Gotra गोत्र is important in families who follow Sanatan Dharma. It is the family lineage, it is the genetic ancestry, the DNA coupled with the consciousness. Every human being has a Gotra, but those who do not follow the Sanatan Dharma have forgotten that it exists.
Go (गो) has several meanings in Sanskrit – cow, 1, 9, billion, stars, sky, Vajra, ray of light, diamond, heavens, earth, arrow, words, Devi Sarasvati, mother, direction, water, eye, hair, sense organs, sun, moon, singer, house, evolution, sacrifice, hill, tree, wave, bird, the abdomen, horn, etc. And त्र here means protection, propagation, help, deliver etc. So the concept of Gotra गोत्र carries a sense of protection of the Go in some way and is also the seed of the Go.
Our DNA makes us unique individuals but this same DNA is also the common human energy which ties us all together. When Sanatan Dharma uses words like Tvashtra, Sarpa, Nag etc they are also indicative of this DNA coupled with Consciousness that each one of us carries within us and which we all carry together as a collective humanity. In Sanatan Dharma we are very particular about our individuality and the health of our DNA + Consciousness. The only way to maintain and repair this is by the use of mantra. We start our day with a mantra eg Kar Darshan Mantra, go to bed with a mantra, eg Ratri Sukta, and recite several more during the course of the day. (‘Modern science’ has now ‘discovered’ that sound modifies the structure of the DNA. They have not yet reached the realm of Consciousness.)
The human male is more vulnerable than the female (‘modern science’ also recognises this fact, the Y chromosome is more vulnerable) and our ancestor Rishis had addressed this by giving more Mantra pujas for the male to perform. Men and women are different on several levels. The human race can exist only as long as the human Y chromosome remains in good health, and the men have no option but to bear this additional responsibility.
- The Anteyshthi sanskar and tarpan related activities and their mantra are the exclusive domain of the men. It helps them maintain and repair their male specific DNA material. Today perhaps only 5% men are making use of this sure shot way of DNA repair.
- With the deteriorating Yug, the Yajnopavit Sanskar has become exclusive to the men. Maybe only 0.1% of men alive today are maintaining themselves with the power of the Gayatri mantra.
Gotra are genetic clans. Today even ‘modern science’ recognises that within the general human species, there are regional differences in the genetic makeup. This genetic diversity keeps us humans healthy, provides immunity etc to the next generations. However the gotra are even more subtle than the physical DNA clans of humans. We, followers of Sanatan Dharma, know that everything is conscious. Even these DNA molecules within our bodies are conscious. These Gotra are not just our physical DNA but also incorporate this Chaitanya, ie Awareness component too. Gotra combines the physical and the conscious inheritance that we get from our ancestors right from the beginning of this Era.
According to Vishnu Puran, the seven Gotra progenitor Rishi, ie the Brahma Rishis or Sapta Rishi of the current Manvantar, ‘era’ are the Maha Rishis – Vashishtha, Kashyap, Atri, Jamadagni, Gautam, Vishwamitra and Bharadwaj. Maha Rishi Kashyap is also considered to be the original creator of the entire human race. These are the seven original Gotra for this era. Today you will see several more Gotra which were created by several more progenitor Maha Rishis – Shandilya, Agasti, Kaushik, Parashar, etc. These are all Maha Rishi, ie realised souls who lived on Earth for specific purposes. They knew the essence of the Ved, ie Atma jnyan and the complete use of mantra, tantra, yantra. These Maha Rishis used the energy of the Universe to further create diverse groups of humans, ie additional Gotra, who subtly differ from each other. If there is more variation in the human population, it will be more vibrant, healthy etc.
Gotra is by birth, it cannot change. It is the DNA that flows in your body and is necessary to ensure the fitness of the progeny. Gotra is an essential information, everyone must know their gotra. It is essential for two major activities,
- For performing any puja, Sanskar etc of Sanatan Dharma, you formally take the Sankalp, the intention of the Puja. At this time you have to identify yourself by your Gotra call on your ancestral Maha Rishi and request his help in performing this auspicious activity.
- And when you want to get married, you cannot marry someone who is from the same gotra as your father or your mother. This helps in maintaining the health of the population on several levels.
Some women think that after getting married their gotra changes and their Gotra is now the same as their husbands. But Gotra is by birth. If someone has the same Gotra as you, then he/ she can only be your sibling not a spouse. Husband and wife by definition have to belong to different Gotra. And ideally you should not be getting married to a person from the same Gotra as your father / mother. For practicality’s sake however married women continue refer to themselves by their husband’s gotra.
The progenitor Rishis are the foremost Pitru/ ancestors for the Gotra they have generated. And they are also given tarpan as their blessings are required to continue the lineage. If you know their names you can draw energy from that source and these are Maharishis capable of giving you so very much.
A short story/ allegory of the Matsya Avtar. Not going into the esoteric.
King Vaivasvat Manu was giving Argya to the Suryadev and in his cupped palms he found a tiny fish. The fish requested help as it was afraid that the bigger fish might eat it. So Vaivasvat Manu took it to his palace and kept it in a jar. The next day the fish grew as big as the jar, so and was transferred to a bigger tank. Again fish grew and asked to be released into the river. It wanted go to the ocean and grow as large as the ocean itself. It told Vaivasvat Manu that it is the Matsya Avtar of Bhagvan Vishnu and that the Pralay is due. Shri Matsya then asked him build a ship and get his wife Devi Shraddha and the Sapta Rishi/ Brahma Rishis – Vashishtha, Kashyap, Atri, Jamadagni, Gautam, Vishwamitra and Bharadwaj ready for this event.
Soon torrential rains started, Pralay was on its way. Shri Matsya came back, unimaginably large in size. He kept the ship with its precious cargo afloat during the Pralay as the entire creation was washed off. The ship took refuge on the Himalay, the mountain tips were just above the waters. And after it was over, Shri Matsya landed the ship, blessed Vaivasvat Manu, Shraddha, the Sapta Rishis and vanished. The new Manvantar had started. Vaivasvat Manu was the first man and Shraddha was the first woman of this new era. The Sapta Rishi of this new Manvantar performed Yajnya to create all the living beings required to populate the Bhu lok, ie the dimension of the Earth. The Maha Rishis had complete knowledge and understanding of the Ved and knew how to use the Mantra to create all the creatures.
Vaivasvat Manu and his wife Shraddha performed a Yajnya and became the common ancestors of all the humans on Earth today. The Sapta Rishi used their mantra to vary the humans beings created and the first Gotra lineages were created. Later, other Maha Rishi who had the necessary mandate and the knowledge of the use of the requisite mantra were the progenitors of additional Gotra lineages.
In case you do not know your Gotra, and want to follow Sanatan Dharma then you need to get ‘adopted’ into one. Here you have three options,
- First is to adopt the Kashyap gotra as Rishi Kashyap is the ultimate progenitor Maharishi of all humanity.
- A second option is to adopt the Gotra of your birth Moon lunar mansion, as every Nakshatra has an associated Maha Rishi.
- Rishi Marichi – Ashvini Pushya Svati Abhijit
- Rishi Vashishta – Bharani Ashleysha Vishakha Shravan
- Rishi Angiras – Krutika Magha Anuradha Dhanishtha
- Rishi Atri – Rohini Poorvaphalguni Jyeshtha Shatataraka
- Rishi Pulastya – Mruga Uttaraphalguni Moola Poorvabhadrapada
- Rishi Pulaha – Aradra Hasta Poorvashadha Uttarabhadrapada
- Rishi Kratu – Punarvasu Chitra Uttarashadha Revati
- Third option is to adopt the Gotra of your family Brahmin Purohit.
Gotra is being grateful to your progenitor Maharishi and the ancestors whose inheritance you carry within you. When you say this name while doing your pujas you are also offering energy to all your ancestors and everyone living who carries this same Gotra. You will alawys get your individual merit from the pujas but in this way the entire humanity benefits. Sanatan Dharma is based on gratitude. And you owe the max to the first ancestor whose DNA consciousness you carry within you. So recognise this energy and use it to enrich your existence on this earth.