In Northwestern India such as the Gujarat and Rajasthan regions of India, the family name Shah is found among the Jain banias (traders) and Hindu (Vaishnav) . The surname like various other Indian surnames was also adopted by various other common people for popularity and status benefits.
The Shah surname is adopted by the trade communities (The Banias/ Vanias) in Gujarat and nearby states. Banias include the Jains and the Vaishnavas. It is second most famous surname of Gujarat. Its variants include "Sah", "Shaha", "Sahu", "Sav", "Sha" or "Shaw". It was widely used by the Jains even outside of Gujarat and Rajasthan, for example in Delhi/Haryana (see Nattal Sahu), Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (see Sahu Jain) and Maharashtra.
The Hindi word 'Shahukara' meaning a banker, is derived from Sahu (Sanskrit "Sadhu") and kar (Sanskrit meaning doer).
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It is derived from Sanskrit Sadhu (meaning gentleman) and Prakrit Sahu, while the actual spelling "Shah" in Western culture was popularized by the title of the former Persian King. As a result, especially in Western culture, the usuage of the spelling "Shah" has become far more pronounced than the other variants. The word Sadhu/Sahu is also separately used to indicate a Jain monk. See Namokar Mantra.
In the Gujarat and Rajasthan region, the surname Shah derives from the varnacular sah (from Sanskrit Sadhu, "merchant"). The surname appears to have been altered under the influence of the Persian word for 'king' (Shah) or its variants.
In numerous 12-13th century inscriptions the shravaka who installed the image, is given the title "Sahu".
- A 12th century Jain altarpiece in Los Angeles County Museum of Art mentions Grahapati Sadhu Kundha
- Vibudh Shridhar mentions his patron Nattal Sahu, a 12th-century merchant prince in Delhi.
- From Gwalior: Here both Sah and Sadhu have been used in the 1510 inscription.
- From Ahar, Madhya Pradesh: " Samvat 1210 vaishakha sudi 13 grahpatyanvayae sahu shrisadhu bharya mana tayoh .. ete paNamanti nityam."
Here the word Sahu is equivalent to Sanskrit word "sadhu". Some inscriptions use "sadhu" itself :
- From Bahuriband (Katni, MP): "Svasti shri samvat 1070 phalgunavadi ...
madhavannandinugrahitah sadhu-shri sarvadharah .."
The word Sadhu here does not mean a monk but a "gentleman". Some inscriptions abbreviate sahu by just "sa" just like many English speakers write "Mr."
In some business communities, genealogies are recited during marriages, all ancestors would be respectfully called "sahu".The term "sahukari"means the profession of banking/trading. In the Bundelkhand Jain community, the father-in-law (or son's/daughter's father-in-law) used to be called "sahaji". Thus the words "Shah" etc. all indicate a respected member of the mercantile community. Today it is used by Gujarati business communities.
People with the surname
Notable people with the surname include:
- Abdullah Shah (died 2004), first person executed by the post-Taliban Afghan state
- Bina Shah, Pakistani journalist and writer
- Bulleh Shah (c. 1680 – c. 1758), Punjabi Sufi poet
- Eddy Shah, Manchester-based businessman and writer
- Ema Shah (born 1981), Kuwaiti singer
- Hemish Shah (1968–2001), English stock broker and professional poker player
- Hetul Shah, (born 1999), Indian chess player
- Idries Shah (1924–1996), Sufi writer
- Jamal Shah, Pakistani television actor
- Jawahar Shah (born 1955), Indian homeopath
- Kiran Shah (born 1956), Kenyan-born actor and stuntman
- Kunal Shah, (born 1978), Philanthropist and businessman based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat
- Maqsud Shah, Uyghur Khan or Prince of the Kumul Khanate from 1908 to 1930
- Mowahid Shah, Pakistan-born attorney-at-law, writer, and policy analyst
- Naseeruddin Shah, famous Indian actor
- Omar Ali-Shah (1922–2005), prominent exponent of modern Sufism
- Owais Shah (born 1978), Pakistani-born English cricketer
- Pooja Shah (born 1979), British Asian actress
- Raffique Shah (born 1946), Trinidad and Tobago trade unionist and politician
- Rajendra Keshavlal Shah (born 1913), lyrical poet who writes in Gujarati
- Rajiv Shah (born 1973), administrator of the United States Agency for International Development
- Ravindu Shah (born 1972), Kenyan cricketer
- Ray Shah (born 1978), contestant on the fourth series of the British Big Brother
- Roger Shah, German electronic music producer
- Saira Shah, English author, reporter and documentary filmmaker
- Sanjay Shah, former Kenyan, best known for staging an immigration protest
- Satish Beri-Shah, prominent Indian film and television actor
- Sher Shah (VC) (1917–1945), Indian recipient of the Victoria Cross
- Sitara Shah, actress who played Parvati Patil in the first three Harry Potter films
- Wali Khan Amin Shah, Afghan-born Al-Qaeda member
- Waris Shah (1719 or 1730–1790), Punjabi poet
- Nisarg Shah (Born 1990), Banker
- Kumar, R. (2006). Costumes and textiles of royal india. ISBN 1851495096
- Qamar, G. A. (2011). The early cultural relations of india and iran. Dev books. ISBN 978-8192075204
- Shakespear, John. A dictionary, Hindustani and English: with a copious index, fitting the work to serve, also, as a dictionary of English and Hindustani. 3rd ed., much enl. London: Printed for the author by J.L. Cox and Son: Sold by Parbury, Allen, & Co., 1834, p.1035
- "Shah Name Meaning and History". Ancestry.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- Akota Bronzes,Umakant P.Shah, 1959, p. 52-53
- Kasturchand Jain Suman, Bharatiya Digambar Jain Abhilekh aur Tirth Parichay, Madhya-Pradesh: 13 vi shati tak, Delhi, 2001
- Gopachal ke Jinamandir[dead link]
- Indian Sculpture: 700-1800, Volume 2 of Indian Sculpture: A Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection, Pratapaditya Pal, University of California Press, 1988, p. 306
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