Surnames and their importance of in Indian Society!!

Surnames and their importance of in Indian Society!!

Let us start this article with the quote by Twyn Lannister in Game of Thrones

“It’s the family name that lives on. It’s all that lives on. Not your honour, not your personal glory, family.”

Surnames otherwise called family names or household names or last names have significance with no limitations in Indian society. Surname is often called household name for the reason that a house provides shelter to the respective family. It is sometimes called family name as such family is called after that name. For their priority, family names appear first before the first names in passports. In certain states like Tamilnadu where there are no surnames, people use fathers name as family name or in some case predecessors’ place of origin. In a matriarchal society like Kerala, mother name comes first followed by person’s name. In Thiruvananthapuram, sons use fathers’ name whereas daughters use mothers’ name. In the area of Mysore, Karnataka, akin to Telugu states, most of the surnames could be connected to their places of origin (villages or towns). In North India, surnames are majorly related to occupations. For instance we can find Dwivedis, Trivedis, or Chaturvedis in Bhramins. A Dwivedi is a person who is proficient in any 2 Vedas and Trivedi in 3 Vedas and the last Chaturvedi in all 4 Vedas. This is an example how subject matter expertise gave them the surnames.


In any part of India, people are recognized by Surnames. Surnames don’t just differentiate groups in society but also act as sources of information about a person’s roots, where he comes from, his progenitors, place of origin, and sometimes even occupational details.For instance there may be many Chandra Babu’s but when we say NARA it is the only one Shri Nara Chandra Babu Naidu. Similarly, there may be many Satya’s but when we say NADELLA it is only one SatyaNadella. This shows how the family name matters

Though the concept of surname is prevalent across the world, it is more relevant in India as it is a land of hundreds of social communities/castes and dozens of religions. Thus for ages we are habituated to recognize and call people by surnames as they prefer to be identified that they belong to a specific family. In case of Kammas with more than 90% of surnames being sourced from the village/place of origin, a surname helps where a specific person comes from to an extent. However, in the process of migration this specific argument may not carry much value yet historians and anthropologists endorse this line of argument. A surname also throws light on culture and values of a particular family or group of families based on the surname.

Also in many parts of India including Telugu states, a surname also gives information about the caste to which a specific person may belong to. To quote an example, many surnames in Kammas end with ‘neni’, theetymology of which links to “nayaka, nayakudu, (the leader”). Some of such surnames include Veeramachaneni, Tatineni, Amirneni, Vallabhaneni, Papineni and dozens of others. Only a few communities like Velamas and Kapus have surnames ending ‘Neni’. Thus when a particular person quotes his surname most of the times his social background could be ascertained. In some communities which are constitutionally entitled to reservations in education and employment, they prefer to elevate themselves with surnames.

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Should ‘Kammas’ of this generation work on their natural ‘Manufacturing Defect?’

Not even 5% of total population of both Telugu speaking states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Kamma community is a topic of discussion on any given day both domestically and globally. Scholars from global major universities opting ‘Kammas’ as their research topic shows how our community is generating interest in various societies. Now the question is why? Every article or every community meeting or every garden party has this kind of analysis. Though we are small, percentage wise or in absolute numbers, our progenitors have gifted us a natural leadership on society, which the subsequent generations are carrying forward with their hard work and efforts. It is not a new discovery and an age-old fact that every field ranging from pristine occupation agriculture to the latest evolving technologies have Kamas at prominent positions. Say it movies, business, trade, commerce, irrigation, culture, sports, arts, literature, journalism, research and invention, medicine, and every other field we find our Kammas at principal places.
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Doctoral thesis on Kammas by DalelBenbabaali, a French Scholar – A viewpoint!!

On Jan 21st, 2008 eminent newspaper ‘The Hindu’ published an article “French love for Indian soil”, which briefed about a polyglot (one well versed with multiple languages) by name DalelBenbabaali a national of France and a research scholar in Social Geography and Anthropology. The article mentioned about the project that she was conducting in Krishna District and Hyderabad on a particular social group and several dimensions encompassing that group’s history, anthropology, and ethnography as a part of her PhD thesis but didn’t detail on which caste she was pursuing her study. What enticed her to take up that particular subject and which community was the subject of her research wasn’t mentioned in the news.

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