Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Family Tree

What is your name?  Or, what is your good name?  This is the first question many of us frequently face or receive when we meet someone in a gathering.  A child's nursery school teaching starts with the same question. Parents are thrilled when the child answers that question.  "What is your Father's name?" would be the next question the child has to answer. "What is your Mother's name ?" is likely to follow.  Name of grandparents is generally not asked.  Name of great grand parents?  Forget the child, many times the parents themselves may not be able to answer that question.  Third or fourth generation? Fifth, sixth and seventh generations?  Better not to ask these questions.  Some may even argue about the purpose and usefulness of asking such questions!

Some are fortunate to know and live with their parents. Some others know and also lived even with the grandparents. There are many who have not seen their parents.   Some of them do not even know their names. Many films, especially Hindi films, have this as their theme. "I do not know who my parents were.  I am an Orphan"  is the common dialogue.

When I was in Gaya (Bihar) some ten years ago, I was observing the shraddalu persons offering "Pindas" (offerings to ancestors) near "Gadadhara's Temple" and below the "Peepul Tree" (Akshaya Vata Vruksha, as it is called).  The person performing "Shraadh" is required to recite the names of at least twelve persons, comprising three generations from both father's and mother's side.  Many of them could not go beyond grand parents.  Of course, the system provides for a "Default" option - it is "Yagnappa" for males and "Yagnamma" for females.  If one does not know the "Gotra" (Family name) of any ancestor or relative, then it is "Kashyapa Gotra" because all Gotra Purushas have descended from Kashyapa Rishi.

During my visit to the "Valley forge Historical National park" on the outskirts of Philadelphia, I found an interesting computerized device exhibited there through which any American visitor could find out about his/her ancestor who participated in the 1777-78 War of Independence under the leadership of George Washington. "Society of the Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge" has made this possible and an ancestor who took part in the war over two hundred thirty years ago could be traced.  I am told there are similar arrangements in some other places to trace ancestors.

"Family Tree" was one of the documents handed over by a father in our country to his sons when he realized that his end was nearing.  Needless to say that this practice was in educated families.  If there was more than one son, the instruction would be to make copies of the document so that each one had one such "Family Tree" in his house.  This document would be referred for performing annual death ceremonies or "Tarpanas" on prescribed occasions.  This practice has slowly lost its importance and now nearly forgotten.  One of my cousins took extra pains to extend this practice and even prepared a beautiful document covering our earlier three generations as well as the next three generations.  This document has even the photos of all the persons of six or seven generations, with spouses. One such document is held by me as a prized possession.

Some time back I visited a family in Bangalore during a function.  While talking to a member of the family I came to know that he is from a Gotra called "Haritasa".  There are many families with Haritasa Gotra in Bangalore and Kolar districts.  As I knew some families of this group, I made further inquiries. One "Annadana Bhatta" was a common ancestor for these families. Annadana Bhatta or Annam Bhatta is the author of a Logic Primer by name "Tarka Sangraha".  In response to my further questions, my host brought the Family Tree from his collections and showed it to me.  It is a beautiful document and it is shaped as a tree itself!  At my request he graciously gave me a copy of that tree.  I have photographed it and included it here (picture shown above).  The document is in Telugu language and is made with commendable efforts.  The tree shaped document starts from  "Adi Narayana Moorthy" and "Brahma" and continues through "Gotra Purusha".   There are many Annadana Bhattas in the tree and names like "Narayana Bhatta", "Äccham Bhatta" and others are repeated.  This is in line with the practice of naming the grandson after his grandfather.  The hard work and sincere efforts of the artiste (he should indeed be an artiste to produce such a document) in faultlessly preparing such a document is to be really appreciated.  It is, indeed, a Family Tree!

As regards Annam Bhatta's "Tarka Sangraha", that is a topic for another day.


  1. I always thought that the old Mysore way of names ie,. ancestral place followed by father's name and then the given name was better for traceability than using family name after given name. This is particularly true of the old days when official records hardly existed.
    In the west traceing ancestry and creating family tree are pastimes. Two of my local friends are very active in this and one of them has gone back a far as 1700 AD

  2. It is very interesting to know about the ancestors.
    Thanks for sharing the family tree of Annam Bhatta's
    family who belong to the Haritasa gotra.

    The archived document of Annam Bhatta's Tarka Sangraha
    available on the net for readers interested.

  3. Sir In North Karnataka Side we have set of families and they called "Heluvaru" They keep tab of family tree of one perticular family and its their occupation and they pass it on to their younger genaration.These people keep on travelling in search of the family members and all they expect is not the money they wnat a pair of bedsheets and a cloaths.Still in our villages these people are having a prominent place. They keep the written records of the entire family Its really amazing.

  4. Very interesting. I would request you to let me know the basis for taking Kashyapa Gotra as the gotra for all those who do not know their Gotra. I will write separately.

  5. It is good to read the article. The family tree posted along with is really prepared with lots of efforts. Congratulations to the person who has done it.

  6. This is a great way to bring out this family tree information and very nicely written.

  7. "What is your good name?" is a funny usage. I cringe a little each time I hear it. The photograph of the family tree is fantastic!

  8. Excellent reading. Thanks


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