A gotra (गोत्र) (lit. "cow-pen" or "cow-shed" in archaic Rigvedic Sanskrit) is a patrilineal classification and identification of castes in India. Jats have more than 2700 gotras. Gotra is the Sanskrit term for a much older system of tribal clans. The Sanskrit term "Gotra" was initially used by the Vedic people for the identification of the lineages.
Definition of Gotra
Maharshi Panini has defined gotra in his grammar Ashtadhyayi (अष्टाध्यायी) as under-
उपत्यं प्रौत्रं प्रभृति गोत्रम upatyam prautram prabhriti gotram
Meaning – Gotra is the name of group of descents, leaving son, including grandsons and great grandsons.
V S Agarwal  writes that Gotra was next to Caste. Gotra denoted the ancestral family from which its members traced their descent.Members belonging to same Gotra were called Sagotra (VI.3.85). The Gotra name of a person on the basis of his gotra must have been a matter of considerable practical importance. In the Jatakas we often find the gotra name of a person asked along with his personal name. This is shown by Panini having prescribed elaborate rules for the formation of Gotra names, e.g. Garga, father; Gārgi, son; Gārgya, grandson; Gārgyāyaṇa, great-grandson.
Initially, there was only one vansha that was Manuvansha. Later one branch started from sons of Manu, which was called Suryavansh and other branch started from daughter of Manu, Ila, that was called Chandravansh. Later to minimize the influence of Buddhism and Jainism in India, the Brahmans organized a grand yagya at mount Abu in Rajasthan, which continued for 40 days. Almost all the ruling clans attended this yagya. The ruling clans which took part in this yagya were titled as ‘Rajputs’. Four Kshatriyas appeared from the agnikunda namely, Solankis, Pratiharas, Chauhans and Paramaras. They were termed, "Agnivanshi Kshatriyas".
According to Agni Purana, Agnivanshi Kshatriyas were born from the fire which resides in Mt. Abu in Northwestern India after the "destruction of ancient Kshatriyas". However, historians interpret this as suggestive of Indo-Scythian origin because this place was entrance gateway for scythic groups in India. In fact, lineage of all 36 Rajput ruling clans has been traced to Indo-Scythic races. The ruling clans who took part in the above yagya were termed Rajputs but those who did not take part remained Jats, Gurjars as such in their old clans. Gotras did not change in this process that is why common gotras are found in Jats, Rajputs and Gurjars.
A vansha is connected with ruling clan like Huna vansha in China and Agnivansha in India. All the gotras try to link with some vansha. Those who joined Mount Abu yagya connect their gotra with four Rajput clans namely Solanki, Pratihara, Chauhan Paramara. Rest connect their gotra with Suryavansha or Chandravansha or some great Rishi or a King.
Leading historians advocates:
- "The Rajputs proper were of mixed origin – pre-Muslim invaders such as Scythians, Bactrians, Parthians, Hunas and Gurjaras who came in before, say, the end of the 7th century."
Basis of Vanshas and Gotras
Gotras have initially been created in the name of a person, a place or some historical incidence. When a great person takes birth in a generation, all the previous titles of this generation are included in the name of this great person and a new gotra starts in his name. Like caste does not change, gotras and vanshas also do not change. There can be more than one gotra in a vansha but there can not be more than one vansha in a gotra. For example Chauhan Vansha has 116 gotras included in it.
Based on persons
The vanshas or gotras started on the basis of persons are Yadavavanshi, Raghuvanshi, Pandava, Rahar, Paurava, Kuruvanshi, Laur, Tanwar, Salkhalan, Tomar, Dahiya, Jakhar, Kushan, Budhwar, Deshwal, Dalal, Maan, Sihag, Kadian, Lamba, Punia, Lalla, Balan, Nava, Taxak, Kakrana, Chandravanshi, Shivi, Gaur, Madra, Bhimbhraulia, Sangwan, Gill, Hala and Suryavanshi etc. 
Based on places
The vanshas or gotras started on the basis of place are Sindhu, Gandhari, Kuntal, Khutail, Ahlawat, Chedi, Sinsinwar, Bhind, Dahima, Nehra, Tewatia, Vahika, Bais, Magadh, Mohil, Tushar, Malloi (Malwa), Sikarwar, Sisodia etc. 
Based on languages
Based on titles
The vanshas or gotras started on the basis of title are Rao, Rawat, Harawat, Chauhan, Solanki, Parihar, Parmar, Thakurela, Chhokar, Thenua, Chapotkat, Rana, Godara, Dixit, Mithe, Chatte, Khatte, Janghare, Bhagaur, Lohchab, Thakur, Antal, Malik, Gathwale, Jatrana, Chaudhari etc. The creation of new vanshas stopped with the vanishing of Rajshahi or Rajvansh. 
Based on geographical features
Some gotras are based on natural and geographical features such as Sun, Moon, Stars, Fire, Water, Forest, Mountains, Lakes, Rivers, Seas, Trees, Flowers, Animals, Birds , Places etc. 
Utility of Gotras in Hindu marriage
Manusmṛti or Manusmriti (Sanskrit: मनुस्मृति), also known as Mānava-Dharmaśāstra (Sanskrit: मानवधर्मशास्त्र), is the most important and earliest metrical work of the Dharmaśāstra textual tradition of Hinduism. Sagotra i.e. same gotra marriages are banned under the traditional matrimonial system. According to the Hindu marriage traditions, commonality of four gotras of mother, father, father’s mother (dadi) and mother’s mother (nani) are avoided for marriages. This has been advocated necessary for proper health and morality of the society. Manava dharmashastra, chapter-3, shloka-5 mentions that -
अस पिण्डा च या मातुर गोत्रा च या पितुः । as piṇdā ca yā mātura gotrā ca yā pituḥ
सा प्रशस्ता द्विजातीनां दार, कर्माणि मैथुने ।। sā praśastā dvijātīnām dāra, karmāṇi maithune
Meaning – The girl who is not from mother’s clan of six generations and who is not of father’s gotra is suitable for marriage amongst dvijati people (Brahmana, Kshatriya and Vaishya).
Satyartha Prakasha by Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati also explains in Chapter IV shloka-4 that The girl who is not from mother’s clan of six generations and who is not of father’s gotra is suitable for marriage:
- असपिण्डा च या मातुरसगोत्रा च या पितुः
- सा प्रशस्ता द्विजातीनां दारकर्मणि मैथुने ।। 4 ।।
Satyartha Prakasha has given eight reasons for not marrying in the same gotra. It also explains why it is useful to marry a girl of far off place.
- दुहिता दुर्हिता दूरेहिता भवतीति ।। निरू. ।।
- In Sanskrit a daughter is called duhitri (from Du - distant, Hit - good), because the marriage of a girl to a man who comes from a distant country or distant part of the same country is productive of good.
The advantages and disadvantages of distant and near marriages respectively are :-
- Any two persons who have, in their childhood, lived near each other, played and quarreled together, loved one another, noticed each other's faults, imperfections, ebullitions of temper and misbehaviors, and perhaps sometimes, even each other undressed, if married to each other, can never love each other to the extent desired.
- The marriage of near relatives does not improve the race from want of interchange of fluids and essences (such as blood) of the body, it rather deteriorates it,. This is analogous to the addition of water to water, no new quality being produced.
- As the addition of sugar and such medicines as ginger, improves the taste and quality of milk, so does the marriage of people, who are not related to each other (either on father's or on mother's side), improve the race.
- As in the case of an invalid, change of climate and diet very often effects a cure, so does marriage with foreigners or distant people improve the health of the parties and prove beneficial in every other respect.
- When the parties are nearly related to each other and live amongst their people, the sorrows and joys of one family will affect the other and there will be many occasions for family disputes to arise; while marriages among distant people and consequent separation from relatives lengthen the thread of mutual love. This is not the case when they live near their people.
- When marriages are contracted with people of foreign or distant countries, things and news from those countries can be easily obtained (and consequently relations between different countries become closely established). This not possible when people marry near relatives or persons living near their homes, or, in their own country.
- If the bride's people do not live very far from her husband's home, there is a possibility of her parents becoming poor, as whenever she visits her parents, they will have to give her something or other by the way of a present.
- If their people live near at hand, on any slight friction taking place between the husband and the wife, she, feeling assured that her people will support her, will at once leave her husband and go to her parents. That may become the cause of mutual reviling and wrangling, for, women, as a rule, are so easily offended and pleased.
Gotra in History
Well known historian Dasharatha Sharma writes that It may be that some of Kshatriyas had forgotten their gotra and pravaras, but a good many perhaps never had any. We are therefore not surprised to find either Medhatithi stating in his comment on the Manusmrti, III, 5 that distinction of gotra and pravara applied only to Brahmanas, or Mitakshara laying down that the Kshatriyas and Vaishyas should adopt the gotra and pravaras of their purohitas, inasmuch as they (the Kshatriyas and Vaishyas) had no gotras of their own.[राजन्यविशां प्रातिस्विक गोत्राभावात् प्रवराभावस्तथापि पुरोहितगोत्रप्रवरौ वेदितव्यौ । (Comment on याज्ञवल्क्यस्मृति I,53.)] The only rules of exogamy and endogamy observed were that a Kshatriya generally married Kshatriya and did not marry within his own clan.
- Elaboration of prohibition of same gotra marriage in various Hindu Scriptures
- Article at hitxp.com website
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