Shah (surname)

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In Northwestern India, such as the Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh regions of India as well as Nepal, the family name Shah is found among the Rajput families and the Kshatriya clan by origin. Mughal rulers of the Indian subcontinent used the title of Shah. The word descends from Old Persian Xšâyathiya "king", which (for reasons of historical phonology) must be a borrowing from Median,[1] and is derived from the same root as Avestan xšaΘra-, "power" and "command", corresponding to Sanskrit (Old Indic) kṣatra- (same meaning), from which kṣatriya-, "warrior", is derived. Its variants include "Sah", "Shaha", "Sahu", "Sah", "Shaw" or "Shav".

The surname like various other Indian surnames was also adopted by various other common people for popularity and status benefits.[2][3] The Shah surname is adopted by the trade communities (The Banias/ Vanias) in Rajasthan and Gujarat states. Banias include the Jains and the Vaishnavas. It is second most common surname of Gujarat. 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).[4]

Shah, a different last name, derived from the Persian word "Shah", is a surname found among the Iranian peoples of Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan.[5]


The oldest history dates back to Shah dynasty of Ancient Nepal. This Indo-Nepalese surname "Shah" is mistakenly is derived from the Persian "Shah" meaning "King".

It is derived from Sanskrit Sadhu (meaning gentleman[6]) 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.[7] 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.

One early usage of title Sadhu occurs in an inscription on an AD 850 Parshvanth image in the Akota Bronzes.[8]

In numerous 12-13th century inscriptions the shravaka who installed the image, is given the title "Sahu".[9]

सं १५१० वर्षे माघ सुदी ८ सोमे गोपाचल दुर्गे तोमर वंशान्वये राजा श्री डूंगरेन्द्र देव राज्य पवित्रमाने श्री काष्ठासंघ माथुरान्वये भट्टारक श्री गुणकीर्ति देवास्तत्पट्टे श्री मलयकीर्ति देवास्ततो भट्टारक गुणभद्रदेव पंडितवर्य रइघू तदाम्नाये अग्रोतवंशे वासिलगोत्रे सकेलहा भार्या निवारी तयोः पुत्र विजयष्ट शाह ... साधु श्री माल्हा पुत्र संघातिपति देउताय पुत्र संघातिपति करमसीह श्री चन्द्रप्रभु जिनबिंब महाकाय प्रतिष्ठापित प्रणमति ..शुभम् भवतु ..

A Gwalior Fort Inscription 1453 CE[10]

For example:

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.

Shah surname is also used by many Sayyid families of Pakistan and India.

People with the surname[edit]

Notable people with the surname include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ An introduction to Old Persian (p. 149). Prods Oktor Skjærvø. Harvard University. 2003.
  2. ^ Kumar, R. (2006). Costumes and textiles of royal india. ISBN 1851495096
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Qamar, G. A. (2011). The early cultural relations of india and iran. Dev books. ISBN 978-8192075204
  6. ^ Shakespear, John. A dictionary, Hindustani and English: with a copious index, fitting the work to serve, also, as a dictionary of English, Nepali 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
  7. ^ "Shah Name Meaning and History". Retrieved 2010-12-28. 
  8. ^ Akota Bronzes,Umakant P.Shah, 1959, p. 52-53
  9. ^ Kasturchand Jain Suman, Bharatiya Digambar Jain Abhilekh aur Tirth Parichay, Madhya-Pradesh: 13 vi shati tak, Delhi, 2001
  10. ^ Gopachal ke Jinamandir[dead link]
  11. ^ 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