Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions/Prologue

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Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions

Tej Ram Sharma

Concept Publishing Company Delhi, 1978

The full text of this chapter has been converted into Wiki format by Laxman Burdak


Nominal languages, such as the Greenlandish and the Nauhatt, represent the earliest stage in the development of linguistic structures. They consisted mostly of the object-words, which denoted the objects and also action and quality.

In the nominal languages, object-words (names) emerged out of proper names. In the early stages of a language, the first words are names, and all names are primarily proper names. Generic names, like man, animal and tree, evolve later and abstractions, like courage, ferocity, and greenness, later still. 1 A proper name is a symbol pointing to one and only one person, or place. Primitive man felt that the relationship between name and thing was close and intimate. This fraction formed the basis for rituals pertaining to propitiation and incantation. The mishandling of a name in speech might imply insult or may result in injury to the bearer of the name. 2

Personal name

Even in regard to generic names we have to keep certain limitations in view. Yaska states that we find convenience in restricting the use of words otherwise they may bring about confusion. 3

A personal name consists of a surname and that part of name which is variously called as the first name or the Christian name. Surname consists of the Caste-suffix or Gotra, Pravara and Sakha. Sometimes it may consist of Gotra or family appellation alone. Many surnames are derived from the principal professions the people followed or the crafts they practised, and in the majority of cases, are still engaged in. Some surnames give clue to the original habitat of a people, even though they have migrated elsewhere. Others point to the ethnic groups a people belonged. Thus surnames are important from Historical, Cultural, and Ethnological point of view.

First names are primarily devised to denote 4 and not to connote, though at times fortuitously denotation may be

4 Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions

identical with connotation. 5 Nevertheless, they reflect beliefs, aspirations, cultural atmosphere and level of education of family, head of the family or society. It is not necessary that the names befit a thing or person as soon as it is born. Some names are given to them after noticing their actions. Bilvāda and Lambacūḍaka were the names of certain birds current in Yaska's time ; Amara does not mention them. The bird Bilvāda is so called on account of its habit of eating a certain fruit some time after its birth. In the case of Lambacūḍaka its long crest comes into existence long after its birth and yet it is called Lambacūḍaka6. The first part of the names of persons generally consists of certain deities, constellations, abstract things or other objects of nature. They are with or without a name-ending suffix.

We can study personal names with respect to time, place and society. A certain society will not change its naming- pattern even after the change of place. From the frequency of a particular name in a particular region we know of the religion, culture and the philosophy of life of the people of a certain region. Vidyabhushan has quoted some lengthy names giving full particulars of the persons. 7

Principles of naming a person

Now we shall briefly review the principles of naming a person as prescribed by the Dharmasastras and grammarians.

We may classify the literary data about naming into four distinct periods 8 :

1. Vedic period

2. Sutra period

3. Smrti period

4. Nibandha period

Vedic Period

In the Vedic period usually two names were given to a person, one of which was a secret name, known to the parents only. Instances of persons having three or four names are also found. Throughout the Vedic literature the names given to a person were his own secular name and one or more other names derived either from his father's or grandfather's name, or from his Gotra or from a locality or from the name of his mother.9 It is not quite clear from the Vedic literature how the

Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions 5

secret name known only to the parents was given. Hardly any secret name except that of Indra as Arjuna is known from the Vedic literature. 10 It is to be noted that the rule as to giving the designation of a Naksatra as the secret name or otherwise is not illustrated by a single recorded name of a teacher in the Brahmanas. 11 The Satapatha Brahmana several times mentions the adoption of a second name with a view to securing success, and also refers to the adoption of another name for purposes of distinction. 12

Sutra Period

The Grhya-sutras provide us details about the name-giving ceremony, the secret name, the common name, the abhivada- mya name, the quality of the name as well as the formation of the names of the boys and girls.

Name-giving ceremony

The Sāṅkhāyana 13 and the Pāraskara 14 Grhya-sutras prescribe the name-giving ceremony to be performed on the tenth day after the birth of the child but usually the Grhya-sutras recommend its performance after ten nights have elapsed. 15 The Grhya-sutras consider the first ten days after the birth of the child as of impurity. Hence it is prescribed by the Hiran- yakesin 16 that on the twelfth day the mother and son take a bath, the house is made clean, the Siitikagni is taken away and the Aupasanagni is established. Having put wood on that fire, and having performed the rites down to the vyahrti oblations, they sacrifice twelve oblations with the verses, "May Dhatri give us wealth" ; according to some (teachers they make) thirteen (oblations). This, O Varuna 'Hail, good luck ?' Then let the father give the name to the child.

The Gobhila Grhya-sutra is very liberal with regard to the performance of the name-giving ceremony as it says, "When ten nights have elapsed after (the child's) birth, or a hundred nights, or one year, the Namadheyakarana (or giving a name to the child) is performed". 17 Gobhila 18 details the ceremony as follows : He who is going to perform that ceremony, the father or a representative of the father, sits down to the west of the fire on northward-pointed Darba grass, facing the east.

6 Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions

Then the mother, having dressed the son in a clean garment, hands him, from south to north, with his face turned to the north, to the performer of the ceremony. She then passes behind his back and sits down to the north of him, on north- ward pointed Darbha grass. He then sacrifices to Prajapati, to the Titthi of the Child's birth, to the Naksatra of the child's birth, and to the presiding deity of that Tithi and of that Naksatra. He then murmurs the mantra,"Who art thou?What art thou?, touching the sense-organs at the boy's head. In the passage of the Mantra : "Enter upon the month that belongs to Ahaspati (i.e., the lord of the days), N.N." After this the performer of the rite should first announce the child's name to the mother. 19 Further the sacrificial fee of a cow is recommended. 20

Paraskara, 21 however, makes this ceremony very simple when it states, "On the tenth day (after the birth of the child) the father, having made (his wife) get up, and having fed the brahmanas, gives a name to the child".

The Secret Name

The secret name is given to the child immediately after the birth of the child or even before when the rite for quick delivery is to be performed. As prescribed by the Gobhila Grhya-sutra, the father pronounces a name in the formula : "A male will be born, such-and-such by name" ; and the name is kept secret. 22 Apastamba 23 prescribes that the father gives the name to the new-born child soon after his birth. This is a Naksatra name and is secret. The Khadira Grhya-sutra 24 also prescribes that the secret name should be given immediately after the birth of the child. Sankhayana 25 prescribes the giving of the secret name by the father after feeding the new-born child with a mixture of butter, honey, milk-curds and water, or grind together rice and barley, from a golden vessel or with a golden spoon. The Hiranyakesin Grhya-sutra, 26 however, prescribes that on the twelfth day itself, the father should give the child two names out of which the second name should be a Naksatra name. The one name should be secret and by the other they should call him.

This means that according to Hiranyakesin the secret name may not essentially be a Naksatra name.

Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions 7

The Common Name

A common name or a name for public use is given to the child after the tenth day at the time of the performance of the name-giving ceremony. Saiikhayana 27 prescribes that the name should be pleasing to the brahmanas.

The Abhivadaniya Name

The Asvalayana Grhya-sutra 28 prescribes that along with the common name, the father may also find out for the child,a name to be used at respectful salutations, such as that due to the Acarya at the ceremony of initiation ; that name only his mother and father should know till his initiation. While the Gobhila Grhya-sutra 29 prescribes that the abhivadanlya name should be given by the teacher when the student comes for study. The teacher chooses for him a name which he is to use at respectful salutations a name derived from the name of a deity or a Naksatra. Or also of his Gotra, according to some teachers.

The Quality of the Name

All the Grhya-sutras unanimously agree that the name of the son should begin with a sonant, 30 with a semi-vowel in it, with a long vowel or the visarga at the end, and formed with a krta suffix and it should not contain a taddhita suffix with an even number 31 of syllables. 32 The Asvalayana Grhya-sutra says that the name should consist of two, or of four syllables.Of two syllables, if he is desirous of firm position ; of four syllables, if he is desirous of holy lustre ; but in every case with an even number of syllables for men. 33

The Grhya-sutras of Apastamba 34 and Hiranyakesin, 35 on the authority of a Brahmana, prescribe the option of a name containing the particle su, for such a name has a firm foundation. Paraskara adds further that the name of a brahmana should end in Barman, that of a ksatriya in Varman and that of a vaisya in Gupta.36. Hiranyakesin 37 prescribes two names for a brahmana desirous of success. The second name should be a Naksatra name. The one name should be secret and by the other the parents should call the child. He further prescribes

8 Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions

that the father should give him the name Somayajin i.e., performer of soma sacrifices, as his third name. 38

The name derived from the deity or Naksatra was permit- ted using god's name but directly using god's name as the name of an individual was forbidden. 39 The name of the father was to be avoided but the child could be given the name of one of his ancestors. 40

The Names of the Girls

While some Grhya-sutras 41 are silent about the names of the girls, others 42 prescribe some rules for framing their names as well :

(i) The name of a girl should have an odd number of syllables. 43

(ii) It should end in a, with a taddhita suffix. 44

(in) It should end in 45

(iv) Apastamba 46 says that girls who have the name of a Naksatra, or of a river, or of a tree, are objectionable. This finds an echo later in the Manu-Smrti where the girls bearing such names are forbidden for marriage. 47

(v) The Āpastamba Grhya-sutra 48 also states that all girls in whose names the last letter but one is r or l one should avoid in wooing.

(vi) The name of a girl should not end in datta or raksita preceded by the name of a deity; etc. 49

We find some distinguishing characteristics between the names of the boys and the girls. The names of the boys are prescribed to end in visarga while of the girls with ā or . The names of the boys are ordained to end with a krta suffix while of the girls with a taddhita suffix. But the rules prohibiting certain kinds of names for girls were frequently violated or continued to be violated as is evident from numerous such examples in literature.

Smriti Period

Manu simplifies the system and lays down the following four simple rules :

(i) A name should be given to a child on the 10th or 12th day on a pious date, Muhurta or Naksatra.50

Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions 9

(ii) The name of a brahmana should be indicative of mangala, of a ksatriya strength, of a vaisya wealth and of sudra lowness. 51

(iii) To the name of a brahmana an upapada (suffix) should be joined indicating sarman (happiness or blessing) ; of a king an upapada connected with protection ; of a vaisya indicating prosperity and of a sudra indicating dependence or service. 52

(iv) The names of women should be easily pronounced, clear, charming, auspicious, ending in long vowel and should be full of blessings. 53

Manu omits the elaborate rules about giving a name in the case of males, and does not make any reference to the Naksatra name or abhivadaniya name given to a boy.

Nibandha Period

The Mitaksara, a commentary on the Yajnavalkya Smrti, quotes Sankha, who says that a father should give to his son a name connected with a family deity. 54

There is another way of deriving names from Naksatras. In some of the medieval Jyotisa works, each of the 27 Naksatras is divided into four padas, and to each pada of a Naksatra a specific letter is assigned (e.g. cu, ce, co, and la for the four padas of Asvini) from which a person born in a particular pada of Asvini was called Cudamani, Cedisa, Colesa, or Laksmana. 55 These names are called Naksatra-nama; they are secret and muttered into the ear of the brahmacarin at his upanayana even now. Even so late a work as the Dharma-sindhu (A.D. 1790) disapproves of names, not warranted by the Smrtis.

Views of grammarians on naming

Now we consider the views of grammarians on naming a person.

Panini divides the names into four principal classes. 56

(1) Gotra names mentioned in Chapter 4, pada 1 of the Astadhyayi, e.g. Gargya.

(2) Patronymics, e.g. Upagu's son called Aupagava (Tasyapatyam, IV. 1.92).

(3) Names derived from localities, where a person or his ancestors lived.

10 Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions

(4) Personal names proper (V.3.78,84; V.3.65 ; VI 2.106; VI.2.159; Vl.2.165).

Patanjali in his Mahabhasya mentions Panini by matronymic. 57

He says that parents name their child some days after his birth just as Devadatta and Yajnadatta and as a result other people also know him by the same name. 58

The Angavijja, 59 a work generally placed in the third century, has much useful material about names. The 26th chapter of this work is devoted to proper names. The general rules prescribed for naming the persons are as follows :

The names of men were formed from gottanama, ayanama (constellations), kamma (profession), sarira (body) karana (office). 60 Under aya are quoted the examples kinnaka, kataraka, chadditaka. Sarira names are qualitative. They are sanda (bull), vikada (terrible), kharada (lowest), khallada (bad), vipina (forest). 61

The friendly names ended with the suffixes nandi, nanda, dinna, nandaka and nandika62.

The names indicating defects of the body are khandasisa (broken head), kana (blind of one eye), pillaka (discarded), kujja (hunchback), vamanaka (dwarf), kuvi(ni)ka (lame), sabala (spotted), khanja (lame), and vadabha (distorted). 63

Proper names were also formed on the basis of complexion, fair complexion being designated as avadataka, seda and sedila light black as sama, samali and samaka-samala, and black as kalaka and kalika.

Names based on beauty of the human body are : sumuha (handsome), sudamsana (pleasing personality), suruva (beautiful), jāta (well-born), and sugata (pleasing gait).

The names based on age are : balaka (child), daharaka (boy), majjhima (middle-aged), thavira-thera (old). 64

The following endings of proper names are mentioned : tata, datta, dinna, mitta, gutta, bhuta pala, pali, samma, yasa, rāta, ghosa, bhānu, viddhi, nandi, nanda, māna, uttarā, pālita, rakhi, nandana, nandaka, and sahitamahaka.65


1. Wy. p. 142.

Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions 11

2. Cf . पाणिनीय शिक्षा श्लोक ५२

मन्त्रो हीन: स्वरतो वर्णतो वा मिथ्याप्रयुक्तो न त मर्थमाह ।
सा वाग्वज्त्रो यजमानं हिनस्ति यथेन्द्रशत्रु: स्वरतोSअपराधात् ।।

Vrtra himself was killed while tryirg to kill Indra with the help of a mantra. This all happened due to the mistake of the chanter of the hymn in accent. In यथेन्द्रशत्रु: स्वरतोSअपराधात् the word इन्द्रशत्रु: if accented on the first word becomes बहुब्रीही समास otherwise a तत्पुरुष समास if accented finally. In the hymn इन्द्रशत्रुर्वर्धस्व i.e. the slayer (Satru) of Indra should get victory, by mistake the brahmanas chanted it with the accent on the first word which entirely changed its meaning as 'He should be victorious, who has Indra as slayer (satru).

3. Ty, pp. 263-64 :

All sorts of people are found planing wood occasionally; but the name takṣan (from takṣ = to plane wood) is applied to those only who make a profession of planing wood or carpentering. Beggars wander about and yet they are not called parivrājaka (one who moves here and there); the term is used only for those who embrace the fourth religious order. Jīvanah literally means one that lives; so anything that lives may be called Jīvana but water of sugarcane or a kind of vegetable alone is called Jīvana. The word bhumija refers to the planet Mars though multitudes of things are born of the earth.

4. Mahabhasya Vol. I, p. 38; See note 58 also.

5. Cf. H. p. 14.

We find in the Nāma-siddhi-jātaka-gāthā (No. 67) that a person named Pāpaka who was in search of good name came back to his house disappointed seeing Jīvaka as dead, finding Dhanapāla in poor condition and noticing Panthaka roaming about in woods.

जीवक च मत दिस्वा, धानपालि च दुग्गतम् ।
पंथक च वने मूढं पापको पुनरायतो ।।

6. Yaska's Nirukta (ed. V.K. Rajavade), Ty., p. 266.

7. H. p. 16. See also .Lx pp. 40-47.

8. H-D. Sankalia, Pz. pp. 100-104. P.V. Kane, "Naming a Child or a person", JJ, XIV, pp. 224-44.

9. Vg., Vol. I, p. 444.

10. Satapatha, II. 1.2.11.

11. Vg. pp. 443-44.

12. Ibid., p. 444.

13. I. 24.6.

14. I. 17.1.

15. Apastamba VI. 15.7-8; Hiranyakesin II. 1.4, 6; Gobhila II. 8.8.

16. II ? 1,4, 6-10.

17. Gobhila, II, 8-8.

18. Ibid., II. 8. 9-14.

19. Ibid., 11.8. 17.

12 Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions

20. Ibid., II. 8. 18.

21. I. 17.1.

22. Gobhila Grhya-Sutra II, 7, 15; Ram Gopal, Ky., pp. 265 and 273.

23. VI. 15.2-3.'

24. II, 2, 30-31.

25. 1.24. 3-6.

26. II. 1, 4, 12-14.

27. 1.24.6.

29. II. 10.23-25.

30. Sonants (Ghosa) are the 3rd, 4th and 5th letters of the five classes from कवर्ग to पवर्ग and य व र ल .

31. An even number means divisible by two i.e. two or four or six or eight etc.

32. Gobhila Grhya-Sutra, II. 8, 14-15. Hiranyakesin Grhya-Sutra II, I, 4, 10: Sankhayana Grhya-Sutra I. 24.4; Paraskara Grhya-Sutra. I. 17.2; Asvalayana Grhya-Sutra. I. 15.4-7; Apastamba Grhya-Sutra. VI. 15.9.

33. Asvalayana Grhya-Sutra. I. 15. 4-7.

34. VI. 15.10.

35. II. 1,4.10.

36. Paraskara Grhya-Sutra. 1.17.4.

37. Hiranyakesin Grhya-Sutra, II. I, 4, 12-14.

38. Ibid., II, I, 4, 15.

39. Manava Grhya-Sutra, 1.18., 1-2. यशस्यं नामधेयं देवताश्रयं नक्षत्राश्रयं देवतायाश्च प्रत्यक्षं प्रतिषिद्धम्

40. Ram Gopal, Ky., p. 274.

41. Hiranyakesin, Sankhayana etc.

42. Asvalayana, Paraskara, Apastamba etc.

43. Apastamba Grhya-Sutra VI. 15.11; Paraskara Grhya-Sutra 1.17.3; Asvalayana Grhya-Sutra I. 15.7.

44. Paraskara Grhya-Sutra. I. 17.3.

45. Gobhlia Grhya-Sutra, II. 8.16.

46. Apastamba Grhya-Sutra, I, 3, 12.

47. नक्षर्वृक्ष नदीनामनीं नान्त्यपर्वतनामिकाम् । न पक्षयहिप्रेष्यनाम्नीं न च भीषणनामिकाम । मनुस्म्रिति ३.९

48. I. 3.13.

49. Varaha Grhya-Sutra, III. 3. as quoted by Ram Gopal, op. cit. p. 275.

50. मनुस्म्रिति 2.30

नामधेयं दशम्यां तु द्वादस्याम वास्य कारयेत ।

पुश्य तिथो मुहुर्तो वा नक्षत्रे वा गुणान्विते ।।

51. Manu Smrti, 2.31 :

मन्गल्यं ब्राह्मणस्य स्यात्क्षत्रियस्य बलान्वितम ।
वैश्यस्य धनसंयुक्तं शूद्रस्य जुगुप्सितम्

Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions 13

52. Ibid., 2.32

शर्मवद्ब्राह्मणस्य स्याद्राज्ञा रक्षासमन्वितम् ।
वैश्यस्य पुष्टिसंयुक्तं शूद्रस्य प्रेष्यसंयुतम् ।।

53. Ibid., 2.33 , II

स्त्रीणां सुखोदयमक्रूरं विस्पष्टार्थं मनोहरम् ।
मांगल्यं दीर्घवर्णान्तमाशीर्वादाभिधानवत् ।।

54. H.D. Sankalia, Pz., p. 104.

55. P.V. Kane, JJ., XIV, p. 238.

56. V.S. Agrawala, Jy., p. 182.

57. सर्वे सर्वपदादेशा दाक्षीपुत्रस्य पाणिने: [महाभाष्य on पाणिनि I.1.20 (Vol. I, p. 75)]

58. Vide महाभाष्य Vol. I, p. 38. 243.

लोके तावन्मातापितरौ पुत्रस्य जातस्य संवृतेअवकाशे नाम ।
कुर्वाते तेवदत्तो यज्ञदत्त इति । तयोरूपचारादन्येअपि जानन्ती यमस्य संज्ञेति :Kane, JJ., XIV, 1938, p.

59. मुनि पुण्यविजय, अंगविज्जा; प्राकृतग्रंथपरिषद, वाराणसी १९५७

60. Ibid., p. 152 : तत्थ मणुस्सणमधेज्जम पंचविधं, तं जधा - १. गोत्तणामधेज्जं, २. अयणमकं, ३. कम्मणमधेज्जं, 4. सरीरणं, 5. करणणमं

61. Ibid., p. 152.

62. Ibid., p. 152, VS. 1-2.

63. Ibid., p. 153 : खंडसीस - काण - पिल्लक - कुज - वामणक - कुविक - सबल - खंज - वडभो वेति

64. Ibid., p. 153 : बालक - डहरक - मज्झिम - थविर - थेरसमाजु ज्ञाणि चयोजं सरीरजं चेति ।

65. Ibid., p. 153.

End of Prologue

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