Social groups no longer could live in isolation. Pressure of population
and increasing means of production made their inter-dependence necessary.
Man no longer could meet with all his needs in his own village or commune.
He was compelled to seek the help of his neighbouring villages and communities.
Within his own social group the number of its members also witnessed an
increase. Trade and commerce took him even to distant lands and exposed
him to different social atmospheres. However, the stock of personal names
being limited he could not individualise every member of his own group
and those of other communities, as easily as he could do in the past. Therefore,
a man could be identified by adding the name of his commune or social group
when he was to be identified and individualised outside his community.
This is, perhaps, the vague beginning of what we call Gotra system in the
ancient India. But requirements of identification within one's own community
could not be met with by this simple means of addition of one's community
name to the personal name. The problem of homonyms must have, therefore,
persisted for much a longer time.
Amimism has been a common phenomenon with all the ancient races and
tribes. The fundamental and basic element of Indian religion, from which
everything else sprang, was the propitiation of the spirits of the earth
and sky to obtain good crops and fertile herds. "This aspect of Hinduism,
as all Hindus know, still continues, overlaid by much more developed and
exalted religious thought. And this is not, in my opinion, an aspect of
religion to be disparged, to be looked down upon, or, to, be treated with
scorn. We can trace it back to the Harrapa culture and even further back
to pre-historic man, the ancestor of the present Adivasis".
Rapid expansion of the Aryans in India gave birth to a process of mixture
of races. Thus throwing open the gates of much guarded Aryan communities
to rush in a number of native and aboriginal beliefs and practices. Totemism
was, perhaps, one of the strongest aboriginal waves to have left its indelible
marks on the shores of Aryan ocean. Therefore names of inanimate objects
were connected with the tribe and clan names. In spite of the positive
vedic directions against totemic practices we have a large number of ancient
Indian families which derive their names from some animal, plant or inanimate
object. Mr L. M. Roy in one of his Bengali articles has tried his best
to prove that the family names of the primitive civilized people first
originated from the nomenclature of inanimate objects, such as mountains
hills, rivers, forest or wood etc., and of animate objects-animals and
birds, such as lion, tiger, elephant, cow, bull, bullock, lamb, serpent,
bird, swan, duck, dove, patridge, hawk or hawkin, peacock, etc.
"These surnames still exist among the different civilized nations of
the East and the West. Their similarity goes to show that we the people
of the East and the West must have belonged to the same stock of the human
race, although we might have later divided ,ourselves into various groups,
such as Asian, European, American, Russian, African, Mongolian Caucasian,
Australian, Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, Siamese and so on.
1.3 Earliest Surnames
The nearest approach to surnames in ancient times existed among the
Romans. They gave to each child a first name. A second one was added to
indicate the family or class to which he belonged. Later a third name,
usually a sort of descriptive nick name was added. Romans called this the
Cogonomen. It often becomes the family name. Although the use of any kind
of surname was almost non-existent in ancient India, yet the law-givers
have laid down positive directions towards their use. Thus Vyasa emphasised
that "the 'Sarman' was to be added to the name of a Brahman, 'Varman' to
that of a Kshatriya, 'Gupta' to that of Vaisya and 'Dasa' to that of a 'Sudra'.
2 Varied Sources
Sources of family or surnames have been varied and diverse. It may
be a totem, name of a class or tribe, name of an animate or inanimate object,
name of village or locality, name of one's mother or father, name of the
profession and even a nick name. Surnames in the beginning were simple
marks of identification and individualisation. But the process of individualisation
could never be completed in total. With the proliferation of families and
tribes it became continued process. A name used as an individualisation
mark for a certain social group consisting of, say about fifty persons
could no longer serve its purpose when the number of members of that particular
group became two hundred. Accordingly a number of sub groups came into
being within a certain group. Therefore, the process of individualisation
became a continuous and perpetual job. However new and newer situations,
incidents and occasions presented themselves in a mechanical manner making
the process of individualisation a self perpetuating procedure.
2.1 Birds and Animals
Sanskrit literature is full of such family names which owe their origin
to the denominations of lower animals, birds and inanimate objects. Mr.
Roy has quoted references from the Vedas to substantiate the above. statement.
A passage from the Samveda says "People who are not revengeful and are
forbearing like a Hamsas (Swans) even when tortured by their enemies, are
called Harnsas (Swans). They and Brisha (Bull) go to Yajna-Griha (Sacrificial
room) to perform the sacrificial rites. The Rigveda described the abode
of these swans as 'Suchi'. They lived there under the leadership of Brahma."
A saintly man or a Sanyasin. is even now called as Parmahamsa. Surnames
like 'Swan' and 'Duck' exist among English speaking. people also.
In Aitareya-Brahmana at many places it has been stated that 'Snakes',
'Cows' or 'Bulls' performed Yajnas. Historical investigations have proved
that they did not belong to any reptile or animal class. But they were
socially well-organised human groups holding, perhaps, the totem of the
snakes, the bulls or the cow. There are numerous references to the 'Nagas'
as a tribe and as 'serpents' in ancient Indian literature. Their real identity
is shrouded in a mystery. However, many scholars have worked hard to lift
the curtain of mythology from their face and proved them as a race of early
inhabitants of India. Nagas were the earliest inhabitants of Kashmir valley
also is proved beyond doubt by the. 'Nilamata Purana'. Benjamin Walker
describes them as a mixed Mongolian people. whose original home was probably
in the highlands (Sanskrit: Naga) of Iran, which have even been the meeting
ground for Aryan and Mangolian peoples. Nagadvipa was one of the nine geographical
divisions of Bharata-Varsha or Ancient India, which formed a belt extending
from Iran across Afghanistan to parts of the Punjab. The Nagas were of
scythic affinities and associated with the serpent totem, of which some
evidence is found in ancient Persian, South Russian myths. Herodotus relates
to the story of Hercules who during his search for his lost mark, mated
with Echidna, a half woman half serpent, and left a bow for his son Scythes.
Thus does Greek mythology, with instructive symbolism, explain the origin
of the Scythian people. General Cunningam takes them as the dragon-worshippers
akin to the Scytho-Median Zohak. Three very old cast coins with figure
of snake and the legend Kadsa in old Brahmi characters, which he found
in West Punjab, have been attributed by him to early Takhas -the descendants
of the Naga Chief Takshaka. This Takshaka Naga had his sway over the valley
of Kashmir also. He was called the Lord of Saffron fields having his seat
at Zevan (a village near Pampore). People to this day respect his abode
called Takshaka Naga (a spring) and offer Tahar in every safforn season
here. Mahavamsa records their presence and rule over Kashmir as early as
3rd and 4th centuries B.C. The Nilarriata Purana mentions the number of
principal Naga deities as 527, besides the four Dikpalas who were Bindusara,
Elapatra, Srimadaka and Uttaramanasa.
Col. Tod is of the opinion that they came from the "Shesnagadesa" which
he describes to be the abode of the ancient Saythic, Tochari of Strabo,
the Tak-i-uks of the Chinese, the Tajures of the present day Turkistan.
Some authorities hold the view that the Nagas were
occupied northern India before the advent of the Aryans. The North-western
region of India, through which the Naga migration took place, was traditionally
believed to be guarded by the Serpent King Nilanaga. There are numeral
evidences, particularly in spring names of Kashmir, to demonstrate the
clear authority of Nagas over the valley of Kashmir. Dr. Ved Kumari has
collected a large number of evidences in her Nilamata Purana to prove the
Nagas a human race.
Mr. C. S. Wake believes the Nagas to be "aboriginal serpent worshippers".
Professor Hopkins says, "Garudas and Tarksyas may conceivably have been
human chieftains of the Western coast though they scarcely present as strong
a claim to euhemeristic interpretation as do their natural foes Nagas".
In Indian geography the word 'Nag' appears in many place-names of which
one of the oldest was Nagasahvaya (later Hastinapur). The best known of
the present day names Nagpur, is perhaps merely an analogous appellation
given to an area where the Cobra is common.
Pargiter is of the view that the name Daitya, Danava, Naga and Raksasa
do not always imply that such tribes were different from men or even Ailas
i.e., Lunar races in Ksatriya tradition.
Carlleyle goes a step further to point out that both the Asuras and
Nagas were of a highly respectable patronage and were descendants of ancient
Aryan patriarchs of the Hindu racer°. Dr A. Banerjee regards them the
spear head and backbone of the Asura people in India".
Dr Grierson says, "I am inclined to believe that they may have been
the ancestors of the non-Aryan inhabitants of Hunza-Nagar whose language
Burushaski has not yet been identified as belonging to any known family
G. F. Oldham takes them as sun-worshipping Sanskrit speaking people
whose totem was the Naga or the hooded serpent". Kenny holds the view that
the Nagas were a Dravidian people inhabiting the northern part of India
before the immigration of the Aryan people to India."
The term 'Nagara' which originally meant the imperial capital, and now
means 'town' or 'locality' is still used as a suffix to the naming of new
towns. Nalanda, site of a famous Buddist University was also called after
a 'Naga', namely Nagananda, and Takhasila (Taxila) after the Naga King 'Takshaka'.
In Sanskrit texts Nagas are described as handsome, intelligent race.
'Narada Muni' after his visit to their land, declared it more enchanting
than the heaven. Naga princesses were frequently sought as brides for .the
Indian princes. The marriage of Purukutsa, son of Mandhatri of Ayodhya,
with Narmada, a Naga Princess; of Kusha son of Rama with Naga princess
. Kumud Vati; of Asvathama, son of Drona, with a Naga maiden, of Arjuna
with Ulupi, a Naga princess are conspicuous instances of such alliances.
In historical times particularly every important dynasty was linked with
the Nagas. They also founded their own dynasties. They were Harnayaka dynasty,
founded by Bhimsara of Magadha, the Sisunagas of Magadha; the Lichchhavis
of the Himalayan foot hills; the Bharasivas of the upper Ganges region
and the Naga dynasty of Padmavati in Central India. The Puranas :state
that no less than seven Naga kings ruled at Mathura. Krishna's ancestors
and also the kings of Vijaya Nagar were the Nagas. Among others the 'Nhavi'
of the Deccan, the 'Kur' of Chota Nagpur and .certain princely families
of Mysore are said to have descended from the Nagas."
The Mahabharata is full of references to the 'Naga' families i.e., people
who bear Naga as their family name. Vedvyasa says, "This son of mine. .
.is born of my wife who belongs to the serpent sect." King Janmejoy's "Naga
Yajana' was not aimed at annihilating the species of 'serpents' from India
but was a declared war against Naga king of Taxila. Naga names have continued
to .exist from the Buddhistic period down to the present time. The names
of Pingal Nag and Ding-Nagacharya are not unknown to the literary world.
In Bengal various sects of Hindus still use the word 'Nag' as their
Harivamsa describes the forced ouster of certain kshatriya dynasties
from Hindu societies, which included besides others the Sarpa (Serpent)
and Mahisha (Buffalo) etc., Mysore State is stated to have been founded
by Mahishasura. The surname Sinha, Singh or Singha (lion) is very common
in India and the surname Hathee (Elephant) and Bagh (tiger) exist in many
Kayastha families of Bengal. Many Punjabi Hindu families use Hathi Singh
as surname. Among Bengalis many people still bear the surnames Bhera (Lamb),
Patka (Goat), Mahish (Buffalo) and Sial or Saalu (Jakal) etc. Use of animal
names as surnames is not practised by Hindus only. A class of Englishmen
still holds such surnames as 'Bull' and 'Bullock', 'Lamb', 'Beaver', 'Wolf',
'Fox', 'Fish', 'Seal', etc.20 (See also Chap. D for
Kashmiri surnames derived from the animal names).
Historians have proved beyond doubt the supremacy of the 'Mother' in
earliest Indian society. Woman was the leader of the class. Marriage system
prevalent in primitive Hindu society gave an exalted position to the woman."
In the sphere of religion it was a goddess rather than a god which occupied
the first place and in the dual form of the names the goddess is always
named first e.g., Lakshmi Narayan, Gauri Shankar, Radha Krishna, etc.
Among the Sakas, Kushans, Pahalvas and other peoples of Central Asian
origin, descent was often traced through the female line. Vayu Purana,
one of the oldest of the Puranas says, "The Devas (men of erudition) are
called or classified according to the names of their mothers." The name
of the mother of the Devas was Aditi. The Devas are called Adityas. Similarly,
the sons of mother 'Danayu' are known as 'Danayus' or 'Dashyus' (robbers),
the sons of the mother 'Kapila' or 'Suraai' and of mother 'Kadru' or 'Sarpa'
are respectively known as cow or bull or bullock or buffalo and Naga."
The custom of taking names. after the mother might indicate that the father
was unknown. Story of Rishi Satyakama is such an example. In some circumstances
it may point to the superior pedigree of the maternal line which would
make it to be preserved as among certain Rajputs. More often it points
to a matriarchal society.
Khasis of Assam are said to be a perfect specimen of matriarchal society.
The mother still holds the supreme position. She is the bond of union among
members of the family. She owns the property and through her alone is inheritance
transmitted. Nairs of Kerala also used to be a matriarch people. A Nair
family consisted of the mother, her children, her brothers and maternal
uncles. Transmission of inheritance was maintained through the daughters
and not sons. Relationship and descent was traced through women.
In the Gita Lord Krishna says, "I am hainteya among the birds" who was,
this Vainteya? Vainteya had other names too. In some cases he was called
Garuda or Stakshya. He was a Sage, a leader of the Vainteyas and one of
the composers of the Vedic hymns. The Vainteya, Garuda or Stakshya did
not belong to the class of ordinary birds. He was the eldest son of mother
Vanita. Her issues generally were known as Vainteyas (birds). Keeping in
view the existence of family names as 1Vlayur (Peacock), Koel (Cuckoo),.
Bajpai (Hawk) etc., in our society and those as 'Woodcock' 'Dove' 'Peacock'
'Crane' 'Duck' 'Swan' 'Patridge', 'Eagle' and 'Bird' in English society
we can come safely to the logical conclusion that these different denominations
are the direct outcome of the general term 'Bird'. That is to say, that
the people holding such surnames are the descendants of the 'Bird family'.
The matriarchal system has almost been abolished from our civilised society.
Traces of this system can be found among the hill tribes anal Keralas of
India andthe aboriginal tribes of Africa.
Closely connected with matriarchy is the system of Polyandry. It permits
a woman to have more than one husband at the same time. This custom is
said to have prevailed among almost all classes of ancient India. It was
very common among non-Aryans, particularly the Austrics, and was found
among Brahmins and Rishis. The hymns of Atharva-Veda saying that a woman
can marry even after having ten husbands is a direct reference to polyandry.
Similarly, mythology speaks of a common wife of the 'Maruts' and of the 'Asvins'.
Many scions of the ancient rishi clans were said to be born of 'two
fathers', or 'the sons of many fathers', and there are a number of references
in Vedic literature to women with several husbands, or to a maiden being
'given unto husbands.' The vedic Rishi 'Prachetas' had ten sons who married
a common wife 'Marisha' daughter of 'Kandu'. The beautiful Gautami married
seven rishis as a common wife. The fisher women had two children by one
of her husbands, Santanu and by another husband bore the renowned sage Vyasa. ',latila' the virtuous daughter of a Vedic rishi was, according
to Mahabharata, the wife of seven learned Brahmins. So also ' Yarkshi',
daughter of a sage, who in Mahabharata was the wife of ten brothers.
There is a story in the Puranas of the beautiful Madhavi who was jointly
queen to three contemporary and neighbouring kings, and bore sons to three
different families, after which she bore a son to the sage Visvamitra.
Not content with the performance she had a Swayamvara and selected her
husband the King Haryasva with whom she went into exile. The Kunala Jataka
relates that the princess 'Kavita' selected five husbands at a time and
married them all. Sarkar deems it not unlikely that Sita was the common
wife of Rama and Lakshamana.
The most conspicuous example of polyandry is the marriage of Draupadi
to the five Pandavas. Pandu, the father of Pandavas by a curse could not cohibit. with his wives.
Kunti, the mother of Pandavas, knew several husbands
and had mothered a son even before her marriage. Polyandry of Pandavas
surprised Drupada who questioned Yudhishthira about the strange custom,
"contrary to percept and morals', and Yudhishthira replied". It is beyond
our power to discover the origin of this practice. We only follow the old
and righteous path taken by our ancestors.
Dr. Majumdar is of the view that the custom of several brothers marrying
one woman is even today more common in India than is generally believed,
not, only among non-Aryans, also but among the Brahmins.
With the passage of time the banner of matriarchy was pulled down from
the social complex of ancient. India and the supreme command of leadership
of the family went into the hands of man. Woman was thrown into dark dungeon
of slavery and subjugation with a strong dose of sedation, from which she
is yet to recover fully. Every family was commanded over by a Patriarch
with full sovereignty over its members, the life and liberty of sons, daughters
and wives being his private property. These patriarchs became, in ancient
Indian society, the founders of various dynasties and gotras. Descendants
of these gotras have been since then using the name of their forefathers (gotras) as their surnames. For this we find these days such surnames as
'Kashyapa', 'Bharadvaja', 'Vasistha', 'Parasara', 'Vyasa', 'Vatsayana',. 'Gautama',
'Mondgalayana', 'Garga', 'Mitra' and so on. The practice of
using father's or forefather's name as a surname is very common in present
day India.. Take for instance the name of 'Lokmanya Balwant Rao Bal-Gangadhar
Tilak'. Here 'Balwant Rao' is the Christian name of Lokmanya Tilak, the
word 'BalGangadhar' is his father's name and the word 'Tilak' signifies
the name of forefather of his family (Lokmanya) is simply an honorific.
Similarly, take the name of 'Deshabandhu Chitranjan Das' and 'Netaji Subash
Chandra Bose'. 'Chitranjan' and 'Subash Chandra' signify the Christian
names of the respective individuals concerned. 'Das' and 'Bose' represent
respectively the names of forefathers of 'Chitranjan' and 'Subash Chandra'.
The practice of using one's father's name is not unique to the Hindu
society. It has been prevalent among Europeans also. Thus William's John
writes his name as John Williams (i.e. Wiliiam's son) Brain's John is called
Johno' Brain (Using the Irish prefix 'O, meaning of). Donald's John became
John Mac Donald (Scottish). Howell's John was known as John ApHowell, shortened
to Powell (Welsh). If a Russian were called Ivan and his son had the same
name, the son would be known as Ivan Itanhovitch. Many other patriarch
names like George, William, Anderson, Ripon, Muir, Harrington, Morrison,
Stalin, Truman, Roosevelt, Attlee, Mackintosh, Gregory, Harrison, Washington,
Evatt, Hopkins, Martin etc., are very commonly used as surnames.
2.6 Name of Locality
Name of the locality from which a person's ancestors had come is also
used as a surname. To add the name of locality to one's name for a better
identification is a common practice in South India. Thus the name 'Shiyali
Ramamrita Ranganathan' is a combination of his Christian name (Ranganathan),
his father's name (Ramamrita) and the name of his ancestoral village (Shiyali).
Other names derived from places are Bhatnagar, Malviya and Sarvepalli.
In north India and west India the suffix 'Valla' is added. It is anglicized
as 'Wallah' e.g., Bombaywallah, Amritsarwallah. The practice of adding 'Wallah' to one's personal name became common, even necessary, among the
displaced persons of West Punjab. They added the name of their locality
with a suffix 'Wallah' for an immediate and easy identifiation. Thus arose
a large number of names with the word 'Wallah' e.g., 'Peshawar Wallah' 'Sialkot
Wallah', 'Lahore Wallah', 'Karachi Wallah' etc. Westerners also
resorted to the practice of adding the name of place to one's name for
identification. "Every village had its 'hall', its 'woods', and its 'village
green'. Hence three common place names are Hall Wood and Green. These names
might be varied in several ways. Thomas who lived near the wood might be
called Thomas Wood or Thomas At Wood. If Andrews Inn had the sign of a
lion, he might be called Andrew Lyon".
Another potent source of surnames in India and abroad was the profession
or the occupation of the head of the family. If a man was a broker his
descendants were known as 'Dalal'. Accordingly a blacksmith was known as
Karamkar, a fisherman as Dhibar, a ledger keeper as Rokaria, a money-lender
as Seth, a Cashier as Khizanchi and a clerk as Munshi. A reciter of sacred
texts was known as Pathak. Among certain Bengali Brahmins the suffix ' Upadhya'
(recitor or teacher) is added to the ancestoral village name e.g.,
Mukhopadhyaya (contracted to Mukherji) Bandopadhyaya (Banerji), Chattopadhaya (Chaterjee), Gangopadhyay
(Ganguli). The system of suffixing Charia, Chariar
or Acharzar,' teacher' to ancestoral place names is common in Tamil Nadu
e.g., Rajgopalachariar. In the Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the names Ahuja, Ojha or Jha meaning reciter are common. Mr. Roy has given us a list
of surnames, of English people and the Hindus, based on occupation having
|Hindu surnames according to occupation
||English surnames according to occupation
| 1. Vais, Vanik, Krisak,
3. Jailey or Dhibar
7. Tehsildar or Borat
10. Nayak or Senanayak
11. Pathak, Uppadhya,
Odha or Ahuja, Jha,
Acharya or Charia
13. Malakar or Mali
14. Raj Kumar
15. Rajah, Roy, Rai, Ray
or Rae, Rao and
19. Aya, Bish, or Bishi,
Swamy, Goswami or
Gosain, Prabhu, Iswar
(Ayar or Iyer and
Ayengar or Iyengar,
the diminutive form
of Sanskrit word 'Arya').
| 1. Farmer, Husband
3. Fisher or Fisherman
4. Gold Smith
5. Black Smith
8. Priest, Pope, Bishop
15. King, Baron, Duke
17. Sage, Hermit
2.8 Suffix and Name endings
To sum up the discussion it would not be out of place to mention certain
name suffixes and Nameendings used by the Brahmanas and Kshtriyas of nor
thern India. Brahmanas generally used the word 'Sarman' (as provided in
Visnu Purana) as a suffix to their personal names. The words 'Dviveda', 'Trivedi' and
'Chaturvedi' were, in all probability, used as name ending
of those Brahmanas who had specialised in the knowledge of two, three and
four vedas respectively. 'Agnihotri' was used as a suffix to one's
name by those Brahmanas who would put the Ahutis in the sacred fire 'Dikshita'
was used by a person who had received the formal initiation and the 'Pathaka'
was reserved for the recitors of sacred texts. Swamina was 'another epithet
used by the Brahmanas who happened to be the leaders of a Matha. They are
said to have been devotees of Lord Shiva and are associated with the Natha
Sect. Lastly, 'Misra' was an epithet given to those Brahmanas who happened
to enjoy the ministerial status in Royal Courts. 'Sinha' and 'Varmana'
were the two common words suffixed to the personal names of 'Kshatriyas'.
But 'Deva' and 'Pala' were other two name-endings. The Princes used the
epithet 'Rajputra' and this word is conspicuous for having given the name
of Rajputana to that region where Rajputs settled. They do not mix with
the ordinary Kshatriyas and claim to have preserved their purity of blood." 'Rauta' and
'Thakur' fall in a mixed category of name-endings. They were
used both by Brahmanas and Kshatriyas. Rauta was used even by the Kshatriyas
of Rajputana. Mr Vasudev Upadhyaya suggests that it was neither a 'surname'
nor any designation of the Brahmanas or Kshatriyas. It has been mostly
used as a prefix with the personal names. Probablv it was a corrupt form
of Rajyachyuta (i.e. one who has fallen down from a royal position). Thus
Brahmanas and Kshatriyas who were related to royal families but were not
heirs to the throne used the word 'Rauta' as a prefix. Some scholars are
of the view that 'Rauta' is a corrupt form of Rajputra. The second significant
title was Thakura'. It was used by the Brahmanas of Central India. It was
most probably given to those Brahmanas who were engaged in worship of a
certain deity. Thus there are many Brahmanas who were 'Rauta' but their
sons and grandsons adopted the name prefix 'Thakura'. 'Rauta' is said to
have been a military designation and was given to any Brahmana or Kshatriya
who distinguished himself as a reputed warrior." A new nomenclature was
introduced during the 'barbarian period', and became fashionable among
Kshatriyas. Some of the more common name-ending will indicate the character
of the change. 'Gupta', 'Protector' was originally a Sudra or Vaisya name.
' Guha', 'Secret' was an aboriginal Nishada name. 'Varma', 'Shield' was
of Central Asian origin and became a cognoman for Kshatriya. 'Sena', 'warrior'
was used in Bengal for the children of concubines of Brahmins-° but
is now adopted by the nobility. 'Bhat', 'mercenary' became a popular name
for a warrior. 'Putra', 'son', 'Datta', 'gift', Simha', 'lion', were honorific
suffixes assumed by foreign princes. This convention was firmly established
by the time of the great Sanskrit dramas and Kavyas, and even courtesans
who figured in these works were frequently given names ending in Datta,
Sena or Siddha.
3 Change of surname in Women
A woman loses the caste of her father, after she is married, (caste
here means family name) and passes to that of her husband. Marriage does
not result only in her physical transfer, but is often made to adopt a
new surname. The custom of giving a new personal name, however, is progressively
becoming out of fashion. To quote Dr Madan, 'the effect of this change
in her emotional life is, of course, immense. Of late there has been brewing
up a sense of revolt among the Indian women, of course elite ones, against
the age old tradition of adopting the surname of husband and discarding
the paternal appalation. A women's magazine published a fascinating report
on the phenomenon of surnames and woman in the West and appealed to its
Indian readers to do away with the practice of making themselves an appendage
of their male spouses. It wrote that "in the wake of the woman's liberation
movement that swept across the West as a whirlwind (and ended as a whimper
in the international women's year), a law had been enacted in West Germany
permitting the husband to add his wife's surname to his own name.However,
after 3 years, the Registrar of Hamburg found that only two per cent of
bridegrooms opted to take on the bride's surname. To give a thrust to the
movement, the authorities decided to allow even the men who had married
before the new law came into force to adopt the wife's surname. There was
a momentary rush to grab the 'maiden name', but it soon subsided.
The Registrar of Hamburg feels that there are not many men who want
to forego their ancient rights. 'There is also the fact that fathers exert
pressure on their sons just before they step before the Registrar.
In India, man has no 'ancient right' to change the name of the woman
he marries. Even in the days of epics, women kept their names separate
from their fathers/husbands. Sita was never known as Kumari Sita Janak
or Shrimati Sita Ram. She has always remained as Sita Devi.
It is not known why Indian woman should imitate their Western counterparts
in adding the men's name to their own. It is a pity that while the western
women are trying to have parity by compelling some of their men to adopt
woman's surnames, Indian women are adjectly surrendering their age old
rights to men".
4.1 South Indian
By and large South India has resisted the influence: of Europe on the
structure of its names. Family name could not establish itself beyond the
Vindyas. However, in some recent cases the caste name is being used as
a surname using the preceding words as initials. But generally the caste
name is subordinated to the personal name and is written either as separate
word after the personal name or compounded with personal name. Normally
the last word in the name is the given name.
Tamil name, normally consists of three or more words which in succession
denote the name of the place of birth, given name of the father and the
given name of the person concerned. The most potent word in such names
is the word denoting the personal name of the individual.
The collection of words contributing to the given name, in Kanarese
cultural group, is far more numerous, than the collection of words contributing
to the family name. Quite against the North Indian names the personal name
is more potent word in a Kanarese name than the family name. The people
of North, on the other hand follow the practice of Maharashtrians in the
structure of their names. This is quite different from the practice followed
by the majority of Kannada speaking people.
A Telugu name consists of a large group of words. They are pre-substantive,
substantive and post-substantive. The pre-substantive is comprised of either
the profession, name of an ancestor, an attribute, name of a god-father,
an auxiliary or a descriptive word.
4.1.4 Ayyangar and Ayyar
An Ayyangar name is hard to pronounce. Acharya is a part of their ethos.
They name their children after the several names of Vishnu. Old fashioned
names for girls are now no more in vogue. Ayyars follow a cumberous process
of naming. Nick names are common among them and they often overshadow the
real names. Ayyars have long and complex names and such unwieldly names
often create. awkward and comic situations.
4.1.5 Baffing Names
The South Indian names present a baffling phenomenon for a North Indian.
They feel difficulty in pronouncing them rightly. Sardar Khushwant Singh
writes that, "what I cannot pronounce, I never get to know. I had this
trouble with South Indian names. As a result I never got to know my Dravidian
cousins or their problems as well as I should. Am I being facetious ? No.
Please try out any of the following Magizhanan or Madiazhan, Nedunchezian,
Azhagiasingar or even Era Sezhiyan. They tie up my tongue into knots and
by the time I regain my speech the names are out of my head. Then there
are others which only those endowed with the stanuna of cross-country runners
can complete e.g., Tangataru Prakasam Pantulu Garu, Mayavaram Chidemberanatha
Viathialingam Swamigol, or Mahabalipuram Swaminatha Venkatasubramania Ghanapatikal.
And how does a simpleminded Sardar like me cope with a Tamilian lass with
so tough a name as Alamelumangathayaramma? She is not likely to
forget a man with an easy name like Singh nor the hirsute impression he
leaves on her labials . . .such names are formidable barriers to understanding.
I suggest the National Integration Council consider simplification of South
Indian names as a step towards achieving a more harmonious relationship
between the Dravidan South and the Aryan North: An irritated South Indian
gentleman soon retorted back with the remarks that "neither is the South
Dravidan nor is the North Aryan or the country Indian. British And Muslim
dress, language, manners, customs have affected Indians like leprosy, affecting
one part or the other (to improve on E., M. Forster).
Simplification of the identification symbols, name and dress may be
beautification for some but deformity for others. To simplify Jawahar Lal
Nehru and Moti Lal Nehru as J. L. Nehru and M. L. Nehru is unthinkable.
The South Indian names are simpler, more Aryan, more Indian, more national,
more sonorous than the Northern ones. Is not Veerandra Patil simpler than
Rao Birendra Singh? Is not Channa Reddy less involved than Chananjit Chanana?
Thanks to English. Prof. Gogineni Ranga Nayakulu simplified himself as
N. G. Ranga as early as the freedom struggle, Rajgopalachari was made Rajaji.
The South Indians have a better sense of national integration. They name
their children after northern deities also: Visvanatham, Yagannatham, Badrinatham,
Gangamma, Gangayya. There are several Gandhis, Nehrus, Patels, Tilaks,
Gokhales, Lajpat Rais, Eswarachandra Vidyasagars, Rajendra Prasads, Tagores,
Bankims, Arivinda Ghoshes in the South. I have yet to come across a Pattabhi
in Punjab, a Rajaji in Rajasthan, a Prakasam in U.P. The southerners do
not name their children after Demons. Inderjeet, the son of Ravana is unthinkable
though several North Indians name their children after him. It is a taboo
to have a name or surname after a wild lion as in Singh. We go in for humanised
lions like Narasimha Rao, Narsimhan etc. Karunanidhi is more precise than
Dayananda Sagar. The South Indian names have a tendency to change in accordance
with different stages in life, affluence or adversity. Gopi is my pet name
in the family, Gopalam among close relatives. Goppayya, a respectable diminutive
used by our farm workers. These days people are going in for Kumars which
become ludicrous in old age.
Surnames were used in Bengal by the middle of the nineteenth century.
The practice became more common after the advent of British. Many Bengali
surnames became anglicized in form and spelling as a result of contact
with Western influence and surnames are still in process of change. Honorifics
academic, vocational and patronymic words were given the status of family
name. This was made the last word in a name. Moreover, the given name was
split into two words, while contracting the given name, the initial letters
of each of its parts are preceded by the surnanie. The composition of a
Bengali name is thus:
(a) the proper or personal name;
The number of words available for use as family name is not more than a
(b) Padantta used to complete the proper name; and
(c) family name or surname
In Uttar Pradesh and other Hindi speaking areas, family names came
into vogue in the nineteenth century. R. S. Sexana remarks that after the
middle of the nineteenth century 'imitation of the English form of using
Christian names and surnames appeared'. Family names are generally different
from the gotra names. They are patronymics of one kind or the other. Castes
and subcastes were also used as surnames. Again as in Bengal, the given
name is broken into two parts. Given name is used, sometimes without a
surname, in the split form, as two distinct words. But people remember
them as a single word. For example:
(i) Rajendra Prasad Srivastava (ii) Sriman Narayan Aggarwal
4.4 Maharashtrian Names
In Maharashtra patronymic surnames had been in use for several centuries.
Mahamahopadhyaya Poddar, the Maharashtrian historian told Dr Ranganathan
that lists of such surnames are now in possession of priests. These are
different from gotra names. They are based upon the names of ancestral
village, profession or trade. Due to European influence, they were brought
into public use by being added at the end of the name even as Western family
names. This became a common practice about the middle of the nineteenth
century. The given name is often contracted into initials. The number of
Maharashtra surnames is quite large. A Maharashtrian name is, therefore,
In Gujrat the structure of a name is similar to that in Maharashtrian.
The function of each word in a name, taken in succession is also similar
to that in Maharashtrian name. The evolution of structure has also been
identical. However, in some Gujrati names, the fathers given name may not
The given name of a Parsee is followed by toe father's personal name.
In many cases it is, however, further followed by an occupational or caste
1. Manik Ji Rostamji: Manik Ji is the personal name, and Rostam Ji
is the father's name.
2. Dinshaw Rustamji Mehta: Dineshaw is the personal name, and Rustamji
is father's name, Mehta is surname.
A Punjabi name generally consists of two words, written separately,
but conveying a meaning only when read as a compound. The second word in
a Punjabi name, as in Bengali names, did not fossilise into a family name
or a surname. It , is used as a complimentary word. Opprobrious names are
not rare in East Punjab. Muslim influence in the composition of a Punjabi
name is also discernible.
The personal name of a Sikh is usually followed by the word Singh.
Singh is not used independently. Some Sikhs use a caste name as the last
word in their names. It may be pointed out that all Sikhs are called Singhs
but all Singhs are not Sikhs. Rajputs and Jats also use the word Singh
with their names. Sikhs have a limited number of given names. Women are
using now the Hindu names. Given names are borrowed both from Hindu and
Muslim names. Sikh surnames. are generally same as those of Hindus.
Khatri surnames like Bhatia, Bhandari, Chopra, Chowdhri, Dhawan, Kakar,
Kapoor, Khanna, Kochhar, Mahendru, Sami, Sahni, Sethi, Tandan, Uppal, Vohra
etc., are commonly used among Hindus of Punjab.
Common Surnames of India