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In Brahmin Hindu culture, a Pravara (Sanskrit for "most excellent") is a particular Brahmin's descent from a rishi (sage) who belonged to their gotra (clan). In vedic ritual, the importance of the pravara appears to be in its use by the ritualist for extolling his ancestry and proclaiming, "as a descendant of worthy ancestors, I am a fit and proper person to do the act I am performing." Generally, there are three, five or seven pravaras. The sacred thread yajnopavita worn on upanayana has close and essential connection with the concept of pravaras related to Brahmin gotra system. While tying the knots of sacred thread, an oath is taken in the name of each one of these three, five or seven of the most excellent rishis belonging to one's gotra.

The full affiliation of a brāhamana consists of (1) gotra, (2)sutra (of Kalpa), (3)shakha, (4)pravaras .

(Example :) A brahmana named 'Rama' introduces himself as follows : I am 'Rama', of Sarvarna gotra, of Gobhil sutra, of Taittiriya shākha of Saamved, of five pravaras named Bhārgava, Chyāvana, Āpnavan, Aurva and Jāmdagnya (This example is based upon the example given by Pattābhirām Shastri in the introduction to Vedārtha-Pārijata, cf. ref.).

While the gotras were classified initially according to seven rishis, the pravaras were classified under the names of the following seven rishis: Agastya, Angirasa, Atri, Bhrigu, Kashyap, Vashista, and Vishvamitra.

According to the listing of authors included in the verses in Rigved, the rishi Jamadagni was a descendant of rishi Bhrigu while the rishis Gautam and Bharadvaja were the descendants of rishi Angirasa.

The pravara identifies the association of a person with two, three (or sometimes five) of the above-mentioned rishis. It also signifies the Sutras contributed to different Vedas by those rishis.

For example, Gothram has 2 rishis associated with it viz., Nidruva and Avatsara. Another Gothram in Andhra Pradesh has 7 Rishis associated with it viz. Aavatsara, Naidruva, Rebha, Raibha, Sandila, Sandilya.

Pravaras also help in identifying different gotras bearing the same name. For eg: Harita Gotra with Pravaras Angirasa, Ambarisha, Yuvanaswa is different from Harita Gotra which has a single Pravara Vashishta

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Further reading[edit]

  • Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Monier-Williams, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd, 55-Rani Jhansi Road, New Delhi-110055, Third Print 1988; (original publication Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1899).
  • Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Monier-Williams, ISBN 0-19-864308-X.
  • Vedārtha-Pārijāta by Swāmi Karpātri, introduction by Pattābhirām Śāstri, Śri Rādhā krishna Dhanuka Prakāśan Sansthān, Calcutta ; Sañchālaka : Vedaśāstra Research Centre, Kedārghat, Vārānasi,1979 (Sanskrit and Hindi, the introduction has an English translation as well).

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