Atulya gotra

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Atulya Gotra is unique concept considering the aspect of marriage within the individuals of the same kin or lineage mentioned both in Ayurveda and ancient cultural, religious, and philosophical texts. This is in line with the consanguinity that is still prevalent in many regions like the Middle East, Arabic countries, and a few parts of India as well. This article deals with the scientific aspects of gotra, specificity in clans (atulya gotra), and consanguinity mentioned across the literature.


Man being a social animal, many social institutions like caste systems and other religious practices have been prevalent as a part of cultural practices. Caste is one such practice peculiar to Indian subcontinent and not only limited to the Hindu religion but also practiced by a large extent by Muslims, Christiana and Sikh traditions. Varna is termed as the word attributed to the four fold division of the society into Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Kshudra. In ancient Indian subcontinent, varna is considered to be major classification of the population, while Jati is termed as subclassification or many a times regional classification of the castes. The caste is determined by birth and many a times in ancient India the caste was also attributed with the occupation and other social norms commonly practiced by the members of the particular clan. The caste groups are considered to be endogamous and hence the marriages between two distinct castes (inter caste marriages) were not favored in ancient India.[1] This is the reason why the mention of Atulya gotra is commonly mentioned in many texts focusing on Dharmashashtra (social and religious texts), Nitishashtra (political science), Ayurveda etc.
Gotra is term focusing on the family organization in Brahmanical systems. It is the evidence of patrilineal sibship where the descendants trace back to common ancestors. The Gotra were assigned after the Pravara or names of Rishi who were considered to be the first bearers of the systems. The Atulya Gotra is principle of exogamy where a man must marry outside his/her own heriditary group or clan most popular in brahmanical family. The main reason behind this may include many factors like promotion of genetic diversification , extension of cultural and familial traditions.[2]

Section/Chapter/topic Concepts/Atulya gotra
Authors Bhojani M. K. 1
Joglekar Aishwarya2
Reviewers & Editors Basisht G.3
Deole Y.S.4
Affiliations 1 Department of Sharir Kriya, All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Samhita Siddhant, All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, India
3 Rheumatologist, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.
4 Department of Kayachikitsa, G. J. Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Gujarat, India
Correspondence emails
Publisher Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, and Symbiohealth Foundation, India
Date of publication: April 10, 2024
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2024.e01.s09.162

What is gotra?

Gotra is a Sanskrit term meaning family, race, lineage, tribe, herd of kin, subdivision, genus, class, species, all meaning belonging to the same clan or family, etc.[3] It denotes the group of individuals having common ancestors or having the same paternal origin roots from common male lines.

Definition of gotra

Paṇini defines gotra as “apatyam pautraprabhrti gotram (IV. 1. 162) Gotra can be understood as the grandson or lower descendent and not exactly the immediate offspring.[4]
As Rigveda, gotra simply means to move forward i.e. lineage of family line.[5]

Synonyms of gotra

Amarkosha and Shabdakalpadruma mentions the synonyms of gotra like santati (progeny), janana (procreation), kula (race), abhijana (family), anvaya (succession), vansha (lineage) etc.[6]

Atulya gotra in context to historical origins and cultural background

Marriages in same gotra are prohibited as per Hindu religious customs as the process of marriage should be within the exogamous units. Intermarriage is advised to be avoided to prevent family members' decent from a common ancestor.
According to the text Dharmasindhu, Kashyapa, Atri, Vasistha, Vishvamitra, Gautama Maharishi, Jamadagni and Bharadvaja are seven sages (also known as saptarishi). Agastya and Jambu maharishi are also considered among 8 Gotra. The progeny of these eight sages is declared to be gotras. These are the primary 8 gotra and further branching leads to the establishment of 108 gotra.[7]
In the Brahmin caste, 49 Gotras are reckoned and supposed to be sprung from and named after celebrated teachers or leaders like, Atreya, Vashishta, Shaṇḍilya, Kashyapa, Gautama, Bharadvaja etc. According to this Hindu tradition, every gotra has a specific gotra-nama (surname) and gotra-devata (family deity).[8] As per Manusmriti, number of gotra are 24 in number. However, the surname of person is kept different from gotra.
One sage can have disciples from the same gotra and the same gotra can be found across different castes. These were primarily adopted by Brahmin but are also found in a few Kshatriyas and Vaishya as well.
As per Manusmriti, there is no harm in sagotra marriage if the individuals are not related for six generations on both maternal and paternal sides. (सपिण्डता तु पुरुषे सप्तमे विनिवर्तते । समानोदकभावस्तु जन्मनाम्नोरवेदने |) which means that sapindata or the familial lineage ends after seven generations.[9] The Manusmriti mentions that marriage within the 3 generations of the maternal side and the same gotra on the paternal side is prohibited for all three varna.[10] Texts like Dharmasindhu and Yagyavalkalamriti[11] also mention the same principle considering the factor of gotra in marriage. Dharmasindhu mentions the Chandrayana Tapa (a fasting ritual) and dnyana (knowledge) Prayashchitta (atonement) for the negative implications of marriage in same gotra.[12]
Other references of the Sagotra marriages in Indian cultures are mentioned in Agni Purana, Rigveda, Mahabharat, Shatapatha Brahmin and other texts like Bible, Quran etc.[13]

The concept of Atulya Gotra in the purview of Ayurveda

Charak has dedicated Shareerathe name of the entire chapter depicting the origin of garbha or embryo by the name “Atulya Gotriya Shareera,” to underline the importance of this concept. [Chakrapani on Cha., Sa. Shareera Sthana 2/1]
The progeny belonging to same gotra as that of the father is appreciated as per principles of Ayurveda. [Ashtang Sangraha Uttara Tantra 1/26]
Shashilekha Teeka mentions gotra as the nomenclature of families inspired by sages like Vashishta. These are popular in the public domain (lokashahstra). [Shashilekha commentary on Ashtang Sangraha Shareera Sthana 1/2] Chakrapani also mentions Bharadvaja as one of the gotra besides the Atreya Gotra. [Chakrapani on Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/3, Chakrapani on Cha. Sa. Shareera Sthana 3/25]. Gangadhara has also quoted the Panini Sutra reference to throw light upon this aspect. [Gangadhara commentary on Cha. Sa. Shareera Sthana 2/2]
Ayurveda also endorses the marriages or sexual relation between the man and woman who are of dissimilar gotra. The marriage between those having same gotra is prohibited as per all the texts mentioned in Ayurveda. [Cha. Sa. Shareera Sthana 2/3, Ashtang Sangraha Shareera Sthana 1/2] Shashilekha further elaborates the reason behind this arrangement to avoid the transmission of diseases within the families and to give rise to healthy and beautiful progeny. Chakrapani mentions that sexual relations within individuals of same gotra is reflective of improper conduct (adharma) and is prohibited by dharmashashtra. [Chakrapani commentary on Cha. Sa. Shareera Sthana 2/3]
Female with different clan (atulya gotra stree) is considered to be ideal for purpose of obtaining ideal progeny. [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 2/15]
Sushruta and Ashtang Sangraha also condemn the sexual relations with woman of same gotra (Sa-Gotra or Eka-Gotra). [Su. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 24/116, 122 and Ashtang Sangraha Sutra Sthana 9/50].
Sushruta mentions that sexual relations between the individuals of same gotra can lead to many complications and even death of the person. [Su. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 24/116, 122] Ashtang Sangraha mentions the prevalence of kula sanchari roga like paingalya (handicap), mukata (deaf and dumbness) as a result of inbreeding.
Kashyapa Samhita also has a chapter dedicated to this concept , similar to Charaka Samhita stated as “Asamanagotriya Adhyaya” in Shareera Sthana, where the other concepts related to embryology are highlighted as well. [Kashyapa Samhita Shareera Sthana]
Bhela Samhita mentions the Asamanagotriya Shareera Adhyaya in Shareera Sthana also mentioning the similar concepts as stated by Charaka. [Bhela Samhita Shareera Sthana 3rd Adhyaya]

Logical interpretation of concept of Gotra

The consideration of the factor of gotra in marriage seems to avoid the transmission of genetic or hereditary diseases in families. People within the gotra are considered as siblings and marrying such a person can enhance chances of genetically transferred diseases to the child. This highlights the concept of beeja dushti as mentioned in Shareera Sthana. [Cha. Sa. Shareera Sthana 4/30] Thus, this intermarriage might also hamper the genetic diversification. This can also help to avoid transmission of unfavourable genes and promote alliance with the different families. This concept is applicable to various aspects like sahaja vyadhi (congenital diseases) [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 14], kulaja vyadhi (hereditary diseases) [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 6], aadibalapravritta vyadhi [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 24], beeja dushtijanya vikara (disease due to defective sperm or ovum) [Cha. Sa. Shareera Sthana 4] maternal facors (matrija) and paternal (pitrija bhava) [Cha. Sa. Shareera Sthana 3] mentioned in Ayurveda.

Contemporary approach

Consanguineous marriage

Consanguineous marriage is made up of two words comprising of “Con” meaning same and sanguinous meaning blood relations. Thus, it is the relation between 2 individuals having same blood relations and a common ancestor. As per clinical genetics, a consanguineous marriage is defined as a union between two individuals who are related as second cousins or closer, with the inbreeding coefficient (F) equal or higher than 0.0156 where (F) represents a measure of the proportion of loci at which the offspring of a consanguineous union is expected to inherit identical gene copies from both parents.[14] As per WHO statistics, unions contracted between persons biologically related as second cousins or closer are categorized as consanguineous, having one or more ancestors in common no more remote than a great-grandparent (; WHO document 1997, EUROCAT).[15] Consanguineous marriages are culturally and socially favoured in populations of North Africa, West Asia and South India, and constitute 20–50% of all marriages, with first cousins unions accounting for almost one-third of all marriages. These are very uncommon in countries like the USA and the United Kingdom but favoured in Middle East , Saudi Arabian, Africa and Pakistan.[16] Consanguinity is still a common aspect amongst Indian communities where about 30-40% of Muslims in northern India, a few communities in southern India, and parts of Maharashtra witness consanguineous marriages.[17] Research has proved that a high rate of consanguineous marriages within the tribe and community can result in the transmission of a recessive gene and an increase in autosomal recessive disorders like mental retardation, dysmorphisms, congenital anomalies etc.[18]
Darwin states that the consequence of close inbreeding or interbreeding carried on for a long time may lead to loss of size, constitutional vigor, and fertility, sometimes accompanied by malformations.[19] This leads to hybridization and widening of the genetic pool leading to gene diversification.
Inbreeding is the result of the absence of heterozygosity leading to prevalent faulty genes. The genetic material shared by first cousins is four times higher than that shared by second cousins while the DNA of half-fourth cousin shows no evidence of gene sharing. Thus, consanguinity is not restricted to unions between individuals biologically related to a very lesser degree.[20] Other reasons may include the young age of females during puberty, pregnancy at a very young age, low socioeconomic conditions, lack of awareness, and accessibility to healthcare.[21]
It is evident that robust research is available concerning the concept of consanguineous relations across the globe. Many prevalence studies , Geno-toxicity studies, systematic reviews have been carried out in this domain dealing with the health implications of marriages within individuals of same genetic lineage.[22] Research suggests early postnatal mortality is higher in progeny of consanguineous marriages due to the expression of deleterious recessive genes. Thus, if the offspring receives the recessive gene from both parents it is most likely to suffer from that particular genetic disorder. The prenatal morbidity (stillbirths) and mortality, recurrent fetal abortions coupled with stillbirths are more common in consanguineous marriages than those in nonconsanguineous ones.[23] Similarly, genetic disorders like neural tube defects, congenital heart defects, impaired hearing, X-linked disorders like osteogenesis imperfecta, sickle cell anaemia, impaired immune function, inborn errors of metabolism etc. are also common in such conditions.[24] The consanguineous marriages were common previously to keep the family relations, and cultural and linguistic characteristics of the clan intact and to assure the distribution of wealth within the family to avoid property-related issues. This concept is thus similar to the concept of exogamy where marriages or relations outside of one’s social circle have been facilitated since the Neolithic age.[25] The exogamy can be in the form of cultural, linguistic, or dual (patrilineal or matrilineal). The latest statistics (static and dynamic), and latest research articles regarding consanguineous relations are available on the website[26]

Further Scope of research on the concept

Extensive research has been carried in the context of consanguinity and genetic diseases in the contemporary science. Ayurveda also presents extensive views on these aspects also throwing light upon the concepts of preconception care, perinatal care, prevention and prediction of future disease conditions. The approach of Ayurgenomics can prove an effective solution to this pressing problem. More research can be done in this aspect to provide lasting evidence. Premarital and preconception counselling along with the approach of eugenics and epigenetics must be inculcated to avoid the unfortunate events. The approaches of following premarriage codes, preconception procedures including garbhasanskar, garbhadaan sanskar , punsavana vidhi, can be implemented in this perspective to improve the quality of progeny.

Legal Aspects

Although the tradition of gotra is deeply rooted in Indian culture, it is legally unrecognised. Many conflicts still arise regarding these aspects. There are no such regulations to ensure the marriage between individuals of two different gotra as per the Hindu Marriage Act.[27] As of now the Hindu Marriage Disabilities Removal Act, 1940 has validated Sagotra and Sapravara marriages. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 also does not prohibit a Hindu to marry among Sagotra or Sapravara.[28] This is however not prohibited for the Muslim marriages. Cross-cousin marriage was recognized in the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, and the legality of uncle–niece unions was subsequently confirmed in the Hindu Code Bill of 1984.[29]

Related articles in field of Ayurveda

Review depicts that most of the research on Atulya gotra is directed toward review study. No significant research is done in terms of any the observational and/or clinical studies in Ayurveda that support the clause of Atulya Gotra or consanguineous relations. Thus, more research should be focused on this aspect as well. Few review article that study this concept are available. Most of these articles support the claim made by ancient seers in context to Atulya Gotriya Shareera.

  1. In the review article entitled, “Conceptual Review on Atulyagotriya Sharir as the Concept of genetics in Ayurveda and its significance in present Contemporary Science” the authors have extensively elaborated the Atulya Gotriya Shareera Adhyaya as mentioned in the Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana in purview of modern-day genetics. Discussion has been done on the status and trends of consanguineous marriages across the globe along with the approach of eugenics and epigenetics to avoid the genetic disorders. [30]
  2. In the review article entitled “Ayurveda and Modern perspective of Atulyagotriya: an approach to prevent congenital anomalies” the authors have elaborated concepts related to Beeja Dushti, concept of consanguinity, exogamy in context to Gotra.[31]
  3. In the review article entitled, “Concept of genetic disorders in Ayurveda and their prevention” the authors have elaborately discussed the various genetic disorders mentioned in Ayurveda texts and also supported claims with global contemporary research data on consanguinity and hereditary diseases.[32]
  4. In the article entitled “A Comprehensive approach of Ayurveda to essentials of Healthy Progeny” the authors have provided few statistics related to consanguineous marriages in society.[33]
  5. A Review Study on the concept of Atulyagotriya Marriages and its scientific validity states the implications of Tulyagotra marriages on the genetic health of individual and need of creating the awareness regarding consanguineous marriages through the means of Ayurveda.[34]
  6. The review study entitled “A Pragmatic approach on Atulya gotra & Consanguinity”, throws light upon the various concepts pertaining to the gotra in Ayurveda and contemporary texts.[35] The extensive research regarding the latest research on this aspect is presented as well.
  7. In the book entitled “Atulya Gotra Shareera- the concept of genetics in Ayurveda” the authors have undertaken the extensive review of entire chapter “Atulya Gotra Shareera” and related concepts of eugenics and epigenetics as well.[36]
  8. Ayurgenomics: a novel approach in preventing congenital anomalies: A Review has mentioned Atulya gotra marriage as one of the approaches to prevent the congenital anomalies mentioned in Ayurveda and mentions the example of prevalent sickle cell anaemia in Victorian family.[37]
  9. In the article entitled “An overview on concept of Tulya Gotra and Consanguinity” the socio-cultural aspects of consanguinity are explained in detail.[38]
  10. In the article entitled, “Consanguinity (Tulyagotriya Vivaha) Impact on Child Health: A Review Literature” there is depiction of the degree of consanguinity and risk factors in consanguineous marriages.[39]
  11. The article entitled, “An implication of Hindu Gotra system in relation to genetics” depicts the impact of consanguineous marriage on disease affliction and foetal health.[40]


Atulya Gotra concept presents itself as point of commonality within the science of Ayurveda and texts of Dharmashashtra. This has been a part of tradition and culture of society. Many scientific reasons can be deciphered behind this ritual. The recent research on consanguinity focuses on the genetic aspects of diseases. Further research can be done on the aspects of preconception care as per the principles of Ayurveda and various legal aspects should also be considered concerning the same.

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