More on Names: Nomenclature sources & one happy family

Every other (Hindu) Indian you know would have his name based on some God or the other in the Hindu pantheon. The generic Bhagwan or Ishwar, the trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and others based on alternate names or avatars or consorts of the aforementioned. Ram, Krishna, Shiv, Parvati, Durga, Vaaman, Ganesh, Ganapati etc. Sometimes also in conjugated versions; Ramkrishna, Sitaram, Shivaraman or even Shivaramakrishnan. Some are derivatives like Ramavatar, Ramgopal,. Even the relatively minor Gods like Ashwin have been used, and quite extensively. The Gods have been aloso been called by different names: Vishnusahasranam is a good example. A thousand names of Vishnu. There there are names for Hanuman: Mahavir, Anjaniputra, Aanjaneya, Bajrang, Pawansut, etc.

Some people take to scriptures to name their offsprings. Yours truly has two sons named Ved and Manas (the diminutive for Ramcharitamanas). Somewhat in the same league are Prarthana, Pooja and Aastha?

However, this post is not on mortals names based on Gods, but those on a myriad other topics as diverse as, objects, animals, and even seasons and feelings. The beautiful Hindu tradition of seeing God in seeing everything is perhaps at work here.


Humankind can be named after animals, after all they are God’s creations too. Though I must admit this has gone a little out of vogue. Sher (lion), also often fortified by connecting this with the family surname and making it Sher Singh. This is not be confused with Shamsheer which has an altogether different meaning in Persian (sword). What is a little more popular is Mrigendra, lion as the king of animals. The lord of the animals, Khagendra, is not really popular as a name nowadays. There is this whole series of names on the ever popular monkey, Kapi. Variants include Kapil (monkey coloured), the word has many more meanings and of course the lord of all monkeys, Kapindra.

The following bunch of names are totally out of fashion among the urban folks, these were very popular a century ago. Maina (sparrow), Tota (parrot), Kabootari (female pigeon), Mayur (peacock), and variants of Hans (swan); Hansini, Hansraj, Hansanand. While the specific bird names are not in vogue, the generic Paakhi is a pretty popular name.

Reptiles have a large share of names; Nagendra, Nagamani, Nagesh, Bhujanga. Of course these do not mean the venomenous and the much feared cobra but the individual’s relationship with the animal. Naga (the snake) and Nag (mountain) may actually confuse you whether the Nagesh you know is named after the king of God (Nagesh) or king of the mountains (Lord Shiva)


If the fauna has contributed to the names of the humankind, flora is not too far behind.

The erstwhile popular names like Genda (marigold), Gulab/Gulabo/Gulabchand (rose), Bela, Champa, Chameli are now out of fashion. The lotus still retains some popularity with names on Kamal still around, Kamal, Kamalnayani (lotus eyed), Kamalnath. I have two lotuses in my family, my tauji took on the name Swami Kamalnayan when he renounced the world and became a sadhu and my mother, Kamaladevi (lady of the lotus). But some of the alternate names of lotus still are in vogue. I wonder how many of you remember mugging up the paryavachi of kamal- Jalaj, Pankaj, Neeraj. Some of the new world names on flowers Parijat (jasmine). The generic Phoolkumari is out but Pushp or Pushpa, another name for flower, still remains. I even know of a person names Parijat Pushp. Pankhuri (flower petal), too, is a popular name. Though not quite a flower, but certainly of botanical origin,  Pallav or Pallavi (a young shoot) too is popular. Like Lata.

Celestial objects:

The Indian astronomy (and the Indian astrology) has been existent for thousands of years now. And sure enough we have celestial objects finding their way onto terra firma. Prithvi is terra firma itself! Akash means sky; Surya, Chand, Tara are sun, moon, star. Pawan is breeze and Badal is a cloud.


Indians have not failed to remember their seasons, given that we are a lot dependant on them. Ritu, means a season, just a generic season. There are names based on autumn (Sharad), summer (Grishma), spring (Vasant) monsoons (Saawan). Even the output of the Saawan month, rains, is celebrated with names. For example, Barkha.

Feelings and Emotions:

We have so far explored examples of names based on Gods, and God’s tangible creations (flora, fauna, seasons, celestial objects etc). What about some other delightful gifts of the Gods to the humankind? Like emotions.

The range of feelings expressed in ever-popular names like Prem (love), Anubhuti (feeling), Anubhav (experience), Harsh and Ullas (joy), Kripa (compassion), Mamata (affection), Kshama (compassion), Shanti (tranquility)! You have Arush or Aarushi who are unflappable and Saumya who is gentle, soft and mild.

Even words to describe beauty are common names; Sulochana and Sunayana meaning pretty eyes, Sugandha is the one who smells good and Sundar and Soundarya meaning beauty itself in masculine and feminine!

One erudite, well-lit, contented family:

I end this piece with a family which has two great books (Ved and Manas- as in “Ramcharitmanas”) which can be read in the rays of light of sun or moon (Kiran), all making for a contented householder (Santosh). Not surprising at all – after all, this family springs from Chandradeo (Moon God) and Madhuri (loveliness) on the one side and Satyadeo (God of truth) and Kamala (Lotus) on the other.

Thank you.

PS: Here are the earlier posts on names: Post 1, Post 2


4 Responses to More on Names: Nomenclature sources & one happy family

  1. squarecutatul says:

    It is a wonderful post. You have discussed the origin of Indian (Hindu) names in a wonderfully systematic way. This article is a must consult article for anyone who wants to know about the origins of such names. It is a fantastic piece.

  2. Kuldeep Negi says:

    Simply beautiful… wow.. this piece is so good that, i have started learning the names of each and every member of my family…

    the last paragraph is too touchy and fantastic…

    thanks for the same

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