general, gotra denotes all persons who trace descent in an unbroken
male line from a common male ancestor. Panini defines gotra for grammatical
purposes as 'apatyam pautraprabhrti gotram', which means 'the word gotra
denotes the progeny (of a sage) beginning with the son's son. In days
gone by the Gotra was the basis of deciding matrimonial alliances. In
order to avoid inbreeding persons from the same clan or Gotra were forbidden
Many lines of descent from the major rishis were later grouped separately.
Accordingly, the major gotras were divided into ganas (subdivisions)
and each gana was further divided into groups of families. The term
gotra was then frequently started being applied to the ganas and to
Every Brahmin claims to be a direct descendant of one of the founding
rishis of a certain gana or sub-gana. It is the gana or sub-gana that
is now commonly referred to as gotra.
When a person says ' I belong to Gautam-gotra' he means that he traces
his descent from the ancient sage Gautam by unbroken male descent.
According to the Baudhayanas rauta-sutra Vishvamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadvaj,
Gautam, Atri, Vasishth, Kashyap and Agastya are 8 sages; the progeny
of these eight sages is declared to be Gotras. This enumeration of eight
primary gotras seems to have been known to Panini. The offspring (apatya)
of these eight are gotras and others than these are called ' gotra vayava
of Idhar Vyas family is Gautam.