Correlating ancestral legends with Genetic data

By srikanth 9 Comments

I stumbled upon an interesting project to collect data on the Y-haplogroup from a section of the Indian population (brAhmaNas), and correlate it with the claims of descent from certain ancient sages by brahmins today.

Link to read up more –

I personally find it to be an intriguing idea. And worth investigating.

Some notes for the uninitiated on Gotra / Pravara

  1. A significant chunk of the Indian population has a Gotra record.
  2. Technically your Gotra records your male line of descent, though the individual after whom the Gotra is named need not necessarily be the earliest male ancestor of yours that you know of.
  3. Gotras are likelier to indicate a specific line of descent in the case of brahmins, where the Gotra/pravara record is more carefully preserved than among the rest of the Indo-Aryan population
  4. Pravaras are a set of 3 or 5 individuals – typically sages who feature in your male line of descent. These individuals may precede the sage mentioned in your Gotra, or succeed him.

Correlating Gotra information with Y-haplogroup data may give insights on whether there exist striking similarities between brahmins who share a certain Gotra.

An example of how Gotra / Pravaras look like –

My Gotra is vādoola. Legend has it that he was likely a sage in the late Vedic period, who cannot be located accurately. He has certain texts of the late Vedic tradition including a Shrauta sutra to his credit.

My Pravara is Bhārgava / vītahavya / savetasa : Among these three, BhRgu is actually not my biological ancestor. The latter two are. Vītahavya was actually a king of the Heiheya dynasty who turned “brahmin” when he was residing in the Ashrama of sage Bhrigu.  So this particular clan that descends from vītahavya are Kshatriya-converts to Brahmin-hood, to put it crudely. Likely this legend dates to the middle Vedic period (1000 BCE) , or maybe earlier.

In this particular case, the Gotra RSi (vādoola) is actually a descendant of Vītahavya. So the gotra is not named after the earliest male ancestor that we know of.

Individuals belonging to this somewhat rare gotra are found largely in Tamil Nadu and Andhra today. Not elsewhere. It would be curious to see if the Y-chromosome data provides any commonalities among those who share this gotra.

Post-script : None of this should be seen as any kind of “supremacist” exercise. It is just one way of possibly validating traditional claims (which may be bogus for all you know) , though it is not likely to yield a conclusive narrative.

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9 Replies to “Correlating ancestral legends with Genetic data”

  1. Is gotras a legend; the very fact that each brahmin had to memorise and reproduce his gotra at various rites and the marriage system itself was based on gotra i.e. no marriage partner within the same gotra perpetuated the system. It is more than a legend ; it is a social system which operated fairly efficiently till 1 generation back. Gotra was and is a existential commitment of a brahmin male and the brahmin society.

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  2. are you iyer/ayyar ? (I am part of a group of iyer brahmins who migrated north to Andhra). My maternal grandfather belonged vAdhulasa gotra and people of his surname (few of them any way) have the haplogroup G….

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  3. “Today, we are able to sequence the human genome (Y chromosome in particular) and discern rich information about ancestry and population migration. It is natural for V1 project to wonder “Where did our ancestors come from? Who were they? Such questions are interesting to broader communities of Indologists and Hindu society.”

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    I have been working on this project even before it was conceived. I am happy to provide all relevant information I have. But, for this is necessary the open mind. With autistic behaviour it cannot be done anything. Hopefully, new generations of Indian scholars will do their research without blinkers and oit guys can step aside and stop undermining own history.

    Every question I asked here (reward or non-reward) were in line with this project. This for e.g. includes the answer regarding RG (and RB, PIR and other) and we expect from eNeM, as soon as he finishes Diwali celebrations, to give us an update and abstracts of all contributions.

    Just to remind those who dropped from Mars yesterday, that we pretty much absolved the genetics topic, linguistic is underway, while mythology and toponyms (possible anthropology) will follow in due course.

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    1. We still did not get the feedback from eNeMohit but unofficially I am hearing rumours that some pundits are struggling while researching the meaning of RG. The deadline for submissions is extended because of Diwali and I would like to a little bit help to those who are stacked in a dead end.

      I will use the example of the Italian covid city champion, BeRGamo. Hope it will help. Maybe, the knowledgeable Francesco-bambino can offer some additional help with his local knowledge.

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      1. It seems that Francesco-bambino does not read my comments. I suggest that BP management officially send him a request on BP memorandum to drive couple hours to BeRGamo and give us its description. It is scientifically very important and will help us to find out the real name meaning of the world oldest scripture. All reasonable expenses (petrol, pizza/pasta, grappa, cappuccino/espresso) will be covered. Otherwise, we must rely on Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor or Google map.
        Any sightings of NM?

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  4. Personally I believe that my ancestor was one Kaushika – my gotra – and my pravara rishis kaushika, Visvamitra and Aghamarshana existed from whom I descended. They are not legends for me.
    OTOH , if you take ancestors say 100 gens back, there are thousands . Gotra/pravara highlights only some and I am equally descended from all of them.

    Personally I don’t give more preference to male line that too 100 gens back ; again there you go , that is Gotra

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