Clan, Gotra and Tribe

Concept of Clan, Gotra and Tribes

A clan is a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. Even if lineage details are unknown, clan members may be organized around a founding member or apical ancestor. The kinship-based bonds may be symbolical, whereby the clan shares a “stipulated” common ancestor that is a symbol of the clan’s unity. When this “ancestor” is non-human, it is referred to as a totem, which is frequently an animal. Clans can be most easily described as tribes or sub-groups of tribes. The word clan is derived from clann meaning children or progeny . According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word was introduced into English around the year 1425 as a label for the tribal nature of the Scottish Highlands society.Clans in indigenous societies are likely to be exogamous, meaning that their members cannot marry one another. Clans preceded more centralized forms of community organization and government; they are located in every country. Members may identify with a coat of arms or other symbol to show they are an independent clan.


In Hindu society, the term gotra means clan. It broadly refers to people who are descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor or patriline. Generally the gotra forms an exogamous unit, with the marriage within the same gotra being prohibited by custom, being regarded as incest. The name of the gotra can be used as a surname, but it is different from a surname and is strictly maintained because of its importance in marriages among Hindus, especially among the higher castes. Pāṇini defines “gotra” for grammatical purposes as apatyam pautraprabhrti gotram (IV. 1. 162), which means “the word gotra denotes the progeny (of a sage) beginning with the son’s son.” When a person says “I am Kashyapa-gotra,” he means that he traces his descent from the ancient sage Kashyapa by unbroken male descent. Among non-Brahmins, the gotras generally do not go back to sages, except in case of some communities such as Rajputs.


A tribe is defined, as a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states. Many anthropologists used the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups.

Some political economic theorists such as Elman hold that tribes represent a stage in social evolution intermediate between bands and states. Other theorists, such as Morton Fried, argue that tribes developed after states, and must be understood in terms of their relationship to them.

‘Tribe’ is a contested negative term due to its roots in colonialism. The word has no shared referant, whether in political form, kinship relations, or shared culture. It conveys a negative connotation of a timeless unchanging past. To avoid these implications, some have chosen to use the terms ‘ethnic group’, or nation instead.

Source(s),Links and Inspirations:

Todas of India( )

Santhal:Largest Tribal Community in India ( )

Tribes in India ( )

Pygmies (

read more on tribes and race

Gujjar Tribe

Gonds of India

Naga Tribe



About Rashid Faridi

I am Rashid Aziz Faridi ,Writer, Teacher and a Voracious Reader.
This entry was posted in Human Geography. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Clan, Gotra and Tribe

  1. Pingback: People of Maghalaya | Rashid's Blog

  2. Pingback: Gujjar Tribe | Rashid's Blog

  3. Pingback: Gadabas: Primitive People of India | Rashid's Blog

  4. Pingback: Migration and Culture: How they Affect Each Other? | Rashid's Blog: An Educational Portal

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