particular gotra to which a person belongs. Gotra is the name of the founding father. In vedic ritual, the importance of the pravara appears to be in its use by the ritualist for extolling his ancestry and proclaiming, "as a descendant of worthy ancestors, I am a fit and proper person to do the act I am performing." The sacred thread yajnopavita worn on upanayana has close connection with the concept of pravaras related to brahmin gotra system. While tying the knots of sacred thread, an oath is taken in the name of each one of these three or five of the most excellent rishis belonging to one's gotra.

The full affiliation of a brāhamana consists of (1)gotra, (2)pravaras (3)sutra (of Kalpa), (4)shakha.

(Example :) A brahmana named 'X' introduces himself as follows : I am 'X', of Shrivatsa gotra, of Āpastamba sutra, of Taittiriya shākha of Yajurveda, of five pravaras named Bhārgava, Chyāvana, Āpnavan, Aurva and Jāmdagnya (This example is based upon the example given by Pattābhirām Shastri in the introduction to Vedārtha-Pārijata, cf. ref.).

While the "gotras" were classified initially according to nine (?) rishis, the pravaras were classified under the names of the following seven rishis:

According to the listing of authors included in the verses in Rigved, the rishi Jamadagni was a descendant of rishi Bhrigu while the rishis Gautam and Bharadvaja were the descendants of rishi Angirasa.

The pravara identifies the association of a person with three or sometimes five of the above-mentioned rishis.

For example, Kashyapa Gothram has 3 rishis associated with it viz. Kashyapa, Daivala and Aavatsaara

Gothras and Pravaras

#Suryadhwaja: Lakhi (Mehrishi), Soral, Binju
#Bharadwaj: Angirasa, Bhaarhaspatya, Bharadwaja
#Rathitara: Angirasa, Bhaarhaspatya, Rathitara
#Vadula: Bhargava,Vaitahavya,Saavedasa
#Srivatsa: Bhargava,Syaavana,AApnavaana,Owrva,Jaamadaghnya
#Salankayana: Viswaamitra, Aghamarshana, Devavrata
#Shatamarshana: Angirasa, Powrukutsa,Traasatasya
#Atreya: Atreya,Aarchanaasa,Syaavaasva
#Kowsika: Vishwamitra,Aghavarshana,Kowsika
#Kalabodhana/Kalaboudha: Viswaamitra,AAgamarshana,Kalabodhana/Kalaboudha
#Viswamitra: Vaiswaamitra,Devaraata, Owtala
#Kaundinya: Vaasishta,Maitraavaruna, Kaundinya
#Haritasa: Angirasa, Ambarisha,Yuvanasva
#Gautamasa: Angirasa,Aayasyasa,Gautama
#Mowdkalya(3 Variations)
##Angirasa, Dhavya, Mowdgalya
#Sandilya (3 Variations)
##Kasyapa, Daivala, Asitha
#Naitruvakaasyapa: Kasyapa,Aavatsara,Naitruva
#Kutsa: Angirasa,Maandhatra,Kowtsa
#Kanva (2 Variations)
##Angirasa,Kowra, Kaanva
#Paraasara: Vaasishta, Saaktya, Paarasarya
#Aagastya: Aagastya,Tardhachyuta,Sowmavaha
#Gargi (2 Variations)
##Angirasa, Sainya, Gaargya
#Bhadarayana: Angirasa,Paarshadaswa, Raatitara
#Kasyapa (3 Variations)
##Kasyapa, Aavatsaara, Daivala
##Kasyapa, Aavatsaara, Naidruva(Naitruva)
##Kasyapa, Aavatsaara, Naidruva(Naitruva), Rebha, Raibha , Sandila, Saandilya
#Sunkriti (2 Variations)
#goutam/gowtamasa Aangeerasa, ayasya, gowtama
#Vadhoola: Bhargava, Vaitahavya, Savedasa

List of Brahmin Gotras

The following is a partial list of gotras found in the Brahmin community of Hindus:
*Atreya/ Atri
*Bhardwaj / Bharadvajasa
*Harita/ Haritasa
*Hukman Bhal
*Kalabodhana/ Kalaboudha
*Kamakayana Vishwamitra
*Kaushal/ Kaushalas / Kushal
*Mauna Bhargava
*Maudgalya [Moudgalya]
*Mudgala (Maudgalya, Moudgil, Modgil, Mudgal)
*Shandilya , sanas
*Saharia Joshi


Although people belonging to the same "gotra" are, in theory, related to each other patrilineally, and belong to the same Brahmin caste, there may be very little else in common between them. In fact, as per the Vedic system, a man and a woman belonging to the same "gotra" are considered to be a brother and sister, and hence, a marriage between a man and a woman belonging to the same "gotra" (known as sa-gotra) is forbidden as it will cause anomalies in the progeny that come out of such a marriage. The fact that people belong to a certain "gotra" says nothing about their domicile, original place of residence, mother tongue or family occupation, which can be known from than lower lever classification below gotra: pravaras, sutra (of Kalpa) and shakha.

Please add Vadhryashwa Gotra to your list of Gotras.Many Deshastha Brahmins near Nagpur Mahrashtra have this Gotra including me.Reference to Vadhryashwa Rishi is found in Rigveda.( See books by Shreeram Sharma Acharya of Gayatri Parivar).Prof Suresh M Deshpande,JNCASR,Bangalore 560064, Ph 80-22082816


*A History of Brahmin Clans (IAST|Brāhmaṇa Vaṃshõ kā Itihāsa) in Hindi, by Dorilāl Śarmā,published by Rāśtriya Brāhamana Mahāsabhā, Vimal Building, Jamirābād, Mitranagar, Masūdābād,Aligarh-1, 2nd ed-1998. (This Hindi book contains the most exhaustive list of Brahmana gotras and pravaras together their real and mythological histories).
*Vedārtha-Pārijata by Swāmi Karpātri,Published by Sri Rādhā Krishna Dhanuka Prakāshan Sansthan,Calcutta,1979;(Sañchālakas : Vedasāstra Research Centre, Kedārghat, Vārānasi)

ee also

*List of Brahmin gotras
*Brahmin communities
*Maithil Brāhamana

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