Why Bharadwajs are so numerous

This morning I was at the faculty lounge at IIMB, drinking coffee and conversing with a few professors. Soon, the discussion moved to Bharadwaj gotra and related stuff. And something a professor (who is a Bharadwaj) said explained very well as to why the gotra is so prolific.

So he said that the Bharadwaj ashram was quite well known in its ancient times for the quality of its food. Another professor related an anecdote about how Rama, on his flight back from Lanka made a detour to eat at the Bharadwaj ashram, even as his subjects back in Ayodhya were waiting fervently for him. Food at the Bharadwaj ashram was so good, he said.

Now there are two ways in which this explains why Bharadwajs are so numerous. Firstly, the quality of the food in the ashram meant that Bharadwaj’s children and grandchildren and other descendants were all very well fed. Now, considering that these were times much before the industrial revolution and there was generally a shortage of food, this meant that infant and child mortality rates were generally high. But not in the Bharadwaj ashram, thanks to the food there!

So that meant that the Bharadwajs grew up fitter and healthier than descendants of other rishis, and thus lived longer and were able to procreate more. The bullwhip effect caused due to enhanced longevity and fitness of the early Bharadwajs has resulted in the proliferation of Bharadwajs today.

The other explanation is that the superior quality of food at the Bharadwaj ashram attracted more people into the ashram, and these people would yearn to become part of the “family” (I’ll spare you the gory details here). That meant that Bharadwaj and his immediate male descendants had much more access to furthering their lineage compared to competing gotras. And hence you have so many Bharadwajs today.

In fact we might have had several more Bharadwajs but for the fact that the gotra system is designed such that no one gotra ever gets to big. That two people from the same gotra are not allowed to marry each other naturally keeps the size of a particular gotra in check.

Let’s say for example that more than half the Brahmins were Bharadwajs. Considering that a Bharadwaj can only marry a non-Bharadwaj, that would leave a number of Bharadwajs being unable to marry, which means that the number of Bharadwajs in the next generation would be lower!

It is interesting, though, that everything can be explained through food!

You don’t need grammar to get a visa

Last year, before we traveled to Turkey, I had carefully written out a covering letter along with all our documents and sent it across to the consulate. However, after it turned out that there might be some problems with the application (since I wasn’t working, and Priyanka wasn’t getting a leave letter), the agent decided to re-word the application.

In general, whenever I’m writing something, I’m very careful about the spellings and grammar. I make it a point to write well and make sure there’s no room for ambiguity. However, considering that the following letter was actually successful in getting me a visa, such care and precision is perhaps not required. Here is the letter that the agent wrote on my behalf as part of my visa application.



The Consul General
Consulate General of Turkey

Dear Sir

I am Management Consultant (freelance) is enclosing herewith my visa application along with visa application of my wife  dully filled in and signed by us for necessary tourist visa.

We are planning a holiday visit to Turkey during the visit we will stay at hotel ALTINOZ, Ragip Uner Cad. from 23rd till 26 Oct 2011 and at hotel Best Western Mimar Mehmet Aga, Caddesi No.17/19, Sultanahmet, Istanbul from 26 Oct till 29 Oct 2011. The Hotel confirmation and other relevant documents are attached herewith for your reference. Hence I request you to kindly grant us necessary tourist visa at your earliest and oblige


Thanking You


Yours Faithfully



I’ve typed out the letter here exactly as the agent had written it out to the consulate (he had given me a copy). While I’m sad that such a horribly written out letter had to go out in my name, I’m at least glad that I managed to get the visa to Turkey well in time and without any hassles.

The Bharadwajs

I’m married to a Bharadwaj. To put it another way, I’ve “bailed out” a Bharadwaj. Let me explain.

There is a concept of “gotras” among “Caste Hindus”. Each person is supposed to have a paternal ancestral line to a rishi, and that rishi’s name is your gotra. For example, I’m supposed to be a descendant of the sage Haritsa (such an obscure rishi he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page). And so my gotra is “haritsa”. Knowledge of your own gotra is important when you go to a temple to get “archane” (where you pay 10 rupees, give some vital stats and get sugar candy in return) done. It is also important when you are going to get married.

So Hindus have a weird way of defining cousins, especially for the purpose of marriage. Only male ancestry matters, and male brotherhood also. If you examine this further, everyone who has the same gotra as you (and hence are related to you by a paternal line) are your cousins. Sisters and mothers don’t particularly matter in this definition of cousins, hence the widespread incest, especially in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. There is one important exception of course – your mother’s sister’s siblings are also your cousins, though no one bothers keeping track of such relationships over more than a generation.

Like in any other good religion, Hinduism doesn’t allow you to marry your cousins. And due to the weird definition of cousin, you effectively can’t marry someone from your gotra. That is supposed to be incestuous. If you have any doubts about this, please travel to Haryana and ask any of the khap panchayats there.

So among Brahmins (due to lack of sufficient data points, I’ll restrict my discourse to Brahmins), the most “popular” gotra is Bharadwaja. It is either the Rishi Bharadwaja himself, or some of his descendants, or all of them collectively, who did a “Genghiz Khan”. Rather, one should say that Genghiz Khan did a Rishi Bharadwaja. Because of this, Bharadwajas constitute a really large proportion of Brahmins. I’m not sure of exact statistics here, but they are easily the largest Brahmin Gotra.

So now, “rules” dictate that you should marry within your caste, but outside of your gotra. And this puts the Bharadwajas at a great disadvantage, for so many other Brahmins are Bharadwajas, that the sample space from which to look for a spouse is severely restricted indeed. I know of a cousin (mother’s father’s sister’s son’s daughter) who is a Bharadwaja, and who spent a really long time in the arranged marriage market. As I told you, restricted sample space. That way, people like me who belong to obscure gotras should consider ourselves lucky, I guess.

So if you are a Brahmin, and not a Bharadwaja, please help out a needy fellow-Brahmin, who may otherwise have to spend a really long time in the marriage market (arranged or otherwise) only because one of their ancestors happened to be particularly prolific. And this is one thing in which I can proudly claim to lead by example.

PS: The proportion of Bharadwajs among Brahmins might be overstated due to the sheer number of them who put the name of their Gotra as their surname. I don’t think putting gotra as surname is common among any other Brahmin gotra.