peter wrote:What is your understanding of Gotra? Is'nt it just a cow pen? So a rishi ashram which had an associated cow pen gave its name to all students who came to study there. Students may not necessarily be related to each other.
'Go' has many more meanings apart from 'cow' and the word 'Gotra' has several more meanings other than cow-pen. When, 'Gotra' is used in relation with humans, it is understood to means clans based on descenders, AFAIK.
I also used to think like you that Gotra is relaed to descent but it turns out not to be the case. Shishyas acquired the gotra of their rishi.
Could you give reasons for forming your opinion?
The rishis/gurus has ashrams where the disciples were taught. I am not sure on your idea that cow-pens were used for teaching disciples. I don't think so. Yes, cow-pens are considered holy(and therefore mantra anushtanas are supposed to give better results in cow-pen compared to home), but there is nothing to suggest that cow-pens were used for regular lessons. In fact, there are descriptions in Puranas, MB and Ramayana of huge ashramas of rishis/gurus with many disciples(and they are not cow-pens).
So, the disciples of rishi cannot be called by reference to cows or cow-pens. It doesn't make sense.
Anyway, as I said I think you are describing the 'Kula' phenomenon. All the disciples of a particular rishi form a Kula. That rishi would be called Kulapati. Ramayana Link
I heard that a 'Kula' is a group of approx. 1000 disciples.
Heard the word 'Gurukul
'? That word is very illuminating. It shows that all the disciples of a guru come under that 'Kul'. I think that is thew origin of 'Kula' grouping.
Also another word, 'Kulaguru'. This word implies that a 'Kula' has a guru. So, the two words 'Gurukul' and 'Kulaguru' show that they are mutually related. Kula is related to Guru (not necessarily a rishi).
On the other hand, 'Gotra' is a different thing. It comes from father's side. The only way a person can change the gotra is through marriage(for a woman). Further, sa-gotra (same-gotra) marriage is prohibited. This points to genetic relation. In fact, the basic rule in marriage is that bride and groom must not have same 'gotra'. All other rules are secondary. If what you are saying is true, then what is rationale behind this rule?
Now, it is understandable if it is said that the disciples of one Guru should not marry each other. But, to say that descendents of these disciples must not also marry each other for eternity would not make sense. The only way that makes sense is if they have same genes from father's side.
Bji's suggestion of 'pancha-pitri theory' also has problem on this front. Because father-in-law is listed as one of the five fathers. Can a son-in-law obtain his gotra from father-in-law? If that happens then the rule of 'prohibition of sa-gotra marriage' would be redundant and meaningless. So, the only rational possibility is that gotra was based on genetic descent from father to son or formal marriage(for woman). BTW, formal adoption is also allowed only with in the Gotra. This is another pointer of genetic nature of 'Gotra'. So, if a person wants to adopt, he is given an option to adopt someone who shared the same genes from his father's side. Adoption outside Gotra is prohibited (AFAIK). EDIT: Except in the case of Putri(that means when a daughter is elected as a putri, then her son is deemed to belong to the daughter's father's family.) In this case, the son would get the maternal grandfather's gotra(I think, I am not sure though).
Moreover, Gotra is not inherited from any and every rishi/guru(also, remember that every Guru is not a rishi, for example Dronacharya is an acharya, not a rishi). Gotra is inherited only from few select original rishis(who are supposed to have started the lineages for entire humanity. They or their descendents revived the family lines when they faced extinction).
If 'Gotra' is merely based on the Guru, then how is it that only some rishis have started the 'Gotra' even though we know that 1000s(if not 100s of 1000s) of Gurus must have established the schools.
The above accounts for the various 'Kulas' and their constantly changing nature. While, the 'Gotra' is based on the only the first rishis. And, thus, they are unchanging and derived from father to son (or from husband to wife). Thats why the 'Gotras' have, more or less, remained constant, that means the Gotras that were followed during the Ramayana are also followed today(approx.). But, the same can't be said about Kulas. They have kept changing. Several newer Kulas have been added. But, newer Gotras have not been added(of course, some corruption cannot be ruled out like in any human system).
Now, Dhrishtadyumna(Draupadi's brother), Pandavas, Kauravas, Karna, Ashwattama were students of Dronacharya. Does that mean they had same 'Gotra'? Remember, Pandavas could not have married Draupadi if their Gotra was same.
According to my understanding:
On the other hand, since they were all disciples of the same Guru, they can be seen as belonging to the same 'Kula'. Belonging to same 'Kula' need not mean the same Varna. Of course, if a particular Guru would take disciples from only particular families, then only those families would be part of that 'Kula'.
But, this much is clear, 'Gotra' is based on descent from father's side and not on Guru-Disciple relation. Possibly, it is the 'Kula' which is based on Guru-Disciple relation and not on descent(at least initially).
Varna is partly based on birth and partly on behaviour. It seems, the Varna system collapsed after MB war. 'Kula' became rigid over the years. It is only 'Gotra' that has survived with little change.