Naming matters is a series of explorations that looks at the stories and meanings behind popular Indian names and surnames. Every episode will dig into a fresh batch and give us something to chew on. In this, our second installment, we kick things off with popular Indian surnames that begin with the letter B.
Amitabh Bachchan’s family surname was Shrivastav. His father was Harivansh Rai Shrivastav. At home, Harivansh Rai was affectionately called Bachchan (bachcha in Hindi = child, bachchan = child-like in colloquial Hindi) while Harivansh Rai’s elder brother was called Rajjan. Post independence, Harivansh Rai gave up the surname Shrivastav to protest against the caste system in India – especially in Uttar Pradesh (Surnames such as Shrivastav tell you the caste of a person). Harivansh Rai went on to become a famous poet and writer and would use the name Bachchan as a pseudonym.
Inspired from his father, Amitabh Bachchan gave up the surname Shrivastav and took up the surname Bachchan. So yes, Bachchan is not an inherited surname and so it isn’t an old family surname that’s spread itself.
Probably from Sanskrit bahala ‘strong’, based on the name of a clan in the Khatri community.
Meaning ‘clothier’, from Arabic bazzāz. So perhaps the profession/business led to the surname.
The word “Bajwa” means the ‘Clan of the Hawk’ and is derived from the word “Baaz Wala”, the Persian word for hawk or falcon. (Apparently, the clan carried hawks with them during the hunt.) The Bajwas reside in the Bajwat, which means ‘the land of Bajwas’, and are the native inhabitants of Bajwat Areas of the Sialkot and Narowal districts in Punjab (Pakistan) and Gurdaspur District in India.
Hindu and Sikh name, from Persian bakhshī ‘paymaster’, originally the title of an official who distributed wages in the Muslim armies.
Bal is a Sikh name based on the name of a Jat tribe, derived from the Sanskrit word bala ‘strength’.
Balakrishnan is Hindu name from Sanskrit balakrsna ‘child Krishna’, name of an incarnation of the god Vishnu
Hindu name from Sanskrit balasubrahmanya which means ‘child Subrahmanya’ who is dear to Brahmans, an epithet of the god Kartikeya, son of the god Shiva.
Baliga / Balija
Derived from the Sanskrit term Vanik or Vanij, for trader.
Bandyo-, is a shortened form of the village name Bandoghat + Sanskrit upadhyaya ‘teacher’; thus, Bandyopadhyay means ‘teacher from the village of Bandoghat’. Also could be from Sanskrit vandya ‘venerable’ + upadhyaya ‘teacher’
Used interchangeably with Bandyopadhyay. Seemingly, the Britishers found it difficult to pronounce the surname due to the stress in the “-adhay” part and partly due to the name being long. Hence, the arrival of their anglicized versions – Banerjee. Another theory is that the surnames Bandopadhyay, Bhattopadhyay, Chattopadhyay and Mukhopadhyay are the Sanskrit forms. They have an equivalent in Prakrit (vernacular) form of Bengali – for example, Chattujye was the Prakrit form of Chatterjee, and Badujjye was the Prakrit form of Bandyopadhyay. Naturally, the vernacular form became more popular. This was mispronounced as Banerjee by the British and this seems to have stuck thereafter.
Hindu (Bania), Jain, and Sikh name, which appears to be related to Sanskrit vamša ‘lineage’, also meaning ‘bamboo’ – in which the community may have presumably traded.
Barman / Burman
A surname that is used by Kshatriya castes in India. In Sanskrit language, Varma is the masculine form of the word for “shield, defensive armour.” The word Varman derives from Varamban as in the Chera king title Vana-varamban, meaning one whose kingdom is bounded by the sky. Its usage can be traced back to the Sangam period.
From Sanskrit vasu, which has many meanings including ‘wealth’, ‘gem’, ‘radiance’. It is an epithet of Shiva and of several other gods.
These are descendants of the highly regarded caretaker saints who used to look after educational, religious, and medical institutions in India. The name is believed to originate from a category of Saraswat Brahmins called Bawanjai (literally meaning 52 gotras or 52 lineages).
Hindu (Khatri) and Sikh name, based on the name of a clan in the Khatri community. The name is derived from Sanskrit vedī ‘one who knows the Vedas’. Guru Nanak was from the Bedi clan. It is said that the founder of the clan studied the Vedas in Banaras and came to be known as Vedi or Bedi.
Hindu and Jain surname, from modern Indo-Aryan bhagat meaning ‘devotee’, ‘votary’. This was from Sanskrit bhakta, a derivative of the verb root bhaj- ‘to serve or adore.’
The Bhallas trace their origin to a pious man, who being philanthropic and kindhearted, was known as Bhala, lit. a good person. It might be his name or an honorific. His descendants came to be known as Bhalas or Bhallas.
From Sanskrit bhandā(gā)rika ‘treasurer’, ‘keeper of a storehouse’, from bhandā(gā)ra ‘treasury’, ‘storehouse’
Bharadwaj / Bhardwaj
Hindu (Brahman) name, from Sanskrit bhāradvāja ‘descendant of bharadvāja’, bharadvāja meaning ‘one who has strength or vigor’ (a compound of bharat ‘bearing’ + vāja ‘vigor’). According to legend, Bharadvaja (bharadvāja) was the name of one of the great sages.
Hindu (Brahman) name, from Sanskrit bhārgava ‘(descendant) of Bhrigu’. Bhrigu is the name of one of the great Hindu sages of Hindu.
Historians state the surname is a distorted form of Bhatta, which originates from Sanskrit Bhatta, meaning “scholar” according to the Brahmana.
It is a name of a subgroup of the Kayasth community, denoting association with Bhatnagar or Bhatner, a city in Rajasthan. The place name Bhatner (‘city of Bhats’) is a compound of bhə̣t- (from Sanskrit bhạṭta ‘learned one’) + ner (from Sanskrit nagara ‘town’). Apparently, Maharaj Chitraguptji sent his son Shree Chitraksh, a disciple of sage Bhat, to establish a Kingdom in the region of Bhat river at Bhattdesh and Malwa. They established Chittor and Chitrakoot. He settled there and the place came to be known as Bhatnagar or Bhatner.
Bhattacharya was a noble title or upādhi conferred upon those Bengali Brahmins who were involved in sacred rituals by Indian kings and emperors in ancient and medieval times. Commonly used as a surname, the word is a combination of the Sanskrit titles Bhaṭṭa (“Vedic priest”) and Ācārya (“teacher, preceptor”). Bhaṭṭa is itself a title common in many parts of India.
Biswas was a title bestowed by the British (when they ruled India) to the family name after someone of the family served them usefully. ‘Biswas’, after all means trustwothy from Sanskrit višvāsa ‘trust’.
Anglicized form of Basu.
A surname derived from the Indian city of Bulsar (officially known as Valsad), which was a center for Zoroastrianism in the 17th century.