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Indian names are based on a variety of systems and naming conventions, which vary from region to region. Names are also influenced by religion and caste and may come from epics. India's population speaks a wide variety of languages and nearly every major religion in the world has a following in India. This variety makes for subtle, often confusing, differences in names and naming styles. Due to historical Indian cultural influences, many names across South and Southeast Asia are influenced or adaptations of Indian names or words.
For some Indians, their birth name is different from their official name; the birth name starts with a randomly selected from the person's horoscope (based on the nakshatra or lunar mansion corresponding to the person's birth).
Many children are given three names, sometimes as a part of religious teaching.
Indian names, written in roman letters may use the letters for the vowels to denote different sounds than is conventional in American or British English.
The Sanskrit/devanagari vowels अ (u̱nder), आ (ah), इ (in), ई (eat), उ (put), ऊ (boot), ए (ate), ऐ (eye), ओ (oh - not as a diphthong), औ (how), are mapped to 'a', 'aa', 'i', 'ee', 'u', 'oo', 'ae', 'ei', 'o', 'ou', in that order, in most transcriptions of Indian names into English.
Thus 'Ekamresh' is pronounced 'AkaamrAsh' where the capitalized A's represent the long 'a' (as in the name of the letter) and the 'aa' has the vowel sound in 'ah'. The short 'a' and short 'o' of American English are absent in Indian languages and their use can often result in mispronunciation of Indian names.
Furthermore, the letters used in English for the retroflex consonants (t and d) are also used to sound dentals (as in 'math' and 'the'), especially when they occur in the beginning of a word. As an example, the India name 'Dev' would not have its first consonant pronounced as in the American name 'Dave'. Similarly the name 'Tarun' would not have its first consonant sounded as in 'Tom'.
The letter 'h' is used to aspirate certain consonants. So, in the names 'Khare', 'Ghanshyam', 'Kaccha', 'Jhumki', 'Vitthal', 'Ranchodh', 'Thimmayya', 'Uddhav', 'Phaneesh', and 'Bhanu', the sounds 'ka', 'ga', 'cha', 'ja', 'ta' (retroflex), 'da' (retroflex), 'ta' (dental), 'da' (dental), 'pa', and 'ba' are sounded with a strong outward breath.
Names by states
Bengali Brahmin surnames include Mukherjee, Banerjee, Chatterjee, Ganguly, Ghoshal, Goswami, Sanyal, etc. A Brahmin name is often the name of the clan or gotra, but can be an honorific, such as Chakraborty or Bhattacharya. Common Baidya surnames are Sengupta, Dasgupta, Duttagupta, Gupta, Sen-Sharma, etc. Bengali Kayastha surnames include Basu, Bose, Dutta, Ghosh, Guha, Gain, Mitra, Singh/Sinha, Sen, Pal, De/Dey/Deb/Dev, Palit, Chanda/Chandra, Das, Dam, Kar, Nandi, Sarkar,Nag, Som etc.
Nicknames often replace family names. Hence, some family names like Razdan and Nehru may very well be derived originally from the Kaul family tree.
Konkani people inhabiting Goa, and also Konkan regions of Karnataka and Maharashtra, are traditionally patriarchal. Many of the originally Hindus were converted to Catholicism by the Portuguese. Generally, first name is followed by the father's name, though this is now mostly observed by Hindus.
Village names were used by them only after the advent of the Portuguese, when they migrated from their ancestral villages. A suffix kar or hailing from was attached to the village names.
Almost all the Konkani Catholics have Portuguese surnames like Rodrigues, Fernandes, Pereira and D'Souza. Catholic families belonging to the Roman Catholic Brahmin (Bamonn) caste use lusophonised versions of Hindu surnames like Prabhu, Bhat, etc.
Usually, Tamil names follow this pattern: Initial (Village name), Initial (Father's name), First Name, Caste name (Example: E.V. Ramasamy, where E stands for Erode, and V stands for the father's name).There is a widespread usage of a patronym (use of the father's first name as the second name). This means that the first name of one generation becomes the second name of the next. In many cases, the father's name appear as an initial and thus the first name may be presented as a second name. When written in full (for example, on a passport), the initial is expanded as last name. For example, a name like "R. Ramesh" or "Ramesh R.", will be written in full as "Ramesh Ramaiah", and refers to "Ramesh son of Ramaiah". If Ramesh then has a son named Ashwin, then his name would be "R. Ashwin" or "Ashwin Ramesh". There is also a general custom for Tamil women to adopt their husband's first name as their second name. Sunitha Saravanan (Sunitha daughter of Saravanan) might change her name to Sunitha Ram Kumar (Sunitha wife of Ram Kumar) after marriage. However, these customs vary from family to family and are normally never carried on over successive generations.
Some Tamils also use an inverted patronym. For example, Swati Krishna might write her name as Krishna Swati, making her patronym the first name and first name the last name. More common among women, the inverted patronym is also adopted by people migrating to the West who want to be called by their first names without having to explain Indian naming conventions. In earlier times a caste name or village name was used by the Tamils as their surname, but the present day generation is wary to do so. However, people influenced by northern India or western civilization frequently adopt their father's or husband's name and take it for successive generations.
The various Tamil caste names include Paraiyar, Vishwakarma, Aachari, Konar, Idaiyar, Reddiar, Udayar, Yadhavar, Iyer, Iyengar, Pillai, Mudaliar, Thevar, Nadar, Chettiar, Gounder, Naicker etc. The naming is therefore done in the fashion: Sunitha Ram Kumar Iyer. Hindus in Tamil Nadu view the practice of adding the full family name to an individuals name to be a heretic practice, as according to their beliefs, the individuals heritage does not trump his or her own identity. And hence they are known to only use initials besides their name except for when caste names are given more preference by certain families rather than the family name itself.
People who do not understand the South Indian naming protocol sometimes expand the initials in an incorrect manner. For example, the name P. Chidambaram, tends to be expanded to Palaniyappan Chidambaram, which is incorrect in the sense that it implies that the person's first name is "Palaniyappan", and the family name is "Chidambaram". In fact, the person's only name is "Chidambaram", with an initial of "P". Other such famous misrepresentations include the chess grandmaster, V. Anand (wrongly expanded as Vishwanathan Anand even in Wikipedia); cricketer, L. Sivaramakrishnan (Laxman is his father's name); and the freedom fighter and statesman, C. Rajagopalachari (often cited as Chakravarty Rajagopalachari). On the other hand, north India media refers to Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss (son of Dr. Ramadoss) often simply as Dr Ramadoss, which again is incorrect as Ramadoss is his father's name and not his name.
According to the Chicago Manual of Style, Indian names are usually indexed by the family name, with the family name separated from the other names by a comma, but indexing may differ according to the local usage and the preferences of the individual.
- S. K. Sharma, U. Sharma, ed. (2005). Discovery of North-East India: Geography, History, Culture, Religion, Politics, Sociology, Science, Education and Economy. North-East India. Volume 1. Mittal Publications. p. 182. ISBN 978-81-83-24035-2.
- ' Toward Freedom: An Autobiography of JawaharLal Nehru', the first prime minister of India. Chapter III - Descent from Kashmir, Page 16. Readily available online at https://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=74007923. ISBN 978-1-299-41105-0
We were Kashmiris. Over two hundred years ago, early in the eighteenth century, our ancestor came down from that mountain valley to seek fame and fortune in the rich plains below. Those were the days of the decline of the Moghal Empire.
Raj Kaul was the name of that ancestor of ours, and he had gained eminence as a Sanskrit and Persian scholar. He attracted the notice of the Emperor and, probably at his instance, the family migrated to Delhi, the imperial capital, about the year 1716. A jagir with a house situated on the banks of a canal had been granted to Raj Kaul, and, from the fact of this residence, "Nehru" (from nahar, a canal) came to be attached to his name. Kaul had been the family name; in later years, this dropped out and we became simply Nehrus.
- da Silva Gracias, Fátima (1996). Kaleidoscope of women in Goa, 1510–1961. Concept Publishing Company. pp. 166 pages (see page:148). ISBN 9788170225911.
- Nāyaka, Puṇḍalīka Nārāyaṇa; Vidya Pai (2002), Upheaval (in English and Konkani), p. 144
- Kurzon, Dennis (2004). Where East looks West: success in English in Goa and on the Konkan Coas. Multilingual Matters. pp. 158 pages9see page:27). ISBN 9781853596735.
- Pinto 1999, p. 168
- Maffei 1882, p. 217
- "First name, middle name, surname... real name?". The Hindu.
- Sakkottai Krishnaswami Aiyangar (1923). Some Contributions of South India to Indian Culture. ISBN 8120609999. ISBN 9788120609990.
- P.S. Sundaram (1987). The Kural.
- I'm Anand. My father is Vishwanathan. At some point people assumed that this must be my first name and Anand must be my last name. It's common in the West. Vishwanathan was unpronounceable for them. Became Vishy. But my father is Vishwanathan Krishnamurthy. I am Anand Vishwanathan. Of course, my wife is Aruna Anand. So among the mysteries we have to explain to many people is, though we are married, why we don't share the same family name.
- "Indexes: A Chapter from The Chicago Manual of Style" (Archived 2015-02-18 at WebCite). Chicago Manual of Style. Retrieved on December 23, 2014. p. 26 (PDF document p. 28/56).
- Kaushik, Devendra Kumar (2000) Cataloguing of Indic Names in AACR-2. Delhi: Originals. ISBN 81-7536-187-5.