Gotra

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The term Gotra broadly refers to people who are descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor. Panini defines gotra for grammatical purposes as ' apatyam pautraprabhrti gotram' (IV. 1. 162), which means 'the word gotra denotes the progeny (of a sage) beginning with the son's son. When a person says ' I am Kashypasa-gotra' he means that he traces his descent from the ancient sage Kashyapa by unbroken male descent. According to the Baudhâyanas'rauta-sûtra Vishvâmitra, Jamadagni, Bharadvâja, Gautama, Atri, Vashista, Kashyapa 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 PâNini. The offspring (apatya) of these eight are gotras and others than these are called ' gotrâvayava '.

There are 49 established Hindu gotras. All members of a particular gotra are believed to possess certain common characteristics by way of nature or profession. Many theories have been propounded to explain this system. According to the brahminical theory, the Brahmins are the direct descendants of seven or eight sages who are believed to be the mind-born sons of Brahma. They are Gautama, Bharadvaja, Vishvamitra, Jamadagni, Vashista, Kashyapa and Atri. To this list, Agastya is also sometimes added. These eight sages are called gotrakarins from whom all the 49 gotras (especially of the Brahmins) have evolved....
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