Gotra is a term used in the Hindu society to describe a personís clan or ancestry. Usually this ancestry can be traced back to some prominent ancient sage or person. The members of a gotra need to be related by blood, they can also be descendants of the sageís disciples. The word gotra literally means cow pen, referring to the ancient practice of a tribe owning cattle as a symbol of wealth and prosperity.
The Hindu society consists of a total 49 gotras, with each one having a specific duty to perform. A gotra is considered of great importance in the Hindu religion. Almost all the ceremonies and rituals require person to state his/her gotra. In a wedding, it is mandatory for the bride and the groom to belong to different gotras. Inbreeding within a clan is strictly prohibited. Even in case of different gotras, alliance between traditionally rival gotras is not allowed.