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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