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Difference between Gotra and pravara?

Kalyani PandeyPosted: 16 Jun 2017
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Kalyani Pandey 16 Jun 2017

A good question to ask. Many people do not know what is the basis for

the Gotra and pravara system.


Basically, a Gotra literally meaning Cow pen indicates lineage of a



In the olden days, the life of the people was centered on looking

after their herd of cows. Cows were the property of the community and

their protection etc used to be the principal occupation. By then,

the Varna system (the four fold occupational division of Indian

society) has not started because there was no development of

occupations as such.


The religion also more community based rather than personal. The

concept of personal gods has not come into picture by then and all

the people used to pray to the god of nature. I dont think even Indra

was worshipped during these days.


The original patriarch was recognized as Praja pati or Brahma and his

regents on the earth were the ten brahmas :

1. Marichi

2. Atri

3. Angirasa

4. Pulaha

5. Pulasthya

6. Krathu

7. Vasishta

8. Prachethasa

9. Bhrigu

10. Narada

All the communities (or cow pens) are originally centered around

these 10 brahmas since they were supposed to be the sons of the

Prajapati or the Creator. Thus, a person has come to be known by the

Brahma of the community he belonged to. This is what is called as

Gotra( lineage based on cow pen one belonged to)

Out of these, Narada has refused to be a part of the proliferation

and remained bachelor .But it is more probable that even if he has

prolifirated, he and his people might have not settled at a place and

might have been absorbed into whichever Gotra they have been married


The Gotras of pulaha and paulastrya also vanished for various reasons.

With time, the remaining seven gotras have transformed to the present

day primary gotras and in fact, new gotras have also formed from

them. A s per one estimate, there were no less than 73 gotras in the

Rg Vedic times. But all these gotras formed only on the basis of the

above 7 Gotras or their modifications.


With times, there was the Varna systems and with growth of

occupations and the societies, kings have come into existance. The

primary duty of ksatriyas was to protect has been turned into more

important responsibility of governing. Thus, the lineages have

changed from Gotras into the kingly dynasties.

Some people have a misunderstanding that only Brahmins have gotras.

It is not so, since at the time of formation of gotras there was no

varna or caste system present.

Today, we see that people belonging to several castes outside the

castes of Brahmins, ksatriyas and vaisyas bearing gotras. However,

most of these gotras have come into existance after the formation of

Caste system.

Varna systme has collapsed in post Mahabharat times and caste system

has grown out of the collapsed varna system, at a much later time.

Most of the known gotras have come into existance in the post caste


Pravara is different from Gotra in the sense that it indicates the

grouping of gotras. Marriages are prohibited amongst ones own Gotra

or pravara.

It is scientific and socially accepted that one should avoid

marriages in ones own relatives and marrying outside ones gotra or

pravara constructs the basic rules of marriage.

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