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What Is Your Surname?


Jun 1, 2004
I hear this question many a times, "What's your surname?" When I say I am Inderjeet Singh another question comes up "No no, I know you are Inderjeet Singh but what's your surname?" When I say I am Inderjeet Singh stressing "Singh" as my surname I don't get a very good response from the other end. Interestingly this question doesn't come from a Hindu, Christian or a Muslim but from Sikhs.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji refused to wear a Janeo from pandit and talked about equality of all. Guru Amar Das Jee refused to give darshan to a relative who claimed that he is from the same family as Guru Amar Das Ji and therefore should be given preference in the sangat. We are still ignorant about what our Guruji asked us 300+ years ago during the formation of Khalsa. We are still carrying the same names even when Guru Gobind Singh Ji (Not Guru Gobind Singh Rai) asked us to remove the family names. Who will tell us to remove Bedi, Sodhi, Saini, Bindra, Bhatia, Arora, Malhotra, Sahni, Basson, Bal, etc. We proudly say that Sikhism does not believe in the caste system, so why are the words khatri, jatt, sikhligar, chure, saini, ramgaria, pappe still in use? Why are we still carrying the same names?

We are not content with Singh as our Last name. We are so proud of our so called last names that we are known by them. Does it really matter so much? I wonder, have we really cut the bondages of the caste system that our guruji wanted us to? Guruji saw that in order to be united the caste system cannot exist and asked us to be one by calling ourselves Singh/Kaur. Why are we still entangled in the same names when we have clear instruction that we need to remove our caste from our name since we are Sikh?

So let us all take it as a reminder that in order to be one, we need to shed our false caste and last names and be one both by name and heart. Let us all realize and implement what our 10th guru said "Recognize mankind as one". Let us all rise above the narrow thinking and unite together as one family with one name. Let us be recognized by the whole world as a family of Singh and Kaur who believes in one God and the teachings of Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji.

Here are some lines from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee that talks about the significance of ones Name:-

ਕਬੀਰ ਕੂਕਰੁ ਰਾਮ ਕੋ ਮੁਤੀਆ ਮੇਰੋ ਨਾਉ ॥
kabeer kookar raam ko mutheeaa maero naao ||
Kabeer, I am the Akaalpurakh’s dog; Moti is my name.

ਗਲੇ ਹਮਾਰੇ ਜੇਵਰੀ ਜਹ ਖਿੰਚੈ ਤਹ ਜਾਉ ॥74॥
galae hamaarae jaevaree jeh khi(n)chai theh jaao ||74||
There is a chain around my neck; wherever I am pulled, I go. ||74||


ਜਾਤਿ ਜਨਮੁ ਨਹ ਪੂਛੀਐ ਸਚ ਘਰੁ ਲੇਹੁ ਬਤਾਇ ॥
jaath janam neh pooshheeai sach ghar laehu bathaae ||
God does not ask about social class or birth; you must find your true home

ਸਾ ਜਾਤਿ ਸਾ ਪਤਿ ਹੈ ਜੇਹੇ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਇ ॥
saa jaath saa path hai jaehae karam kamaae ||
That is your social class and that is your status - the karma of what you have done.

ਜਨਮ ਮਰਨ ਦੁਖੁ ਕਾਟੀਐ ਨਾਨਕ ਛੂਟਸਿ ਨਾਇ ॥4॥10॥
janam maran dhukh kaatteeai naanak shhoottas naae ||4||10||
The pains of death and rebirth are eradicated; O Nanak, salvation is in Waheguru's Name. ||4||10||

Finally a shabad by Guru Amar Das Ji that says it all:

jwiq kw grbu n kir mUrK gvwrw ]
jaath kaa garab n kar moorakh gavaaraa ||
Do not be proud of your social class and status, you ignorant fool!

iesu grb qy clih bhuqu ivkwrw ]1] rhwau ]
eis garab thae chalehi bahuth vikaaraa ||1|| rehaao ||
So much sin and corruption comes from this pride. ||1||Pause||

Click Here to read the complete shabad and think about it.

If one reads the book SAHIB-E-KAMAAL Guru Gobind Singh by Lala Daulat Rai (an Arya Samaji) 1901, one would realize that the downfall of Hindus was started because of caste system. It was so entrenched that one sect would feel happy at the downfall of the other. Is the Sikh panth today not in the same boat?

There will be arguments by the dozen about the impracticality of dropping surnames, but we all know when a numerologist suggests that we add another alphabet in our name or spell it differently, we are very keen to oblige and make changes to ALL documents, just in case ………..(the Laxmi mata refuses to come!!). When our Guru Granth Sahib, says something, we, overrule it.

It is time for SIKHS to wake up! The sooner, the better for all.


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Jun 1, 2004
If one reads the book SAHIB-E-KAMAAL Guru Gobind Singh by Lala Daulat Rai (an Arya Samaji) 1901, one would realize that the downfall of Hindus was started because of caste system. It was so entrenched that one sect would feel happy at the downfall of the other. Is the Sikh panth today not in the same boat?

Excellent book by Lala Daulat Rai, one of the best I have read on the life of Sri Guru Gobind Singh.

Here is the direct link to the Book: Mahabali Guru Gobind Singh (Svaan-e-umri) - Lala Daulat Rai

i am reading it right now and it makes a fascinating read!

Gurmit Singh

Jan 29, 2009
Waheguru jee ka Khalsa Waheguru jee kee Fateh

Many thanks for sharing the message below.

If we look at the Names of Sikhs, who laid down their lives during Battle of Saragarhi 1897, World War I & II, Saka Nankana Sahib 1921, there was no practice to suffix Surnames. Apart from few exceptions earlier, it seems that this practice started after 1947.

In fact, with a view to discourage such practice, Five Dear Ones had passed Resolution (Gurmataa) on 28 April 1985 that - "Koiee Singh Jaan Singhni Aapnaiy Naam Naal Jaat, Goet Dee Varton Naa Karaiy. Jaat, Goet Dee Varton Karni Manmatt Hai Ataiy Guru Sahib Dey Sidhantaan Dey Ulte Hai".

Book: Hukamname Adesh Sandesh...

< siqgur pRswid ]


Guru Nanak Sahib established the Sikh religion based on equality, justice and noble deeds. During the span of 239 years from 1469 to 1708, all the aspects of Sikh Way of Life, including “Spiritual and Temporal” requirements, were fully developed. Whosoever accepted the Sikh Way of Life, had in fact, voluntarily abandoned his/her label of earlier caste and creed. Thus, all became equal without any distinction - None high or low. Furthermore, we are well aware that Gurbaani (gurSbd - Divine Word) enshrined in the “Guru Granth Sahib” is authored under one Name: “NANAK”. The Sikh establishments, namely, Darbaar Sahib, Akaal Takht Sahib, Gurduaras, Sangat and Pangat, indicate that all Sikhs follow one creed as brothers and sisters. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib ordained, “Recognise all human beings as one race”. Accordingly, neither Guru Sahibaan nor their Sikhs attached any ‘Surname’ representing their family name, clan, profession, tribe or village. On 30th March 1699, when Khalsa Panth was established through the “Amrit Initiation Ceremony”, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib proclaimed that: “You are now re-born as Khalsa, having renounced your previous lineage, beliefs, caste, clan, country, profession, tribe or village. Henceforth, your ‘Surname’ would be “Singh” for males and “Kaur” for females.” Thus we all are Sikhs of the Guru Sahib provided we also obey their teachings with devotion, humility & sincerity.

History tells us that, during the 18th century, all Sikhs were known as “Singhs” e.g. Bahadur Banda Singh, Bhai Mani Singh, Shaheed Taru Singh, Baba Deep Singh and so on. In the 19th century, the same practice was followed, though, for reasons unknown, slight variation was made in respect of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, Hari Singh Nalwa and Sham Singh Attariwala. During the British rule, no one encouraged any such practice as is evident from the names of Sikh Martyrs {Roll of Honour} in respect of “Saga of Saragarhi, Saka Nankana Sahib and Two World Wars”. However, after the Indian independence in 1947, this trend was reversed when some Sikh - leaders, with slavish mentality, began aping their Hindu masters and attached sub-caste appellation to their names, like Ahluwalia, Arora, Badal, Bains, Bhalaa, Bedi, Brar, Chadda, Chawla, Cheema, Dhillon, Dhindsa, Ghuman, Gill, Grewal, Kalsi, Kapoor, Kohli, Maan, Makkar, Narula, Neki, Nijjar, Punnu, Puri, Randhawa, Sahota, Sandhu, Sethi, Sidhu, Sodhi, Talwandi, Tohra, Vedanti, Walia, Wasu and so on.

Instead of adhering to the Guru’s Command, this malady has been on the increase. Although several persons have been raising their voice against this un-Sikhi tradition in the columns of Sikh magazines, there is hardly any improvement. On 28th April 1985, when the Sikh nation was encircled by the Indian Armed Forces then Jathedaar of the Akaal Takht Sahib had directed the Sikhs, not to use or mention their caste or sub-caste with their names. But this decision of the five Singh Sahibaan remains unheeded. In this regard, views expressed by late Dr. Ganda Singh, and Dr. Alam Kaur appeared in the Abstracts of Sikh Studies [Oct - Dec 1997] are worth noting.

It will be highly appreciated if S. G. P. C. again considers this issue on a top priority basis and advise the Head Minister of Akaal Takht Sahib for the issue of fresh directions so that Sikhs attach only “Singh or Kaur” as their Surnames. Where, in any school or organisation, several persons may have the same name, distinction could be made by mentioning in brackets his/her address {village Palahi or Paldi} or work status like Bhai, Bibi, Mai, Sevadaar, Gyani, Raagi, Kathakaar, Master, Dr., Editor, Principal, Lecturer, Professor, Sarpanch, Vakil, Veer, etc. (+ Jee).

Gurmit Singh, 9 – Hamlin Street, Quakers Hill, N S W – 2763, AUSTRALIA [Tel/Fax No. 61 2 9837 2787]

{Published in The Sikh Review (Cal), Jan/June, 1999 and The Sikh Courier Intl.(Q), London – Spring 2001}

Extracts from Book:

hukmnwmy AwdyS sMdyS … sRI Akwl q^q swihb
sMpwdk rUp isMG (jUn 2003)

pRkwSk: isMG bRdrz, bzwr mweI syvw, AMimRqsr - 143006

sRI Akwl q^q swihb qoN jwrI hoey hukmnwmy

pMnw 108 : nMbr (42) : imqI : 28 - 4 - 1985

A~j imqI 28 - 4 - 85 nUM pMj isMG swihbwn dI mIitMg ivc hyT iliKAw gurmqw srb-sMmqI nwl pws hoieAw [

koeI isMG jW isMGxI Awpxy nwm nwl jwq, goq dI vrqoN nw kry [ jwq, goq dI vrqoN krnI mnmq hY Aqy gurU swihb dy isDWq dy ault hY [

-/shI -/shI

(ig: swihb isMG) (ig: ikrpwl isMG)
hY~f gRMQI jQydwr
sRI drbwr swihb, sRI AMimRqsr sRI Akwl q^q swihb, sRI AMimRqsr

-/shI -/shI -/shI

(ig: hircrn isMG mhwloN) (ig: pRIqm isMG) (sMq l~Kw isMG)
jQydwr hY~f gRMQI jQydwr
q^q sRI kysgVH swihb, sRI Akwl q^q swihb, q^q sRI dmdmw swihb,
sRI AnMdpur swihb sRI AMimRqsr qlvMfI swbo


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
This will sound argumentative. I do not mean it that way. But there may be immigration reasons for the use of surnames. Speaking now only in terms of Sikhs outside of India, some immigration policies (e.g., Canada) require more than Singh or Kaur in order to differentiate individuals.

Just for purposes of comparison, I have, I think, 8 friends on facebook who are Satnam Singh. The only reason I am able to sort them out, without looking at their pictures, is through repeated interaction. This one likes artwork, and that one likes to talk about food, and another is involved in pedigreed dogs. But entering a country is a different story and the world of officaldom tends not to be relaxed about these things.
Oct 11, 2006
animatedkhandaThere are thousands of Sikhs with the same name, how do we identify or differantiate between them?
One way is to write thier father's or village name along with their name.
Surnames are usually associated with the name of the an ancesteral person or village so,how is it slave-mentally?
If I am not mistaken we do hear surnames Bedi and Sodhi in some Shabbads sung by Raagies..



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