Who are Kanvas, those with Kanva gotra or people who belong to the Shukla Yajurveda Kanva shakha? I'm not able to find any useful reference, as there is a separate mutt of Kanvas in south India.

2 Answers 2


I cite after initial summary:

They are primarily famed as Rgved seers. The Vajasaneyi Samhita( Shukla Yajurveda) has a recension from the descendants of most probably this family. Out of a possible 86 recensions, only 2 survive , most probably due to destruction of Brahmin families in raids. The मध्यन्दिन madhyandin exists in North, Gujrat and Mahrastra, while the Kanva covers this as well as south.

कण्व /கண்வா/Kanv are renowned as seers of one of the most ancients books of the Rgveda family books. Many historians date it at pre 1500BC, however it may be as ancient as 6000BC as it has similarity to Avesta. It, this part, book 8 Rgveda, refers to a battle with the Dasyu, most probably the Dahae, living on the southeast shore of Caspian (see also Kashyapa and Caspian) sea. Book8 also has a reference to Suvastu River, the Swat River in Afghanistan.

Cited in brief from wisdomlib/ search kanva. Kaṇva (कण्व).—(KĀŚYAPA). General information. Kaṇva attained Purāṇic fame as the father who brought up Śakuntalā. From Ṛgveda it can be gathered that the Kaṇva family was very prominent among the Ṛṣi families of ancient India. Because he was born in the family of sage Kaśyapa, son of Brahmā, Kaṇva was known as Kāśyapa also. Kaṇva’s father was Medhātithi as could be seen by a reference to him in Śloka 27, Chapter 208 of Śānti Parva as Medhātithisuta. Kaṇva was staying in a hermitage on the banks of the river Mālinī, with a number of disciples. (See full article at Story of Kaṇva from the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani).


Before explaining who are Kaṇvas, I would prefer clearing up some basics.

saptānām r̥ṣīṇām agastyāṣṭamānāṁ yad apatyam tad gotram

Gotra is that whole group of persons descended from anyone of the saptarṣis or Agastya.

These r̥ṣis are Jamadagni, Gautama, Bharadvāja, Atri, Viśvāmitra, Kaśyapa, Vasiṣṭha, with the addition of Agastya. The pakṣas are those of saptarṣis with Agastya as 8th. These are also known as ārṣagotras, which are only 8. (pakṣas= vaṁśa= varga = gotra). Each gotra is subdivided into several gaṇas or groups, and each gaṇa with its own distinctive pravaras (gaṇas & pravara indicate sublineages and sub-ancestor Ṛṣis). All the gaṇas within one gotra, however normally have at least one ṛṣi name in common -that of the eponymous r̥ṣi of the major gotra. Loosely, gotragaṇas or gaṇas (which aren't part of any gotra) are also called as gotras. For e.g. Upamanyu is a gotragaṇa, belonging to Vasiṣṭha gotra, but loosely Upamanyu is called a gotra. Garga gaṇa belongs to Bhāradvāja gotra, but loosely Garga is called a gotra. Similarly, Kāṇva is a gaṇa, but it's loosely called a gotra. There are also several gaṇas and pravaras, which aren't part of the eight ārṣagotras. These are Bhṛgus and Aṅgirasas. Since, Bhr̥gu and Aṅgiras aren't saptarṣis, Bhr̥gus and Aṅgirases are excluded from the ārṣagotras, and aren't technically part of any of them (save Jamadagnis, Gautamas, Bharadvājas). Note that the gaṇa of Bhr̥gu excludes Jamadagnis and the gaṇa of Aṅgiras excludes Gautamas & Bharadvājas.

As per Gotrapravaramañjari by Puruṣottama Paṇḍita, Aṅgirasas have three main divisions : Bharadvājas, Gautamas, & Kevala Aṅgirasas. Out of these three, only the former two are gotras. Kevala Aṅgirasas aren't part of any gotra, but they still have gaṇas such as Kaṇvas, Kutsas, Mudgalas, Harītas, etc. These gaṇas of Kevala Aṅgirasas have their distinctive pravaras too.

Kaṇvas are a gaṇa of Kevala Aṅgirasas, who have a tryārṣeyapravara i.e. three-ṛṣi pravara, as per the accounts of Baudhāyanaśrautasūtra, Āpastambaśrautasūtra, & Āśvalāyanaśrautasūtra in Gotrapravaramañjarī. A three-ṛṣi pravara of Kaṇvas is 'Āṅgirasa, Ājamīḍha, Kāṇva'. As per the Āśvalāyana account, some replace Ājamīḍha with Ghaura, viz. 'Āṅgirasa, Ghaura, Kāṇva'.

Note that the 'Kaṇvas' (or Kāṇva) may also refer to the follower(s) of Kāṇvaśākhā of Śukla Yajurveda. But usually, if a man says that he is Kāṇva, he most likely means that he belongs to Kāṇvagaṇa. If that's not so, maybe his śākhā is Kāṇva. If the former two possibilities aren't true, it's possible that his name is Kāṇva. You just need to further inquire, and it would be clear if he is referring to gaṇa, śākhā, his name, etc.

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