The gotra of a Brahmin denotes all those who trace descent from a common ṛṣi ancestor. Pāṇini defines gotra as the progeny of a ṛṣi. The Baudhāyana Śrautasūtra enumerates that the initial chief gotras (or root gotras) are founded on the name of the following eight ṛṣis –
Over a period of time all other Brahmin gotras evolved from one of the above gotras. The Āśvalāyana Śrautasūtra mentions that the initial chief gotras are again divided into divisional gotras (i.e., ganas), then into sub-divisional gotras (i.e., pakshas) and finally into individual gotras.
Pravara is defined as the group of sages that distinguishes the founder (starter) of one individual gotra from another. Pravara is the number of the most illustrious ṛṣis, who belonged to that particular individual gotra. The pravara starts with the name of the chief gotra and ends with the name of the founder of the individual gotra. Generally, the pravara identifies the connection of a person with two, three or sometimes five most illustrious ṛṣis making up a group in an individual gotra. According to the Āśvalāyana Śrautasūtra, the pravaras were instituted on the name of the following ṛṣis –
Āngira (Embracing Gautam and Bharadwāja),
According to Govind Sadashiv Ghurye, the pravara scheme was formulated around 600 BCE and during the same period Baudhāyana appended to his Śrautasūtra a list of 800-odd gotras and pravaras that go with them.
While the Vedas were considered as the ultimate source of dharma, oral texts were formulated between the eighth and fourth centuries BCE, within the Vedic traditions (śākhās), concerned with ritual and law. These texts are known as Kalpa Sūtras. They form part of a body of knowledge, the auxiliary sciences, known as the Vedāṇgas (i.e., the limbs of the Vedas). While Vedas are considered as revelation, the Kalpa Sūtras are considered as tradition or secondary revelation, smṛti (i.e., remembered text) composed by ṛṣis within the various Vedic schools.
The Kalpa Sūtras are categorized into three groups:
(1) The Śrautasūtras texts deal with the correct performance of the solemn or public rites. These texts are called Śrauta because they follow from śruti, lay down the rules, in a highly technical form, for the performance of public, Vedic rituals.
Āpastamba Śrautasūtra, Āśvalāyana Śrautasūtra, Baudhāyana Śrautasūtra, Hiraṇyakeśin Śrautasūtra, Jaiminiya Śrautasūtra, Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra, Lātyāyana Śrautasūtra, Mānava Śrautasūtra, Sāṅkhāyana Śrautasūtra, and Vaitāna Śrautasūtra are some of the Śrautasūtras.
(2) The Grhyasūtras are the treatises of the domestic rites. They describe different kinds of rituals (yajṅa) to be performed in the home.
Āpastamba Grhyasūtra, Āśvalāyana Grhyasūtra, Baudhāyana Grhyasūtra, Gobhil Grhyasūtra, Hiraṇyakeśin Grhyasūtra, Jaiminiya Grhyasūtra, Katyāyana Grhyasūtra, Kauthuma Grhyasūtra, and Śāṅkhāyana Gr̥hyasūtra are few Grhyasūtras.
(3) The Dharmasūtras deal with law and social ethics. These texts develop material found in the Grhyasūtras and are concerned with the rules for performing domestic rites, jurisprudence, and rules pertaining to the four stages of life (āśramas).
Āpastamba Dharmasūtra, Baudhāyana Dharmasūtra, Gautam Dharmasūtra, Hiraṇyakeśin Dharmasūtra, Vaśiśṭha Dharmasūtra, and Vishnu Dharmasūtra are some prominent Dharmasūtras.
The śākhas (or branches) enunciates the Brahminical ideology of dharma by the Vedic traditions or schools in texts concerned with the performance of ritualistic order of Vedic sacrifice, which refers especially to the performance of the solemn rites enjoined on all Brahmins, to the domestic rituals, and obligations appropriate to one’s family and social group.
According to the Vyākaṛaṇa Mahābhāshya of Patañjali, there were 21 śākhās of Rigveda, 9 of Atharvaveda, 101 of Yajurveda (86 of Ḳrsna Yajurveda and 15 of Śukla Yajurveda) and a 1000 recensions of chanting of Sāmaveda.
- The recensions of the Rigveda probably extant today are - Āśvalāyana, Bāṣhkala, Kauṡitaki, Mandūkya, Paiṇgi, Śākala, and Ṡankhāyana.
- The recensions of Sāmaveda probably extant today are – Bhallavi, Jaiminiya/Talāvakara, Kauthuma, Ranāyaṇiya, and Ṡatyāyana.
- The śākhās of the Śukla Yajurveda (i.e., White Yajurveda) possibly exist today are – Kaṇva, Katyāyana, and Vājasaneyi Mādhyandina.
- The śākhās of the Ḳrsna Yajurveda (i.e., Black Yajurveda) possibly alive today are – Ċaraka Kathā, Jabāla, Kapisthala Kathā, Maitrāyaṇi, and Taittiriya.
- The Atharvaveda śākhās perhaps exist today are - Paippalāda, and Ṡaunaka.
The information on the śākhas of the Vedas is organized in Caranavyūha (i.e., the displays of the branch or school of the Vedas). There are three notable books of Caranavyūha, attributed respectively to Ṡaunaka, Katyāyana, and Vyāsa. A group of Brahmins, who studied a particular śākhā in its entirety (i.e., Samhita, Brāhmaṇa, Arāṇyaka, Kalpa Sūtras, and any additional texts) and performed its ritual, was said to follow a Carana (i.e., school or branch of the Veda)”. For instance, Brahmins who studied the Taittiriya Samhita/ Brāhmaṇa/Arāṇyaka together with the Kalpa Sūtras of Āpastamba were said to follow the “Āpastamba Carana”.
The Pancha-Gaur Brahmins in north India have also been extensively following a further classification within the gotras besides abiding by the above-mentioned affiliations. Vipra-śāsana system or alla (Hindi: अल्ल) refers to further classification within the gotra and gives information about the place where a respective Brahmin family earlier lived. Generally, a vipra-śāsana was a village where Brahmins of various gotras used to live in. A pradhan (purohit), i.e., a chief priest heads the śāsana and guides the other Brahmins of the village during religious or ceremonial sacrifices. Often one śāsana is found in more than one gotra, and more than one śāsana is found in a gotra. Each śāsana has a distinct name, signifying the name of some ancient village. Some gotras have a large number of śāsanas associated with them. The full vipra-śāsana (or alla) of a Brahmin can be described as –-
Śāsana title from the village-name (i.e., Village-name ke alla title) -
For example: -
- Bhatt from the village Manikpur (i.e., Manikpur ke Bhatt),
- Upadhyay from the village Khyamal (i.e., Khyamal ke Upadhyay).
The name Gautam (Sanskrit: गौतम, a vrddhi patronymic of Gotama and also transliterated as Gautama or Gauthama) is one of the ancient Indian names and is derived from the Sanskrit roots "gŐ(गः)" and "tama (तम)". "Tama" means “darkness” and "gŐ" means inter alia "bright light". Together, they indicate that one, who dispels darkness (i.e., ignorance) by his brilliance (i.e., spiritual knowledge).
Credited to the great sage, a descendent of Mahaṛṣi Āngira, the name ‘‘Gautam’’ might have come into limelight first during the Vedic age. The lineage of Āngira Mahaṛṣi, which branched off into those of Gautam, Bharadwaja and Kevala Āngira, the one bearing the name of Gautam is one of the largest groups. His lineage itself branched off into ten subsets of ṛṣis. The following list includes the pravaras of all ten ṛṣis, commencing with the name of "Āngira" and having the name of Gautam.
Āyāsya - Āngira, Āyāsya, Gautam
Śāradvaṭa - Āngira, Gautam, Śāradvaṭa
Kaumanḍá - Āngira, Aucathya, Kākṣhivata, Gautam, Kaumaṇḍa
Dirghatamas - Āngira, Aucathya, Kākṣhivata, Gautam, Dirghatamas or Āngira, Āyāsya, Aushija, Gautam, Kākṣhivata
Auśanasa - Āngira, Gautam, Auśanasa
Kareṇupāli - Āngira, Gautam, Kareṇupāli
Rāhúgaṇa - Āngira, Rāhúgaṇa, Gautam
Somarājaka - Āngira, Somarājaka, Gautam
Vāmadeva - Āngira, Vāmadeva, Gautam
Brihdgéta - Āngira, Brihdgéta, Gautam
The name had a conjuring effect by virtue of the merits of the great Vedic ṛṣi Gautam and his illustrious descendent ṛṣis so much so that, numerous other persons sought to assume this name in ancient times. There were several great and renowned ṛṣis, who belonged to the Gautam gotra but all of them assumed the generic name of Gautam only.
The author of the Dharamaśāstra was the son or grandson of the sage Aucathya, and the grandson or great-grandson of sage Auśanasa. The aphoristic law-book, usually attributed to the Mahaṛṣi Gautam, is in reality a manual belonging to a Gautam Karana (i.e., sage Kareṇupāli). The Vaṃsa Brāhmaṅa of the Sāmaveda enumerates four members of the Gautam family among the teachers, viz. Gâtri, Sumantra Bâbhrava, Saṃkara, and Râdha, who handed down the third Veda and all were referred to as Gautam.
The Rigveda Samhita and the Sathapatha Brāhmaṅa of the Śukla Yajurveda mentions one Gautam as a son of Rāhúgaṇa, the chief priest of the Royal family of Kuru empire, who himself was addressed as Gautam. The Vālmiki Ramāyana mentions a Mahaṛṣi Gautam, who had his hermitage in Mithila where he lived with his wife, Ahalya. The Vayu Puraṇa refers to a sage named Akṣapāda, who was the conceiver of the Nyāya philosophy, as Mahaṛṣi Gautam. Akṣapāda was the same as Ahalya’s husband Mahaṛṣi Gautam of Mithila.
Nodha, a son of Mahaṛṣi Gautam, who was attributed to the creation of several hymns of Rigveda, was also called as Gautam [. The Chandogya Upanishad of the Sāmaveda mentions another teacher named Haridrumata as Gautam. The Kathopanishad of the Ḳrsna Yajurveda mentions the sage Nachiketa, who conversed with Yama on the mystery of life, as Gautam; which evidently was a generic name as his father is also mentioned as Gautam in the same text. The great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, following the Adhyatma Ramayana, described a sage Dirghatapas (i.e., one in deep penance) as Gautam.
Mahaṛṣi Gautam was one of the greatest Hindu sages. He was one of the Saptaṛṣis (seven great sages) in the present Manvantara, with others being Āngira, Atri, Bhrigu, Kaśyapa, Kutsa, Vaśiśṭha. Mahaṛṣi Gautam was one of the most ancient conceiver of a Dharmasūtra. Gautam’s Dharmasūtra is also known as Gautamasūtra or Gautamasmṛiti. Gautam’s Dharmasūtra says that the Veda is the source of dharma and also of the traditions which flow from it. There are three sources of dharma according to the Dharmasūtra: revelation (i.e., the Vedas), tradition (smṛiti), and good customs of the virtuous or those learned in the Vedas.
Gautam shows a marked partiality for the Sāmaveda. Among the eighteen special texts, not less than nine Sâmans (i.e., a sacred text or verse, intend to be chanted) are found. However, some of the latter Sâmans, like the Brihat, Rthantara, Gyeshtha, and Mahâdivâkrîtya chants, are also mentioned in the works belonging to the Rigveda and the Yajurveda, and are considered by Brahmins of all schools to possess great efficacy.
The Vedic Saṃhitas, Brāhmaṅas and Upaniśads shed light on the naming patterns in ancient times  There were five types of naming patterns in vogue, viz.
(1) An independent given name,
(2) A patronym, i.e., a name derived from the father’s name,
(3) A matronym, i.e., a name derived from the mother’s name,
(4) A clan name (or gotra), a name derived from one’s clan (or gotra), based on the name of a remote ancestor, and
(5) A yajnik name; this pattern was reserved only for Brahmins performing specific type of sacrifice.
In those days, a personal full name normally could have a combination of any two or three of the above naming patterns.
(1) Given name + Patronym - Bhrigu Varuni, Bharata Daushyanti.
(2) Given name + Matronym - Deerghatama Mamateya, Kakshivat Ausija, Mahdasa Aitareya.
(3) Given name + gotra - Balaki Gargya, Chyavana Bhargava.
The current naming practices in India can be traced to the massive advent of European in India during the 18th century. Since the intractability of the Indian naming methods and their meanings confounded the Europeans, they supposedly introduced the naming method, of having first name, middle name, and last name in their urge to influence, modernize and develop the Indian system accordingly.
Many persons in India have thence started adopting the name Gautam as their first name or the last name for one or the other reasons, particularly since the beginning of the 20th century.
Some of the Hindu Brahmins residing in various regions of India, who used to identify themselves with generic Hindu Brahmin last names, such as Sharma or vipra-śāsana (i.e., alla) title, such as Mishra, Tiwari, Joshi etc., have also started assuming the last name Gautam, mainly because of their affiliation either with Gautam gotra and/or with Gautam Dharamasûtra.
M. A. Sherring in 1860 compiled around 2,000 sub-castes of Brahmins. He considered the list incomplete. The sub-groups and sub-castes of Brahmins are generally classified on the basis of either their affiliation or the geographical regions they are located in.
Gautam Brahmins, in fact, is a culturally heterogenous group of different sub-castes of those Hindu Brahmins, who affiliate either with Gautam gotra and/or with Gautam Dharamasûtra and generally identify themselves with the last name Gautam.
Examples (with triarsheya pravara):
A Gautam Brahmin may identify himself using the full affiliation as:
I am -
(1) - of Gautam gotra, of Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra, of Kātyāyana Grhyasūtra, of Baudhāyana Dharmasūtra, of Vājasaneyi Mādhyandina śākhā of Śukla Yajurveda, of three pravaras named Āngira, Āyāsya, Gautam.
(2) - of Śandilya gotra, of Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra, of Kātyāyana Grhyasūtra, of Gautam Dharmasūtra, of Vājasaneyi Mādhyandina śākhā of Śukla Yajurveda, of three pravaras named Śandilya, Asita, Dewata.
(3) - of Gautam gotra, of Jaiminiya Śrautasūtra, of Gobhil Grhyasūtra, of Gautam Dharmasūtra, of Kauthuma śākhā of Sāmaveda, of three pravaras named Āngira, Bṛhaspati, Gautam.
(4) - of Yajñavalkya gotra, of Kātyāyana Śrautasūtra, of Kātyāyana Grhyasūtra, of Gautam Dharmasūtra, of Vājasaneyi Mādhyandina śākhā of Śukla Yajurveda, of three pravaras named Vaśiśṭha, Lomash, Yajñavalkya.
In modern times, many Hindu Brahmins, however, don’t know their full affiliation, i.e., to which gotra, pravara, sûtra, and shākha they affiliate with.
Some Hindu Brahmins of Saraswat and Gaur group and their sub-divisions in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, who affiliate with Gautam gotra, identify themselves with the last name Gautam.
Some Hindu Gaur Brahmins of western Uttar Pradesh, adjoining Rajasthan and Haryana identify themselves with the last name Gautam because of their affiliation with Gautam Dharmasūtra. These Hindu Brahmins, however, affiliate with various Brahmins gotras.
Some Hindu Brahmins of Kanyakubja, Saryupari and Maithili group and their sub-divisions in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Nepal also assume the last name Gautam primarily because of their affiliation with Gautam gotra.
Some Hindu Brahmins of Gaur group and their sub-divisions, especially Gurjar-Gaur Brahmins in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, adopt the last name Gautam mainly owing to their affiliation with Gautam gotra.
- cf. Early Brahmanical system of gotra and pravara: A translation of the Gotra-pravara-manjari of Purusottama-Pandita.
- cf. A History of Brahmin Clans.
- cf. Indian caste, Volume II. p. 16.
- cf. Indian sociology through Ghurye, a dictionary, 1997, p. 32.
- cf. An Introduction of Hinduism, 1996, p. 53-55.
- cf. The Ritual Sutras (A History of Indian Literature; Vol. 1, Veda and Upanishads, Fasc. 2).
- cf. The Vedic Shakhas, Retrieved 2012-04-24.
- cf. The Veda and Indian culture: An introductory essay, 1991.
- cf. The article was taken from http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/srirangasri/archives/srsvol/threads.html, Sri Ranga Sri archives with permission of Anbil Ramaswamy and was based on the monograph of Mahaamah Opaadhyaaya Sri Srivatsaankaachaar Swami, Head of Dept. French Indolgical Research Institute, Pondicherry and “MaharishigaL Charitram” by Mimamsa SirOmaNi Mimamsa Vidvan Mimamsa Kovida, Ubhaya Mimamsa Saaragjna, Veda Vedanta ChooDaamaNi Sri N.S. Devanathachariar, referred by Sri Srivatsankachariar Swami. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
- cf. Introduction to Gautam Sutras - The Institutes of Gautama.
- cf. Gauthama Maharshi (Part 3): The Illustrious Gauthamas. The following information is quoted/referred from The Nyaya Sutras of Gotama: by Satis Chandra Vidyabhusana. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
- cf. Inhabitants of the Worlds, 1913.
- cf. Panorama of Indian Anthroponomy: - - -, 2005, p. 82
- cf. "The Necessity of Naming: - - -". Retrieved 2012-04-26
- cf. Hindu tribes and castes, 1872
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