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Gothram and Pravaram

It is believed that every Braahmanan family has descended from one ancestral Maharshi (great seer or sage) or the other, in whose name his Gothram is attached. There are different versions in the Smrthis as to the number of Gothrams - 7, 8, 10, and so on, upto 48. "Manusmrthi" quotes 8, while "Dharma Pradeepam" speakes of 48. The famous "Dasagothrams" (ten Gothrams) are :

1. Bhaaradwaajam,
2. Kausikam,
3. Vaatsam,
4. Kaundinyam,
5. Kaasyapam,
6. Vaasishttham,
7. Jaamadagnyam,
8. Vaiswaamithram,
9. Gauthamam, and
10. Aathreyam.

"Vishnu Bhaagavatham" has reference to the following set of seven sages (Saptharshis) :

1. Mareechi,
2. Athri,
3. Angirass,
4. Pulasthyan,
5. Pulahan,
6. Krathu, and
7. Vasishtthan.

Several among the Saptharshis referred to in "Manusmrthi" as Swayambhuva Manu's progeny and ancestors are said to be creators of Rigveda Sookthams. The Saptharshis of the present Vaivaswatha Manwantharam are :

1. Vasishtthan,
2. Kaasyapan,
3. Athri,
4. Jamadagni,
5. Gauthaman,
6. Viswaamithran, and
7. Bharadwaajan.

The Chiranjeevis (those who live eternally) who are said to have become eligible to be the next set of Saptharshis are :

1. Deepthimaan,
2. Gaalavan,
3. Parasuraman,
4. Kripan,
5. Dronan,
6. Vyaaghan, and
7. Rishyasrngan.


Pravarams are sub-classes attached to each Gothram (Click here for article: About Namboothiris). The word literally means renowned, the best, the greatest, etc. Every Gothram has three or five Pravara-Purushans (great persons) whose names are attached to the Gothram thus defining the Pravaram. Therefore, every Braahmanan, just as he has a Gothram, has a specific Pravaram too.

The performer of certain rituals like Ishti and Yaagam has to know which Pravaram he belongs to, since he has to disclose it while doing them. Some Pakazhiyan (Aaswalaayanan) families have to say their Pravaram while performing Udakakriya.


There are circumstances under which a Namboothiri family's Gothram, Pravaram and Charanam are to be changed. The occasions may be (1) "Dathu" (adoption), (2) "Penkoda"/ "Veli" (marriage) or (3) "Sarvaswa Daanam Vettirikkal" or "Vettirikkal".

"Dathu" : Adoption of a boy (Unni) or an adult (Namboothiri) by a family is done only when all the lines (Thaavazhi) (branches) of the family cease to have a fertile male and threat of extinction prevails. It is recognised only through a "Pathu Kayyu Dathu" (ten hands - the boy's and the two original and the two adopting parents). After adoption, the boy and all his descendants must follow a combination (or mixture) of the two Gothrams and Pravarams of the previous and new families, if any of these are different. Those alive in the family at the time of adoption, retain theirs. If later, yet another adoption takes place in this family, they take on a mixture of the two, if different, and so on. Adopting family loses their earlier duties, powers as well as Charanam and accepts those of the boy's original family.

"Penkoda" / "Veli" : The "Udakapoorvam" part of Namboothiri marriage ritual releases the bride from her father's Gothram, Pravaram and Charanam. The later portion, "Paanigrahanam", of the ritual attaches her to the groom's Gothram, Pravaram and Charanam for the rest of her life.

"Sarvaswa - Daanam Vettirikkal" or just "Vettirikkal" : When all branches (Thaavazhi) of a family cease to have a fertile male, instead of "Dathu", a girl of the family can be given in marriage to a Namboothiri of another family, then receive both of them to the girl's house, and transfer the entire property and assets to him. The wife and their descendants then adopt her husband's Gothram, Prvaram and Charanam (if different), and other prescribed duties. The other living members of the family continue to keep their own Gothram, Pravaram and Charanam.

Some such families now do not know their original Gothram, Pravaram and Charanam, having been a long time after the event and the death of the then living members.

Many mistakenly believe that Viswaamithra Gothram has no Pravaram. Even Namboothirs of this Gothram, have Pravarams such as Kaathyolkilam and Madhuchhandass. Inter-marriage between different Pravarams is not permitted within Viswaamithra Gothram and therefore, many among this Gothram have forgotten their Pravaram. Among Namboothiris, in Kaasyapa Gothram, there is only one Pravaram, "Naidhruvam Aavatsaaram". Inter-marriage is permitted within Aangirasa Gothram if Pravarams are different.

| Article No:1.2 | Last update of this article:13th November 2002 |
Source :
1. "Aarshajnaanam" - Nalappat Narayana Menon; Third Edition, October 1981 (Mathrubhoomi Printing and Publishing Co. Ltd., Kozhikode)
2. "Namboothirimaarute Poorva Charithram" (Essays) - Aadiriyedath Neelakandhan Bhattathiripad

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