What's in a name?

What's in a name?


What's in a name?

The name Kumuda in South India refers to a female, but Kumud in North India refers to a male. I knew at least one such name — Kumud Khanna.

He was a journalist. But more interesting is the name Jayanti. In the south, Jayanti is a she, but in Gujarat, Jayanti can only be a he. So they have Jayantibhai, Jayantilal et al. When my colleague, Jayanti, received a letter, the postman would not deliver it to her; he was looking for a male Jayanti. He was convinced that my colleague was not the recipient, and it took us quite sometime to persuade him to hand over the letter to her.

Consider Sitapati. Seems feminine, but it’s the name given to Rama — Sita’s pati. Sita, of course, did not use Rama’s name as an appendage; she was simply Sita, not Sita Rama. But wait, Sitarama is a male’s name. Like Umapati, which is a synonym for Ishwara, Uma being his consort. Same is the case with Lakshmipati or Lakshmikanta or Kamalapati. It would have been confusing to have a Draupadipati. You have five people to choose from. It’s no wonder that Draupadi is a rare name in the voters’ list.

Names are abundant in mythology. Lord Krishna has one too many. Being associated with the holy cow, he is Gopala, Govinda et al. Since the flute is identified with him, he is Murali, Muralidhara, Venu, Venugopala et al. He stole butter, so he is called Navanita. He lifted a giri (hillock), so he is known as Giridhar. He was Partha’s (Arjuna) charioteer in the Mahabharata war, and so he becomes Parthasarathy. Since his colour is dark, he is Shyama, and being beautiful, he is also Shyamasundara. He has black matted hair, so he is Keshava.

Ishwara enjoys a similar fame. Besides being Umapati, he has several aliases. Since his abode is the mountains, he is Manjunatha. With poison stuck in his throat, he goes by the name of Vishakanta / Neelakanta. He is also known as Gangadhara as he carries the Ganga.

Rama and his bow, or Kodanda, go together. So, lord Rama is known as Kodandapani or Kodandarama,  besides being Sitapati or Dasharataputra. Since he is gentle like the moon, he is Ramachandra.

Anjaneya is Hanuman and Vayuputra. He has a total of 108 names, with several tongue-twisters like Rakshovidhwansakaraka, Shrunkalabandhamochaka, Shatakanttamadapahate, Vardhimainakapujita et al. When parents who name their sons as Anjaneya or Hanumantha are few, these tongue-twisters do not find a place on any muster roll. Some people are named Ramanjaneya — trying to get the blessings of both the gods. Why Gopalakrishna, since Gopala and Krishna mean the same?

The classic case is Sivaramakrishna. Parents here are not willing to take chances at all. They have invoked all the three gods.

Parsis have some strange surnames based on the professions the family has pursued. Bejan, the famous astrologer, is a Daruwala, as once upon a time, his forefathers perhaps sold daru (liquor). We have Springwala, Doodhwala, Narialwala... Back home in North Karnataka, we have Menasinakayi, Ullagaddi, Bevinamarada... One can change the name, but not the surname. Yet we struggle to find a name each time a baby is born!