gotraḍambara: Much Noise About Gotra
The author would like to thank pinākī for helping edit as well as the critique and feedback which helped improve this short story.
rudradatta bhāradvāja, with a cold glass of nimbūrasa, was, with unwavering focus, reading every line on the page of the tome. He knew which text to look up and was confident that he would have found the name by the time satyasoma walked into his room.
satyasoma: What book is it now, Rudra?
rudradatta: I had just opened my copy of the baudhāyana śrautasūtra; glossing through the list of gotras in the pravarādhyāya. This new acquaintance of mine, bhāskara sureśa, had asked me if there was a textual reference for his relatively rare gotra, by the name of naitundya.
satyasoma: Indeed, there seem to be as many gotras as there are brāhmaṇas. It makes you wonder how many of these names are well-founded…
rudradatta: Ah! Found it! Listen satyasoma! bhagavān baudhāyana says thus:
“viṣṇuvṛddhāḥ śaṭhamarṣaṇā bhadraṇā madraṇāḥ śāmburāyaṇā bādarāyaṇā vātsaprāyaṇāḥ sātyakiḥ sātyakāyanā naitundyā stutyā bhāruṇyā vaihoḍhā daivasthānaya ityete viṣṇuvṛddhās/
teṣāṃ tryārṣeyaḥ pravaro bhavaty āṅgirasa paurukutsa trāsadasyeti hotā trasadasyuvat purukutsavad aṅgirovad ityadhvaryuḥ//”
Did you get it, Soma?
satyasoma: How could I miss your high intonation at naitundyā, Rudra? I got it! I got it! (Laughing) Good work Rudra! Perhaps, you should set up a website to offer brāhmaṇas such services! I have a question for you, though. After “ityete viṣṇuvṛddhās”, you stated the pravara ṛṣi-s in forward and reverse orders, did you not?
rudradatta: Yes, the pravarādhyāya is basically to inform the hotṛ and adhvaryu the ways to address the yajamāna. The hotṛ addresses the sacrificer by the patronyms derived from the names of the pravara ṛṣi-s, going from the oldest to the youngest among them. As for the adhvaryu, I suppose, he addresses the yajamāna as having, or being possessed of, the ṛṣi, for it is indeed the blood of that ṛṣi that runs in his veins. And he does so by going from the youngest to the oldest of the pravara ṛṣi-s.
satyasoma: Ah, among the viṣṇuvṛddha-s themselves, so many gotra-s are listed. That is just one of the several gana-s among the kevalāṅgirasa-s. Apart from the kevalāṅgirasa-s, you still have the bhāradvāja-s and gautama-s. And that is just within the āṅgirasa-s! You still have the vaiśvāmitra-s, vāsiṣṭha-s, ityādi! How many gotras in total are listed by baudhāyana, Rudra?
rudradatta: Not sure of the exact number, Soma! But from the estimates of those who have counted, it seems to be about four-hundred! I was curious about our own clan, the bhāradvāja-s. Sure, we are no rare specimens for our ancestor was uniquely prolific in following the command of the veda on having progeny! But the pravarādhyāya lists eighty-eight gotras under the bhāradvāja-s alone!
satyasoma: Including our own gotra, the uninteresting and ubiquitous bhāradvāja gotra…
rudradatta: Yes, but I didn’t stop at the counting. It got me thinking, “So how many of these eighty-eight odd gotras listed by baudhāyana actually survived till today?” So, I decided to check!
satyasoma: What rigorous methods have you employed to that effect, Rudra?
rudradatta: Did not have time for any extensive research on this Soma! A short while before you came, I was going through the eighty-eight names. There was one name that immediately caught my attention as I had seen it in a narrative in another text. That name was somastambha. He was the founder of one of the eighty-eight great gotras among the illustrious bhāradvāja.
satyasoma: Which other text mentions him?
rudradatta: jaiminīya brāhmaṇa.
satyasoma: Continue with his exploits!
rudradatta: So, by the grace of Google, I sought to see if anyone, from the mahāsamudra of the world-wide web, identified themselves as hailing from the gotra of somastambha. Little do we know about this man but more is known about his son, yavakrī, who was the main character of a scandalous yet incredibly riveting story in the brāhmaṇa of the jaiminīya-s
satyasoma: So, did you confirm the existence of a descendant of somastambha?
rudradatta: Nothing. Initially. So, I tried spelling the name of the gotra in various ways. I realized that I had failed to account for two powerful māyā-s concealing what I sought to find: nāmachedana and schwa deletion. They split a personal name into two words and removed the vowel at the end of each.
satyasoma: Ah, I get you. Twice as removed from the original, that must have been a bit hard to find. But who are ‘they’?
rudradatta: Well, it was a young man doing some self-advertisement with the intention to enter into vivāha. Caught in the rat race presumably, I would bet that he has lost all memory of what it means to be a brāhmaṇa, as is the case all across bhārata nowadays.
satyasoma: Indeed, the brāhmaṇa of today is a far, far cry from his rich and deep roots, he hardly remembers anything except the name of his gotra which he thinks fit to put up on an online sthala for vivāha-nirṇaya for “formality’s sake”, without any attachment to his progenitors.
rudradatta: And almost 2500 km south of where he lives and works, in remote villages in dramiladeśa and somewhere in ceradeśa, reside a few students of the endangered jaiminīya tradition, a śākha of the sāmaveda, found only in those two deśa-s. And only the brightest and persevering ones among those students, genuinely interested in gaining the full knowledge of their śruti, that hardly anyone in their village, district, state or country cares about; only they, one fine day, will start their lessons for the jaiminīya brāhmaṇa and sit in front of their teacher and repeat after him as he recites it.
And during one such lesson, they will come across the story of somastambha’s scandalous son and recount the exciting tales of those great ritualists of yore. Somewhere, 2500 km away from where one of somastambha’s last few descendants stand and between him and them, hardly anyone will know this name….