How Religion Shapes Baby Names In India A religious, cultural and commercial fountain, the Indian subcontinent has a long history. Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism, 4 major religions, came from India. Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism continued to diversify India's culture after their arrival in the 1st millennium AD. Religious influences have strongly determined the names given to babies in India more than any other cultural or linguistic factor. Sikh names combine Sanskrit elements which often contain roots from Hindu mythology and letters from their sacred text. Indian names which are used in the country India, are also called Hindu names. However, not all Indians necessarily follow the religious Hindu practices. In fact, more and more Indians are using Iranian and Arabic names as a result of Islamization. Muslim Indians are required by the religion of Islam to use traditional Muslim names for their children. Sikh names are those used by the religious followers of Sikhism. The Republic of India A South Asian country with over 1.2 billion people, India is the most populous democracy and 2nd most populated country in the world. It's the 7th largest country on Earth bounded by China (NE), Pakistan (W), Bangladesh (E), the Bay of Bengal (SE), the Arabian Sea (SW), and the Indian Ocean (S). After being under the UK's administration through the British East India Company for centuries, India was established as an independent nation in 1947. A political victory garnered by the peaceful revolt led by Mahatma Gandhi. Naming Custom The typical Indian name consists of a given name and (0, 1 or multiple) secondary names. The secondary name(s) could be the caste, a patronym, the village, and/or the occupation. Indian names usually originate from the Indo-European language, Sanskrit. Sanskrit is the parent language for most of the other Indian languages, including Hindi. The Devangari alphabet is used to write many of the languages spoken in India, such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Kashmiri, and Marathi. The Devangari (an abugida alphabet) descends from the Phoenician alphabet by way of the Brahmi and Aramaic alphabets. Punjabi is the language of the Sikhs which also derives from Sanskrit. Western Adoption Indian names have enjoyed much recent popularity in the West, particularly among famous actors who have traveled to India on spiritual seeking journeys. These celebrities and their families typically convert to Indian religions here in America upon their return, along with adopting India's naming customs for their children. For example, the name Suryawhich means “sun” in Sanskrit was chosen by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes for their youngest daughter. Sikh Indian Names Sikhism is the religion practiced predominantly in Punjab, a state in northern India and approximately 22 million people worldwide. Rejecting idol worship of any kind, Sikhism receives divine inspirations from enlightened Gurus through the transference of one spirit seeking unity with God. 'Sikh' means disciple in the language of Punjabi. A Sikh is a disciple of God who subscribes to the teachings and writings of the 10 Sikh Gurus. 'Guru' derives from Sanskrit meaning honored person, saint, religious person, or teacher. The designation of Guru in Sikhism is very specific, referring to the 10 Enlightened Masters beginning with Guru Nanak (1469) and ending in 1708 with Guru Gobind Singh. Founded by Guru Nanak, the Sikh religion preaches understanding and love, as well as expresses criticism for blind rituals like those practiced by Muslims and Hindus. He outlined the 3 basic principles for Sikhism: humility, equality, and service. Women and men are equal in the Sikh religion which has no limitations upon the role women can serve in its practice. Sikhism accepts all religions claiming we all serve one god even though many different names are used for this supreme being. Nine successive Gurus were passed on with the enlightened leadership for Sikhism. The Khalsa order “The Pure” was established by Guru Singh, the 10th and last Guru. The Khalsa was the Sikh soldier saints. These men and women were the exhibitors of the highest levels in Sikh virtues for dedication, social conscious, and commitment. Strictly adhering to the Sikh Code of Conduct & Conventions, the Khalsa wore the prescribed physical attributes of faith, such as uncut hair and a ceremonial sword, the Kirpan. Guru Singh appointed the Sri Guru Granth Sahib as his spiritual successor of the Khalsa order and the sacred scripture established the living Guru for all Sikhs after his death in 1708. The Harmiandir Sahib (Golden Temple) located in Punjab is the religious historical center for the Sikhs. Dedicated as an inspirational center for Sikhism, no pilgrimage or worship is mandated, as all places where the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is present are equally holy. Distinct from Hindu, Sikh names share a common derivation from Sanskrit. Most are dithematic, consisting of 2 name elements, with created combinations intended to apply special meaning or birth designations. First name elements like har and man and second name elements like inder and deep are combined for names such as Harinder ( the names of 2 Hindu gods, Hari or Vishnu and Indra) and Mandeep which means “lamp of the mind”. Rupindra is a Sikh given name which means “greatest beauty”, derived from the Sanskrit element rupa meaning “beauty” and Indra, Hindu god, which in this use means “greatest”. Element “meaning”, derived example____ bal “strength” (Baldev) –indra, -endra reference to Indra, a Hindu god (Jaswinder, Narendra) -esh, -ish “ruler, lord” -fr Sanskrit isa (Rajnish, Harish) man “mind” (Maninder, Mandeep) -pal “protector” (Inderpal, Gopal) raj “king” (Rajesh, Rajendra) Sri Guru Granth Sahib Sikhism's 'Supreme Spiritual Authority' & eternal Guru is the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This holy scripture is truly unique in comparison to other religious texts containing the writings from people from several other faiths, as well as Sikhism's own founders. The book is considered a living Guru for Sikhs and respected in reverence but not worshipped. The Guru Granth Sahib provides the ethical and moral guideposts for the soul's development, spiritual salvation, and the unity with God. It stresses meditation on God (the True Guru) and includes a collection of poetry as well as devotional hymns. There are 26 Guru letters in the book which serve as a basis for many Sikh names and meanings. The letter which translates as Bubba in English forms the origin for names like Bahadar (courageous and brave one), Brahmdev (exalted angel of God), Balbir (brave & mighty), and Baltej (possessing glorious might). Sikh Surnames Most Sikh men have a surname of Singh (meaning “lion”), while most women have a surname of Kaur (meaning “princess”). This was instituted by Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), in an attempt to diminish the oppressive power of the caste system. In some cases Singh or Kaur is the middle name, and is followed by a family name.