Gotra in Hindu SocietyEdit


In Hindu society, the term "gotra" broadly refers to people who are descended in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor.

Panini defines gotra for grammatical purposes as "apatyam pautraprabhrti gotram" (IV. 1. 162), which means "the word gotra denotes the progeny (of a sage) beginning with the son's son".

Eight sagesEdit

When a person says "I am Kashypasya-gotra", he means that he traces his descent from the ancient sage Kashyapa by unbroken male descent. According to the Baudhâyanas'rauta-sûtra, the eight sages are:

  • Vishvâmitra
  • Jamadagni
  • Bharadvâja
  • Gautama
  • Atri
  • Vashista
  • Kashyapa, and
  • Agasthya

The progeny of these eight sages are declared to be gotras. This enumeration of the eight primary gotras seems to have been known to PâNini. The offspring (apatya) of these eight are gotras and others than these are called ' gotrâvayava '.

A gotra must be distinguished from a kula. A kula is a set of people following similar cultural rituals, often worshiping the same divinity (the Kula-Devata, god of the clan). Kula does not relate to lineage or caste. In fact, it is possible to change one's kula, based on one's faith or Iṣṭ'a-devatā.

The originEdit

The gotra system is part of a system of classification or identification of various Brahmin families in ancient times. The gotra classification took form probably sometime during the Yajur Veda period, after the Rig Veda period. It is believed that the gotras (now account to a total of 49) started to consolidate some around 10-8 Century B.C. The present day gotra classification is created from a core of 8 rishis (The Saptha rishis + Agastya). The Seven rishis are Gautama, Bhardwaja, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Vasistha, Kashyapa and Atri. Seven Rishis (Saptarshi) are recognized as the mind born sons of the creator Brahma. They desired offspring and received it. All present day Brahmin communities are said to be descendants of these 8 Rishis.

Over the years the number of gotras increased due to:

  • Descendents of these Rishis also started new family lineage or new gotras, for example :
    • Kaundinya was a descendent of Vasishta,
    • Vishwamitra was a descendent of Kaushika, and
    • Vatsa was a descendent of Jamadagni
  • By inter marriage with other Brahmins
  • In some cases, families were inspired by a saint whose name they bear as their own Gotra.
  • New groups like Kshatriyas (who were also makers of hymns) were taken into fold by some Rishis


The lines of descent from the major rishis are originally divided into Ganas [sub divisions] and each Gana is further divided into families. However, subsequently the term gotra is frequently applied to the ganas and to the families within the ganas interchangeably. These Rishis belonged to different sects like Shakti, Shaivites and Vaishnavites and had different deities for worship. Such deities came to be known as the kuladevatas.

Importance of GotrasEdit

The gotra system was originally instituted for the purposes of identifying one's ancestors and pay respects during various invocations and other rituals to honor their fathers, fore-fathers and so on, up to their respective Rishis. This was later extended to other aspects of Brahmin life, such as marriage and temple worship. In present days, marriage will not be allowed within the same gotra in order to avoid impure matrimony. This thinking is in tune with the modern day genetic paradigms of hybrid vigor.

==Gotras, Surnames a GOUD and Kuladevatas==

The gotra is also interlinked with the Surnames and the Kuladevatas.

Chitrapur Saraswat Gotras ('गोत्र')Edit

"Gotra" meant a "cow stable" or a "herd of cows" and came to signify later, the 'family' or the clan. Chitrapur Saraswats belong to six Gotras viz.

  • Atri,
  • Bharadwaja,
  • Kaundinya,
  • Kaushika,
  • Kutsa (Kaunsha) and
  • Vatsa.
  • kashyapa

There are no restrictions on Sagotra marriages among Chitrapur Saraswats.

Chitrapur Saraswat Kuladevatas ('कुल देव')Edit

All the family deities of the Chitrapur Saraswat community are in Goa except Shri Lakshminarayana, a family deity of Hattangady-kars and some other families, which is at Hanumatta near Ankola (Karnataka).

The following are some of the Kula-devatas of particular gotras and websites on which details may be found.

Kuladevtas of Chitrapur Saraswat Gotras
Gotra Kuladevata Website
Atri Mahalasa Narayani
Bharadwaj Shantadurga
Kowndinya Mangesh
Kowshik Shantadurga
Kutsa (Coamsha) Lakshmi Narasimha
Vatsa Mangesh
Vatsa Shantadurga & Mangesh
Vatsa Shantadurga, Mangesh, Mahalaxmi,Navdurga & Sinha Purush
Vatsa Nagesh
Vatsa Lakshminarayan Mahamaya

Additional inputsEdit

Dev Nadkarni adds:

This may be an interesting aside for the article on Gotra : I was recently in Cambodia and learnt that according to legend, the country was formed by an Indian brahmin called Kaundinya, who fell in love with a local princess whose father was so impressed with his prospective son-in-law that he fashioned out a kingdom for him, which came to be called Kambuja (aka Kampuchea and now Cambodia). While I'm not suggesting he was a 'vaat chukkun gellelo' Bhanap, it is interesting that a nation so far away derives its name as well as owes its existence allegorically to a gotra. I have to say, being of the Kaundinya gotra myself, I was mighty chuffed when I heard the story. Not that it inspired me to look out for a princess :)

Dr. Sachidanand  Das adds:

I am a Kaundinya gotriya Brahman, and as far as my knowledge goes, Rishi Kaundinya is the only name that is famous both in and out of India.The legend relating to Cambodia/Kampuchea is fairly well known and I learnt of it in school -50 years ago-  by word of mouth. During my visit to Thailand  a few years ago,  I gathered at Bangkok that the royal family of Thailand has connection with Kaundinya. There are persons who say that Mahesh Das (Birbal) was a Kaundinya. Similarly there are people who say Chanakya Vishnugupta was a Kaundinya. But are there evidences for such claims?, since it is inherent in our nature to associate ourselves with famous individuals of great stature.

Brahmarshi Vasishttha (one of the Saptarshis) had 99 clans and the most pre-eminent clan amongst them seems to be the Kaundinya Rishi. I saw a beautiful temple dedicated to sage Vasishttha at Manali village of Himachal Pradesh when I had visited that place some years ago. Brahmans are not the only people who have gotras. Kshatriyas too are known by gotras. Now-a-days, many others, coming from other castes and communities such as kayastas, agrawals, etc, use various gotra names to upgrade their social rank. A poor brahmin has a higher social rank than a rich Vaishya! In UK and US, it is not so.

It is important to point out that every Gotra is associated with a Pravara. Our Pravara are Vasishttha and his father Mitra. My interpretation of Pravara is: he is our 1st grand-father. In my case, our 1st grand father is Mitra and the second grand-father is Vasishttha and down the line. Our 1st grand-mother (Mitra's wife) is Urvashi. There was one Mithra deity/god in the pre-Islamic Iran (Persia). So, our root is Iranian Aryan-Indo Aryan. I also need to state here that Vasishttha is the grand-father of Veda Vyasa. As a matter of fact, Veda Vyasa was brought up by Vasishttha following the untimely death of Parasara, father of Veda Vyasa.

References & further readingEdit


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