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The Name Game

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In Punjab, it’s an old practice, particularly among Jat Sikhs, to add the names of their villages to their own. Now many Sikhs in Delhi are doing the same with their present residential colonies. Vivek Shukla tells us more about this new fascination

How are you, Vivek Viharji? “Well, I am fine and doing well,” replies Bhogal. Then the two discuss issues ranging from local to international. But hold on, it is not two key areas talking to each other. Understandably, it is not possible either. Actually, when two known Sikh leaders of the Capital meet each other, they do not address themselves by their names. Rather, they use their appended names. It can be from Rohini to Pahar Ganj and from Vivek Vihar to Greater Kailash. Welcome to a brand new world of Sikh leaders who don’t mind adding the names of their colonies to their own.

Balbir Singh Vivek Vihar, who is on the board of several governing bodies of Delhi’s Sikh colleges and schools, says that he added Vivek Vihar to his name a couple of years. “There were about 10 Balbir Singhs in my area, including some of them in my own circle of friends. It was really tough to differentiate. After discussing the issue with my family and friends, I decided to add ‘Vivek Vihar’ to my name,” he says, adding: “Today, my identity is incomplete without Vivek Vihar.”

Kuldeep Singh Bhogal, a social worker and a confidant of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, has one claim to fame: That he was perhaps the first Sikh leader in the Capital to add the name of his area to his own. Recalling the story behind his new name, he says it was at the behest of Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal that he added Bhogal to his name. “We gave him a rousing welcome at Bhogal in 1985 when he came to meet the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. Santji had never imagined that he would get such great reception. Before leaving Delhi, he asked me to add Bhogal to my name. I followed his instructions. And since then I became Kuldeep Singh Bhogal. Now, in the political circles of the Capital, I am more popular as Bhogal than my original name.” Bhogal is now a senior leader of the Akali Dal (Badal) in Delhi.

Avtar Singh, a Sikh businessman, is now known as Avtar Singh Jhilmil Colony. “My life has changed for good since I added Jhilmil Colony to my name. There were so many Avtar Singhs in and around my area that it was tough to be recognised here. Once I was suggested by a close friend that I could be different by adding Jhilmil Colony to my name. Now, I am generally called call me Jhilmil veerji rather than Avtarji or Avtar paaji,” he says.

Well, in Punjab, it is an old practice, particularly among Jat Sikhs, to add the names of their villages to their own. Who has not heard the names of Sikh leaders like Kairon, Barnala, Badal and Ajnala? But what about leaders like Vivek Vihar paaji, Rohini veerji, Govindpuri sahib, among others? Many well-known Sikhs in Delhi have resolved their identity crisis by substituting their old village surnames with that of their present residential colonies.

Hindi scholar Maheep Singh explains this phenomenon. “Sikhism and the followers of Guru Gobind Singh do not believe in the caste system. By discarding their traditional surnames and adding their locality names, the Sikh leaders are doing a kind of service to make our society free from the scourge of caste,” he says.

Manjit Singh Calcutta, a former member of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (DSGPC), has been living in the Capital since 1976. He is probably the only Sikh in the country to be called ‘Calcutta’. Then, there is another Manjit Singh — Manjit Singh Govindpuri. Govindpuri, who runs an air-conditioning business and is also active in Sikh politics of Delhi, says that the people of his area now know him by his adopted surname.

Rajinder Singh Techno TV is another gentleman with an innovative mind. Unlike a Bhogal, a Tagore Garden or a Rohini, this member of the DSGPC has been using the name of his manufacturing company. “As I am well-known in West Delhi as the owner of Techno TV, I thought I should add this to my real name,” he says.

So, what’s behind the name game? Sikh scholar and MCD councillor Jitender Singh Shunty says, “These people are just following the footsteps of other prominent Sikh leaders from Punjab to create their own identity. As there is a paucity of good Sikh names — there is no dearth of Balbirs, Manjeets, Hardeeps, Gurpreets and they all end with Singh and Kaur — it is really hard to distinguish one from the other. Adding the name of one’s locality really helps. This trend in the Capital is different from Punjab in the sense that here even non-Jat Sikhs add name of their areas,” Shunty says.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sundayagenda/trend-agenda/5344-the-name-game.html
 

Gyani Jarnail Singh

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Would THAT be considered any more "Jaat-Paat" than say Dhillon/Gill/Ravidassisah ??
ANY one can add" Calcutta"..New York...Badal after his name...Lots of chamaars form malaysia who migrated to Canada asked to be addressed by their new names..GILL !!
For some it s a standard..for others just an ID..and for some its "jaat-paat"...
 

Ishna

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Doesn't SRM clearly say Sikh men must have the last name Singh and Sikh women the last name Kaur? I don't understand where all these other names come from. Or is it only for Amritdharis?

Also, is the location with the 'wale' word after it considered part of the name, or is it a title? An example that comes to mind is Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
 

Ishna

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So the Bhindranwale part is not part of the name as such, but an indication of where that person is from?

How is that different from what they're doing in the lead article, minus the 'wale'?
 

spnadmin

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The name/place appellations described in the original article are not an exact science. Here are some examples.

A well known raagi Bhai Bhopinderpal Singh Kuwait Wale, where his country of origin is part of his name.

Another raagi, Bhai Narinder Singh Banaraswale, here "wale" is appended not separate. So the convention can vary. Bhai ji 's name mentions Banaras,, and is a variation on Varanas or Benares.

Another example where a gotra or unbroken male line is identified. A professor by the name of Narinder Singh Kapoor. Kapoor is the gotra.

Kapoor or Kapur and sometimes but rarely Capoor (Punjabi: ਕਪੂਰ*, Hindi: कपूर*) is the name of a gotra of punjabi descent belonging to the Khatri (Kshatriya or warrior) Varna. They are part of the "Dhai Ghar", meaning two and a half houses[citation needed].
On the subject of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Wikipedia reports
his followers formally called him Bhindranwale Mahapurkh, which meant "The Great Spritual Man from Bhindran".
Bhindran is a village in Punjab, at Coordinates: 30°16'9"N 75°53'59"E. Jarnail ji's biography gives his place of birth as the Malwa District of Punjab. I do not know if the village of Bhindran is located there. Or if his followers had something else in mind. Sorry
 

spnadmin

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Well I was going to add this.

Guru Gobind Singh made is simple and straightforward, like a hearty cup of dal and a warm roti. But for many that falls by the wayside.

Something that looks whimsical to me, yet in a way makes a lot of sense, is how some western Sikhs (not of 3HO) retain their family name. This is a fictitious example: Roop Ruggerio Kaur. This is becoming more and more frequent. It is very like keeping the "gotra" in one's name, however, the order is reversed.

Another flight of fancy comes from someone I know who started life with the name Randhawa. He moved back to India for a time, and left off the Randhawa and replaced it with his village name. Then after a few months he decided to go back to using Randhawa.
 

Ishna

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Wow, I never knew about the gotra. Thanks for that.

Guru Gobind Singh did make it very simple indeed, but I can see how it might bet complicated with lots of people with the same name.

I'm one of those fanciful Westerners who would like to keep my name if I became Amritdhari. The reason is that I feel it more respectful to my husband and his family to keep his name (which means nothing more than a name).

And it makes life in the West a little easier when you have the same last name as your husband. People don't question your marital status.

And it looks better to outsiders - if you don't have the same last name or a hyphenated last name, they think you're unmarried.

But then again, I guess it's ultimately more respectful to follow Guruji's command and lose the last name entirely. After all, not many Sikhs in Australia would have my first name!! On second thought, SRM says I have to change my first name too!

However, if the world was full of Sikhs it might get very complicated with everyone having very similar or the same names... something would have to change or else it would be very, very difficult to maintain records! I don't think Sikhi lends itself to making life more difficult because of names. But then, I might be missing something.
 

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