HitXP Science of Genetics behind the Hindu Gotra System …

Posted: May 4, 2015 at 12:12 pm

This article is merely an attempt to find the scientific reasoning behind the origins of the ancient Gotra System and in no way endorses its imposition in the modern Hindu society to decide marriages or other things. In all probabilities, the modern Gotra system is no more relevant, and the best method to verify the genetic feasibility of a marriage, if at all required, would be to avoid cousin marriages (which have been proved to increase the risk of genetic disorders in the off springs) or to do a genetic test of the bride and grooms DNA for any possible genetic disorders in their off springs.

The Gotra is a system which associates a person with his most ancient or root ancestor in an unbroken male lineage. For instance if a person says that he belongs to the Bharadwaja Gotra then it means that he traces back his male ancestry to the ancient Rishi (Saint or Seer) Bharadwaja. So Gotra refers to the Root Person in a persons male lineage.

The Gotra system is practiced amongst most Hindus. See here for a List of Hindu Gotras practiced by different sections of the Hindu Society

Brahmins identify their male lineage by considering themselves to be the descendants of the 8 great Rishis ie Saptarshis (The Seven Sacred Saints) + Bharadwaja Rishi. So the list of root Brahmin Gotras is as follows

These 8 Rishis are called Gotrakarin meaning roots of Gotras. All other Brahmin Gotras evolved from one of the above Gotras. What this means is that the descendants of these Rishis over time started their own Gotras. The total number of established Gotras today is 49. However each of them finally trace back to one of the root Gotrakarin Rishi.

The word Gotra is formed from the two Sanskrit words Gau (meaning Cow) and Trahi (meaning Shed). Note that the English word Cow is a derived word of the Sanskrit word Gau with the same meaning Gau.

So Gotra means Cowshed, where in the context is that Gotra is like the Cowshed protecting a particular male lineage. Cows are extremely important sacred animals to Hindus and there were a large number of best breeds of Cows that ancient Hindus reared and worshipped, and hence the name Gotra referring to the system of maintaining individual male lineages seems more appropriate.

This Gotra system helps one identify his male lineage and is passed down automatically from Father to Son. But the Gotra system does not get automatically passed down from Father to Daughter. Suppose a person with Gotra Angirasa has a Son. Now suppose the Son gets married to a girl whose father belongs to Gotra Kashyapa. The Gotra of the girl automatically is said to become Angirasa after her marriage even though her father belonged to Gotra Kashyapa.

So the rule of the Gotra system is that the Gotra of men remains the same, while the Gotra of the woman becomes the Gotra of their husband after marriage. Now suppose a person has only daughters and no sons. In that case his Gotra will end with him in that lineage because his daughters will belong to the Gotras of their husbands after their marriage!

This was probably the reason why in the ancient vedic or hindu societies it was preferred to have atleast one Son along with any number of daughters, so that the Gotra of the father could continue.

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HitXP Science of Genetics behind the Hindu Gotra System ...

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