Pravaras Why Three Five Rishis

In Hinduism there is the practice of introducing oneself with reference to his ancestors.

It is logical to refer to oneself with them as it makes it easier to identify.

Without reference to them, we are not here, which many do not seem to acknowledge.

Brahmin Gotras.Jpg
Brahmin Gotras.

It is customary for Ancient Indian writers to refer either to parents or their preceptor/s, as they were placed in a Higher Status than parents,.

Thus we have the parent,Grand parent referred to in Slokas and Stuthis.

Vyaasam Vasishta Napthaaram, Sakthe Pauthra Kalmasham,

Parasaraathmajam Vande Sukha Naadham Thapo Nidhim-Vishnu Sahasra Naama.

Here the author Vyasa introduces himself as,,

Great Grand son of Vasishta,

Grand son of Sakthi,

Son of Parasara, and

Father of Sukha.

How logically the terms are arranged.

Great Grand Father, Grand Father, Father, Self and son!

For Guru reference,

Adi Shankaracharya never mentions himself directly in his works.

‘Sri Govinda Bhagavatpaada Sishya,’

Disciple of the Noble Govinda Bhagavatpaada”

This system has been in place from the early period of the Vedas.

The founders of the Humanity, as far as Hindu Texts go, are the Saptha Rshi, the Seven Sages , after whom the lineage is from.

And they are referred to in introducing oneself.

This system is called the Gotra.

This is patrilineal.

Then there is Pravara.

a Pravara (Sanskrit for “most excellent”) is a particular Brahmin’s descent from a rishi (sage) who belonged to their gotra (clan). In vedic ritual, the importance of the pravara appears to be in its use by the ritualist for extolling his ancestry and proclaiming, “as a descendant of worthy ancestors, I am a fit and proper person to do the act I am performing.” Generally, there are either three or five pravaras. The sacred thread yajnopavita worn on upanayana has close and essential connection with the concept of pravaras related to Brahmin gotra system. While tying the knots of sacred thread, an oath is taken in the name of each one of these three or five of the most excellent rishis belonging to one’s gotra.

The full affiliation of a brāhamana consists of (1)gotra, (2)sutra (of Kalpa), (3)shakha, (4)pravaras .

(Example :) A brahmana named ‘Rama’ introduces himself as follows : I am ‘Rama’, of Shrivatsa gotra, of Āpastamba sutra, of Taittiriya shākha of Yajurveda, of five pravaras named Bhārgava, Chyāvana, Āpnavan, Aurva and Jāmdagnya (This example is based upon the example given by Pattābhirām Shastri in the introduction to Vedārtha-Pārijata, cf. ref.).’

It may be noted in the Pravara,three or Five Rishis are mentioned.

For example, Kasyapa, Apasthara, Naithruva’

This is different from Kasyapa Gotra.

There is another Pravara for Kasyapa Gotra as well.

Kasyapa, Aavatsaara, Daivala.

The same with the other Rishis.

Sometimes three Rishis are mentioned and at times Five.


One view is that these references are to the excellent ancestors from the Gotra.

My view is that , if that be case the first Rishi should always be the founder.

But , as in Nythruva Kasyapa, Kasyapa does not appear as the First Rishi but it is Naithruva.

Reason is that many Rishis have more than one wife and many children through each of them.

Kasyapa had more than one wife.

The Prajapati Daksha gave his thirteen daughters (Aditi, Diti, Kadru, Danu, Arishta, Surasa, Surabhi, Vinata, Tamra, Krodhavasha,Idā, Vishva and Muni in marriage to Kashyapa.

Though the Father is one, mother differs.

To identify and emphasize the differentitae, the three or Five Rishis are mentioned.

Traditionally the first wife’s son carries the Father’s name as Gotra and the others the son of the Second or third wife and but to make the reference correct the founder is mentioned later in the Pravara.

The pravara identifies the association of a person with two, three (or sometimes five) of the above-mentioned rishis. It also signifies the Sutras contributed to different Vedas by those rishis.

For example, Kashyapa Gothram has 3 rishis associated with it viz. Kashyap, Nidruva and Avatsara

In a court case “Madhavrao vs Raghavendrarao” which involved a Deshastha Brahmin couple, the German scholar Max Mueller’s definition of gotra as descending from eight sages and then branching out to several families was thrown out by reputed judges of a Bombay High Court. The court called the idea of Brahmin families descending from an unbroken line of common ancestors as indicated by the names of their respective gotras and pravaras impossible to accept. The court consulted relevant Hindu texts and stressed the need for Hindu society and law to keep up with the times emphasizing that notions of good social behavior and the general ideology of the Hindu society had changed. The court also said that the mass of material in the Hindu texts is so vast and full of contradictions that it is almost an impossible task to reduce it to order and coherence.


Citation and Refeernce.

For details of Pravaras

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