gotra in India

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Nov 16 00:39:55 UTC 1999

  >The organization of ethnic groups including Tamil non-brahmins into
  >exogamous clans/lineages is well-known. They are called kiLai
  >(among maRavar, pANar, etc.), kUTTam (kavuNTar), kOyil (Chettiar),
  >etc. I do not deny that. I was specifically referring to the
  >brahminical gotras.  As for the non-brahmin "gotra" names mentioned
  >above, except cEkkizAr, all others are derivatives of place names.
  >In other words,  they indicate the place they were from or where
  >they were landowners originally.

   I understand Dr. Palaniappan's post refers specifically to
Dr. Selvakumar's gotra list of cEkkizAr, cEtUrAr, pukazUrAr. Among
tamil vellalas and other non-brahmin castes, there are several gotra
names that do not derive from place/kOyil names. cEkkizAr is  one
such exogamous gotra name among the MudaliyArs of ToNDai region, I
think M. Bhaktavatsalam, erstwhile CM of TN, was a Cekkizaar. The
exogamous tamil gotras are named after some totemic symbols - birds,
animals, trees, flowers, vegetables, body parts, etc., We do not
understand some gotra names' meanings at all. On vellala gotra names
from different regions, an excellent source is P. A. MuttutANDavarAya
piLLai's late 19th century commentary on 17th c. cOzamaNDala catakam.
(I have it somewhere). K. KiruTTiNacAmi, kUTTamum tirumaNamum, Totem
and marriage with special reference to Kongu Vellala, Cennai: MakkaL
veLiyITu, 1983, 120 p. Brenda Beck has an M.A. & DPhil thesis at
Oxford on these exogamous kulams.

Example: among the vellalas of the kongu region, a list of the
kulam or kUTTam are: periyan, ceGkaNNan, payiran, kAGkEyan,
tOTai, ponnan, azakan, ceGkUn, cETan, cempan, Ati, antuvan,
OtALan, cAttantai, kuzAyan, peruGkuTiyAn, pavazan, poruLantai,
pUcan, tUran, viziyan, Antai (<Atan + tantai, tol.), kURai,
veNTuvan, veLiyan, maNiyan, paNNan, patuman, mATai, cempUtan,
pUttantai, tazaJci, kIran, panaiyan, vEntan, patariyan,  cEran,
cellan, poTiyan, muttan, villi, kanavALan, kaNNan, pillan,
ozukkan, vaNNakkan, kAri, mayilan, panaGkATai, IJcan (IJcu = date
palm), pUntai (< pUtan + tantai, tol.), mEti, veLLampan, aavaN

Pl. note that many of these names are found in sangam texts, tamil
brahmi inscriptions thru vijayanagar, village names, etc.,

K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, Cultural contacts between Aryans and
Dravidians. Bombay, 1967, p. 81

"The book I have in mind is S. V. Karandikar's
Hindu exogamy (1929). The author has argued that gotra
or sept exogamy was unknown to Indo-Europeans, and even to
Indo-Iranians. ...
Greek, Roman and Persian customs have no parallel to
gotra exogamy. Karandikar suspects the influence of
non-brahman (pre-Aryan ?) totemic exogamy in the growing
rigidity of sept exogamy ...
The far-reaching scheme of Vedic pedigrees is the result of fusion
and standardization worked out by jurists (like varNa
samkara theory) having little in common with the simple
social units from which the gotras were originally derived.
Dravidians stoutly resisted the expansion of prohibited
degrees and refused to tamper with cross-cousin marriages.
Not so in North India where a puritanizing zeal has in
some socially ambitious castes outdone the Brahmins...
But his main conclusion is correct that gotra exogamy
is modelled on indigenous prototypes while
sapiNDa exgogamy is not.  .."

N. Ganesan

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