Hindus Gotra System: Scientific Meaning of Gotra in the Vedas


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gotra

In Hindu society, the term gotra means clan. It broadly refers to people who are descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor.

However, all families having same gotra need not be cousins. They can be descendants of sons or disciples or even adopted sons of the Rishi(Seer), who is the root and whose name is used as Gotra. For example if a person says that he belongs to the Kutsa Gotra then it means that he traces back his male ancestry to the ancient Rishi (Saint or Seer) Kutsa.

Gotra means cowshed (Go=Cow, tra=shed) in Sanskrit. Paini 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. This system was started among Brahmins, with a purpose to classify and identify the families in the community.

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

. Angirasa
. Atri
. Gautam
. Kashyapa
. Bhrigu
. Vasistha
. Kutsa
. Bharadwaja

The offspring (apatya) of these eight are gotras and others than these are called ‘ gotravayava. These eight sages are called gotrakarins from whom all the 49 gotras (especially of the Brahmins) have evolved.

For instance, from Atri sprang the Atreya and Gavisthiras gotras.In almost all Hindu families, marriage within the same gotra is prohibited, since people with same gotra are considered to be siblings.

But the hidden reason behind this practice is the ‘Y’ Chromosome which is expected to be common among all male in same gotra. So, the woman too carries similar ‘X’ Chromosome and if married, their offspring may be born with birth defects. Few families even maintain their Pravara which is a list of all seers through which their Gotra was derived.

It connects to the root Seer. Gotra is always passed on from father to children among most Hindus, just like lastname(surname) is passed on worldwide. However, among Malayalis and Tulu’s its passed on from mother to children.

gotra2

Additional rule in the Gotra system is that, even if the Bride and Bridegroom belong to different Gotras, they still cannot get married even if just one of their Gotra Pravara matches. Now, why only male carries fixed lastname and gotra and why female can change her last name, gotra after marriage?

Genes and Chromosomes Among Humans

Humans have 23 pairs of Chromosomes and in each pair one Chromosome comes from the father and the other comes from the mother. So in all we have 46 Chromosomes in every cell, of which 23 come from the mother and 23 from the father.

Of these 23 pairs, there is one pair called the Sex Chromosomes which decide the gender of the person. During conception, if the resultant cell has XX sex chromosomes then the child will be a girl and if it is XY then the child will be a boy. X chromosome decides the female attributes of a person and Y Chromosome decides the male attributes of a person.

When the initial embryonic cell has XY chromosome, the female attributes get suppressed by the genes in the Y Chromosome and the embryo develops into a male child. Since only men have Y Chromosomes, son always gets his Y Chromosome from his father and the X Chromosome from his mother. On the other hand daughters always get their X Chromosomes, one each from both father and mother.

So the Y Chromosome is always preserved throughout a male lineage (Father – Son – Grandson etc) because a Son always gets it from his father, while the X Chromosome is not preserved in the female lineage (Mother, Daughter, Grand Daughter etc) because it comes from both father and mother.

A mother will pass either her mother’s X Chromosome to her Children or her father’s X Chromosome to her children or a combination of both because of both her X Chromosomes getting mixed (called as Crossover).

On the other hand, a Son always gets his father’s Y Chromosome and that too almost intact without any changes because there is no corresponding another Y chromosome in his cells to do any mixing as his combination is XY, while that of females is XX which hence allows for mixing as both are X Chromosomes.

Women never get this Y Chromosome in their body. And hence Y Chromosome plays a crucial role in modern genetics in identifying the Genealogy ie male ancestry of a person. And the Gotra system was designed to track down the root Y Chromosome of a person quite easily. If a person belongs to Angirasa Gotra then it means that his Y Chromosome came all the way down over thousands of years of timespan from the Rishi Angirasa!

And if a person belongs to a Gotra (say Bharadwaja) with Pravaras (Angirasa, Bhaarhaspatya, Bharadwaja), then it means that the person’s Y Chromosome came all the way down from Angirasa to Bhaarhaspatya to Bharadwaja to the person.

This also makes it clear why females are said to belong to the Gotra of their husbands after marriage. That is because women do not carry Y Chromosome, and their Sons will carry the Y Chromosome of the Father and hence the Gotra of a woman is said to be that of her husband after marriage.

gotra5

Y is the only Chromosome which does not have a similar pair in the human body. The pair of the Y Chromosome in humans is X Chromosome which is significantly different from Y Chromosome. Even the size of the Y Chromosome is just about one third the size of the X Chromosome. In other words throughout evolution the size of the Y Chromosome has been decreasing and it has lost most of its genes and has been reduced to its current size.

Scientists are debating whether Y Chromosome will be able to survive for more than a few million years into the future or whether it will gradually vanish, and if it does so whether it will cause males to become extinct! Obviously because Y Chromosome is the one which makes a person male or a man.

Y Chromosome has to depend on itself to repair any of its injuries and for that it has created duplicate copies of its genes within itself. However this does not stop DNA damages in Y Chromosome which escape its local repair process from being propagated into the offspring males.

This causes Y Chromosomes to accumulate more and more defects over a prolonged period of evolution and scientists believe that this is what is causing the Y Chromosome to keep losing its weight continuously.

Y Chromosome which is crucial for the creation and evolution of males has a fundamental weakness which is denying it participation in the normal process of evolution via Chromosomal mix and match to create better versions in every successive generation, and this weakness MAY lead to the extinction of Y Chromosome altogether over the next few million years, and if that happens scientists are not sure whether that would cause males to become extinct or not.

And that is because Scientists are not sure whether any other Chromosome in the 23 pairs will be able to take over the role of the Y Chromosome or not.

On the other hand, it is not necessary that humanity will not be able to survive if males become extinct. Note that females do not need the Y Chromosome, and since all females have X Chromosomes, it would be still possible to create a mechanism where X Chromosomes from different females are used to create offspring, say like injecting the nuclei from the egg of one female into the egg of another female to fertilize it and that would grow into a girl child. So yes, that would be a humanity where only females exist.

Even modern scientists have concluded that children born to parents having blood relation (like cousins) can have birth defects. For example, there is a recessive dangerous gene in one person.

What this means is that say a person is carrying a dangerous abnormality causing gene in one of his chromosome, but whose effect has been hidden in that person (or is not being expressed) because the corresponding gene in the pairing Chromosome is stronger and hence is preventing this abnormality causing gene from activating.

Now there are fair chances that his offsprings will be carriers of these genes throughout successive generations. As long as they keep marrying outside his genetic imprint, there is a fair chance that the defective gene will remain inactive since others outside this person’s lineage most probably do not have that defective gene.

Now if after 5-10 generations down the line say one of his descendants marries some other descendant who may be really far away cousins. But then there is a possibility that both of them are still carrying the defective gene, and in that case their children will definitely have the defective gene express itself and cause the genetic abnormality in them as both the Chromosomes in the pair have the defective genes.

Hence, the marriages between cousins always have a chance of causing an otherwise recessive, defective genes to express themselves resulting in children with genetic abnormalities.

So, Ancient Vedic Rishis created the Gotra system where they barred marriage between a boy and a girl belonging to the same Gotra no matter how deep the lineage tree was, in a bid to prevent inbreeding and completely eliminate all recessive defective genes from the human DNA.

36 comments on "Hindus Gotra System: Scientific Meaning of Gotra in the Vedas"

  1. Dr. Sukanta Biswas says:

    Very informative article with scientific background. Thanks for such article.

  2. Subramanian says:

    Baradwaja is the grandson of Angirasa and son of Barhaspatya; hence only 7 rishis and no +

  3. Loveleshanand Sarswati says:

    Informative ….
    Thanks

  4. Shriram M N says:

    Very detailed and scientific approach makes it highly authentic.
    Shriram

  5. Dr.Goli Anjaneyulu says:

    Scientific foresight of out elders for the best future of the generation is commendable. Present generation should understand, appreciate and follow these traditions for the coming generation to be healthy and intellectual.

  6. SURESH AGARWAL says:

    Thanks for scientific & valuable information.

  7. Sushila says:

    Very informative information . most of the time we don’t know why we are doing what we are doing . If we can provide the reasons to young ones we will sustain ancient knoweldge.

    Thanks sushil

  8. dr kanthi says:

    very informative and useful article

  9. usha says:

    There are few errors in your write up
    1.Now there are fair chances that his offsprings will be carriers of these genes throughout successive generations. The chance is not ” fair” . it is 50%
    2. cousins and uncles do marry in our system.Just because a woman does not carry the Y chromosome, does not mean she cannot carry the same recessive gene her brother inherited. This will certainly result in recessive disease manifesting. The recessive genes are on autosomes and not sex chromosomes. so, marrying a cousin who is thru his mother, will still carry the risk of recessive diseases manifesting.
    3. When cousins marry, the risk of recessive genes manifesting is not ” always” the chance is 25 % in each pregnancy

  10. Manjunath says:

    Good information linked scientifically.

  11. Yogesh says:

    You have not mentioned kaushik gotra.

  12. manivannan says:

    superb info. hands off to the author

  13. SRIRAM says:

    DEAR SIR/MADAM
    DAY OF THE GREETINGS
    THIS INFORMATION IS VERY USEFUL TO EVERY HINDU WHO MAINTAINS TRADITIONS
    THANKING YOU VERY MUCH
    SINCERELY
    SRIRAM

  14. Kavita mittal says:

    Very true. Informative for young generations.

  15. Mahesh Yadav says:

    It Was Really Good And Came To know Many thing Form This Article

  16. Shivkumar says:

    Excellent Article expressed in a sceintific way, highlighting the deeper ascpects of Gothra system. I still have a Lingering doubt, what about westerners and Non Indians who do not practice this. Are they carrying defective genes. If so, they should have more deformities. Please explain.
    Thanks

  17. Dr Ravindranath says:

    Wonderful, authentic and very informative article.
    Dr Ravindranath

  18. Natrajan says:

    Thanks for the enlightening article.

  19. Revanna says:

    It is highly informative for those who are really practicing spiritual aspects to know scientifically.

  20. CS Prasad says:

    Excellent description of the significance of Gotras.

  21. Jay Kundu says:

    the Gotra system in Hinduism very well explained. Its astonishing how did the Rishis knew about Chromosomes etc.

  22. Lavang says:

    Very informative article indeed.
    But if a person doesn’t know his gotra, how can it be found out. Is there any system or knowledge which helps…

  23. Muralidharan says:

    very informative. this helps relating the vedic principles scientifically . thanks for posting the article. looking forward for more such sastras.

  24. Dr.Maheshchhander Bharadvaz says:

    Really your very useful informations giving to us the scientific
    knowledge behind the Hindu systems.
    Thanks a lot.

  25. Dr.Vadrevu Sujatha says:

    It is very good article. Now we have not done any invention. Everything is done by our ancestors. We are only followers.
    I bow my head to our ancestors.
    sujatha

  26. Bijay K Padhi says:

    A boy has Y chromosome from father and x chromosome from mother (this x chromosome might have come from his mother’s mother/mother’s father’s mother). Then whose characteristics will dominate in his personality ? The same question for a girl also.

  27. N.S.Raman says:

    Though Scientifically established, facts enunciated in the Vedas are absolute truths beyond perhaps human comprehension. Branding them as “superstition” by so called rationalists is nothing but absolute ignorance. Raman

  28. Bijay K Padhi says:

    This is a very important informative article which all need to know

  29. MAHADI SETHU RAO says:

    Good scientific reason given which really requires at this stage of undrstanding at present circumstances.Thanks.

  30. vishnupriya torangal says:

    Very rare information it is. Thanx

  31. Dr. Avinash Dixit says:

    What a scholarly description. So clear and well described.
    – Many many thanks…

  32. Spiritual Pursuant says:

    The article sounds very scientifically impressive to me and any medical expert can acknowledge that would be great. My family does follow these Gothra, especially in marriage very well and glad I come to know the logical reasoning behind this. My question is, the modern world tend not to follow this Gothras and perform marriages according to their wish with mixed marriages (mixture of caste, religion, race, etc.,) Does these X & Y chromosome and the health factor will be very well addressed in such format of marriages and bearing children out of that marriages.

  33. Narinder Sharma says:

    It is very beneficial site . The youngest or new generation can take his old/ancient knowledge. Thanks for such precious articles.

  34. Divakar says:

    You said Gotras are also given to a student who is not blood relative! In that case what’s wrong a student marrying an other person where there is no blood relationship? But Gotra would be same! Even though they are not related!

  35. SuchindranathAiyerS says:

    Gothra is not clan. It is ancestry which is expressed in the heraldry of “Pravara”

  36. t.v.partha saradhi says:

    A verygood analysis and informative indeed.

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