Baby Names: Things to know before naming your newborn.
No doubt, India is unique and beautiful in every possible way, from religions to communities, from traditions to the taste of food, everything is unique and special. India is a hub of mixed cultures where people with different languages, religions, tastes, and music are live within the country, and enjoy harmony. That’s the reason why India is labelled as a fusion of cultures with distinct properties and characteristics across the country. Selecting a Baby Name is really a difficult task. Click here to know more about baby names.
Due to India’s diverse cultural groups, there is a variance between regions on naming conventions. Family names or surnames often denote the caste or area that an individual originates from –these can have a suffix that denotes the type of their ancestor’s trade. Indians may also use a different religious name. The conventions of naming vary based upon an individual’s religion and region of from where they originated.
The use of surnames at the end of the baby names has started recently. It was first introduced when the British were colonizing India. Typically, the parts of northern India follow English-speaking Western naming conventions by having a given name followed by a surname. This is not necessarily the case in southern India, where people may adopt a surname out of necessity when migrating or travelling abroad.
An individual’s surname is commonly used to reflect what their community, family, caste or village of origin is. A name with the suffix ‘-walla’ loosely means ‘the trade one’s ancestors practised’. For example, ‘Tyrewalla’ roughly means ‘someone who fix tyres.’ There are various honorific titles based on formal or informal social and religious relationships. These titles are usually in the form of prefixes, suffixes or replacements.
Some examples include ‘Guru’ which roughly means ‘teacher ‘ or ‘expert ‘. The gender-neutral honorific suffix ‘-ji’ is often added to the first name to show respect towards a person. For example, calling someone ‘Tulsi ji’ to show her respect. Those who come from a Hindu background usually has a given name, middle name and a family name.
For example, Pranay Lal Sharma. When a woman is married, she may omit her father’s initial and adopt her husband’s first name as a surname (e.g. Nidhi Pranay). However, these days it has also become common for women to adopt their husband’s family name (e.g. Nidhi Sharma).
The names which are mostly given in India are chosen to express a specific meaning, and obviously, many are acutely aware of the meaning of their name. People, particularly Hindus, are commonly given names based on their horoscopes, which is usually provided by an astrologer of their family or a hired one. The astrologer determines how a name should sound and how it should begin and the family will choose a name based on that sound.
Everyone these days has at least one nickname among close friends and family members. Nicknames are usually designated from an early age and follow someone through adulthood. Some people may have a religious name. For example, people who are a part of the Sikh community may adopt a ‘Khalsa’ name, usually ‘Singh’ which means ‘Lion’ for men and ‘Kaur’ which means ‘Princess’ for women.
Many Muslims do not have surnames. Instead, men add the father’s name to their own name with the connector ‘bin’. For example, Abdullah bin Ahmed is Abdullah the son of Ahmad.
Namkaran (also spelt Naamkaran and Namankaran) is one of the most important rituals of the 16 Hindu ‘sanskaras’ or rituals that celebrate rites of passage, the different stages in a person’s life. It is also called ‘Palanarohan’ and ‘Namkoron ‘ in some traditions.
In the Vedic tradition, the word ‘Namkaran’ comes from two different Sanskrit words. “Nam” which means “Name” and “Karan” which means “Create “ forms the word “Namkaran” which means creating a name.
This is a ceremony which is performed formally to celebrate the birth of a newborn and select a name following the rules of astrology of naming in Rituals of Hindu. This is a happy ritual in which the entire family come and sits together to celebrate the birth of their new family member. Since the tension related to the birth of the child is gone, they are relieved and now, they will be busy in this happy ceremony.
When Is Namkaran Held?
Traditionally, the Namkaran ceremony is held after the ‘Jatakarma’ samskara, it is a rite of passage celebrating the birth of the newborn. Since these days more and more births taking place in the hospital and not in homes in the old the traditional way, this ritual has now become a part of the Namkaran and this is why both are performed together within the next few weeks of the baby’s birth.
There are some strict rules to follow before organizing this ceremony. One of the rules is that the ceremony of naming should be held only 11 days after birth immediately preceding the next ‘Sutika’ or‘Shuddhikaran’ period when the mother and child are confined to intensive post-partum or post-natal care. Though the 11th day is not fixed and it can be decided by the parents after consulting a priest or an astrologer and can be delayed even up to the baby’s first birthday. Although, the ceremony can be postponed it should not be as the newborn will be nameless unless the ceremony takes place.
Traditional Hindu Practice
The mother, along with the father of the newborn, start the Namkaran ritual with pranayama, prayers, and mantra chanting in the presence of the family priest. In some exceptional cases when the father is absent, the grandfather or uncle can perform the ritual on his behalf.
The priest performs the ritual with prayers to the Gods, Agni who is the god of fire; the elements, and the spirits of the ancestors. Rice grains are spread on a bronze ‘thali’ or dish and the father of the newborn, or his representative writes the chosen name in it using a gold stick while chanting the God’s name. Then he is supposed to whisper the new name given to the child’s right ear, repeating it for four times along with a specific prayer. After it is done, everyone who is present there repeats a few words after the priest as a sign to formally accept the name.
This is usually followed by the blessings of the elders present there along with some gifts, and the ritual happily ends with a feast with family and friends. The astrologer of the family usually also presents the child’s horoscope at this ceremony.
Selecting a Baby Name
Now, this is obviously a difficult task. Hindu families rely on Vedic astrology to select the name of a child. The initial letter is considered especially auspicious, and there are five general principles of determining and selecting what the initial letter of a baby name should be.
*The five principles are :
1. Janam Nakshatranam (by a lunar asterism, composed of the birth star of the child, the position of planets at the time and date of birth, and the moon sign);
2. Masanam (according to the child’s month of birth);
3. Devatanama (after the family deity);
4. Rashinama (according to the child’s Zodiac sign);
5. Samsarikanama (the worldly name), as an exception to all the above.
There is a tradition that a boy’s name should have letters in even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8) and girls should consist of odd-numbered letters (3, 5, 7, 9).
There is an exception that 11 is considered the most auspicious length for both genders. Hindus strongly believe and even recommend to select a baby’s name based on his or her ‘Nakshatra’ or birth star as calculated by a Vedic astrologer during the Namkaran or naming ceremony.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE NAMING YOUR NEWBORN
1. POPULAR CULTURE
Check if your baby names have been used in songs, books, movies, shows, etc. It will be very annoying for someone to introduce themselves with such a name which has been used in movies, books, etc. In 2018, more than 4,500 Americans named their children after Game of Thrones characters.
According to the data from Social Security Administration shows that more than 2,500 US children were named after Arya Stark by parents who loved the character. Even characters such as Daenerys was used as a name for their babies for more than 560 times. Other names in the list are Tyrion, Brienne, Jorah, Sansa, Catelyn, etc. The data also shows that an alarming number of 13 children were named ‘Thanos’, the genocide maniac of Avengers: Infinity War.
2. INITIALS & MONOGRAMS
Your children, in future, probably won’t like to have a B.U.M or P.M.S as their initials on their business cards and luggage. So, it’s obviously better to name your baby something that doesn’t come up with embarrassing initials.
Please don’t name your baby something that comes with embarrassing rhymes. Maybe it is not going to affect your baby now but one day, he/she is sure to be irritated of such rhymes.
Nowadays, everybody prefers short and simple names that are easy to pronounce. How many syllables does it have? If your last name has four syllables, you might want to shy away from a long name. Choose something short and simple.
Do you want your baby to be teased by his/her name in future by his friends? No! Of course not! Teasing can cause your child to lose self-esteem and may even result in depression and other mental illness. Before naming your baby, make sure you choose something that cannot be used to tease your child. Believe me, this is saving your child from any future embarrassment.
6. WORD & BRAND NAMES
I personally know someone who is named Angel and she is really a nice person. So every time she does something for others selflessly, she gets to hear comments on how she really is their “angel.” This might sound like a good compliment but think the other way. She also told me that people used to hurt her intentionally and used to say an old pickup line “Did it hurt? Of course not! You’re an Angel, you cannot be hurt. Harassments and comments as such can indeed hurt your child in future. It may even cause depression and other mental illness.
7. POPULAR CELEBRITY NAMES
Of course, you wish to name your baby after someone very popular and it may be fine for you but for your baby, it maybe not. Suppose you name your baby “Mukesh” and coincidentally your surname is Ambani. Your child will always be teased for having India’s richest man’s name. They will try to tease your child by saying “Your name is Mukesh Ambani but you’re not even worth a penny. “Does it sound good? NO!
If you name your child Narendra, Indira or Mamata when your surname is Modi, Gandhi or Banerjee, is it in adoration of our country leaders or do you just like the name? Those are some big shoes to fill! This goes the same for less-admirable namesakes. Don’t just stick with such names, please go for other ones.
9. PUNS AND IDIOMS
Does the name have obvious puns or idioms? For example, if you name your baby Penny for your thoughts? How it would be for her to be surrounded by Puns all the time? Nope, this can never be good.
Is your name phonetic? If your last name is often mispronounced, you should choose a name for your kid which could easily be read and the person who is reading, automatically know how to pronounce it. If you don’t, people will struggle with the phonetic name you have given to your kid and he/she will have to correct everyone his/her whole life. This isn’t just annoying but also irritating.
11. MEANING AND INSPIRATION
The meaning of a name could also be a deal-breaker. There are nice names with unfortunate meanings and really meaningful names with unfortunate pronunciations. Using a name that is inspired by something is always fun. The name Arjun or Karna sound inspired and awesome, but I can’t say the same for Shark or Lion. Yes, I’ve seen parents actually naming their children like that.
Parents should avoid using names that are meaningless or even if meaningful, it should at least be conventional. It will save your kid from big embarrassments.
12. FIRST AND LAST NAME COMPATIBILITY
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West recently named their baby girl North. Last name, West. We can’t even imagine how hard it would be for their daughter to introduce herself in front of others. How she would? “Hello, I’m North West. “ WOW!
It’s already hard enough to grow up in this world, and then your kid has a name which has to be spelt difficultly. Keep it simple. It will be easy for both, your kid and others around.
14. PLACE NAMES
It is now a very common practice among parents to use names such as Asia, America, Phoenix, etc. Which represents a place. Recently, Christ Hemsworth named his daughter “India. “But what happens when they move to that place? How they would introduce themselves? “Hello, I’m India from India. “How that would be? Adorable? NO!
NICKNAMES AND THEIR IMPORTANCE
From the time our kids were born, we have given them their own nicknames. In fact, we often call our kids by their nicknames more than their real names when speaking to them and even when talking about them. We don’t know why we give nicknames. It’s maybe because our parents gave us nicknames while we were growing up. But regardless, We’ve grown to enjoy it more than anything else. There are mainly 3 reasons why we give a nickname to each of our kids:
1. Because it’s fun
The nicknames we choose to give our kids don’t need to have great meanings or any meanings at all, other than that they are names that we use to call them. It is something that will become near and dear to our heart over time.
Its just fun to give a specialized exclusive name to all our own. There’s something which is intangibly and invisibly enjoyable and even humorous about giving a nickname. It’s always more fun.
2. It’s personal too
This is why most people primarily don’t call their spouse by their first name, but rather by a nickname. Guess why? Simply because a nickname is more personal. It’s a term of endearment, specialization and exclusiveness.
For example, when we call someone close by their nickname like, “Honey “, we are the only one who can call like that. Everyone else in the world gets to call them by their real name.
But when I exclusively call them by their nicknames likey“Honey”, it implies each time I say it that the person is truly uniquely special to me more than anyone else in the world. This is the same reason why I love it when someone calls me by my nickname instead of by my name.
The same is true with our children. A nickname gives them a greater sense of priority and exclusivity in your eyes. Everyone else, otherwise, at school, at the park, etc. gets to call them by their name, but we have our own unique and exclusive name for them because of our unique relationship with them.
3. It’s MEMORABLE
When your kids are grown up, they recall stories of their childhood.
In addition to the nicknames given to them by their parents, they will also remember how their Grandpa used to call them as well and to be very honest, it’s still fun to recall and relish in those childhood memories.
I don’t think that there’s anything either right or wrong about giving nicknames to kids.
One thing we should remember that we should not call them publicly by any annoying or embarrassing nicknames. Even if you don’t give such weird nicknames, make sure when you choose a name, it should not come with weird nicknames.