Etymology of Gotra
Gotra is the Sanskrit term for a much older system of tribal clans. The literal meaning of Gotra is ‘cow-pen’ or ‘cow-shed’ in archaic Rig Vedic Sanskrit. The Vedic people for the identification of the lineages initially used the Sanskrit word ‘Gotra’.
Concept of Gotra
The concept of Gotra relates directly to the Sapta Rishis of the Vedas associated with the seven stars of the Great Bear constellation as according to original Hindu Vedic system. The seven rishis were Gautama, Bharadwaja, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Vasistha, Kashyapa and Atri.
Types of Gotras
As mentioned above, Gotra stands for lineage or clan assigned to a Hindu at birth. Hence, it is believed that people belonging to the same gotra also belong to the same caste in the Hindu social system.
Some of the common lineages are as follows:
Significance of Gotra in Marriage
It is common practice in Hindu marriage to enquire about the Kula-Gotra meaning Cult-Clan of the bride and bridegroom before approving the marriage. While marriage within the kula is allowed and even preferred, marriage within the Gotra is not allowed. This is because; marriages within the gotra are banned under the rule of exogamy in the traditional matrimonial system. People within the gotra are regarded as kin and marrying such a person would be thought of as incest. In some communities, where gotra membership passed from father to children, marriages were allowed between uncle and niece but in the matrilineal societies this is strictly banned.