Friday, March 8, 2013


Naming ceremony (namakarana) is an important phase of one's life and along with "seemantha" the soon-to-become mother undergoes in her husband's home form the twin events for a new family. Is it not interesting that practically every religion has the naming ceremony in one form or the other and it is often said that the "given" name becomes the standard identity for any person through out life. Naming also differentiates humans from animals though these days even domestic animals/pets are given a variety of names to which surprisingly they respond also. It is another matter that in many western countries the hospital where the child is delivered insists on an instant name for creating the necessary documents immediately after the new child is born. Legal necessity for registering new births with local bodies also calls for a name to be assigned to the child. Probably this could be one of the reasons why we see lot of new types and varieties of names are nowadays given to children, some of them difficult to even pronounce and remember.

According to the system we follow among Madhwa community, a new born child is given three names on the eleventh day or any other auspicious day decided by elders and each name given has a significance. One of the three names should be synonymous with the star when the child was born, second one synonymous with the Kuladevaru and the third one a common name by which the child is to be called through out his/her life. I doubt whether many of us remember our other two names given to us during the christening time. At least I am not aware of the same! Only recently this aspect aroused my curiosity when my last two grandchildren were to be named. Mitra and Kushi, Smita's children were christened as per Kodagu traditional practices and their names were later told to me as Mitra Poonacha Chimmanda and Kushi Kamini Chimmanda. Here the first name is the commonly called one while the second one may be as per the advice of the elders, the third being their family name. Look at to day's practices! There is no nakshathra, no kuladevaru attached to your name! 

Have you ever heard of a person by name Padubidri V Rao belonging to our family? He is none other than our present "Karanavar" of Badettu family Dr P Vedavyasa Rao! Similarly I was known to many as Venkatrao H Potty and my father must be wondering whether I was trying to usurp his name and glory! Take the case of Vittala and shockingly he is Narayanappa Vittala! Sreenivasa, son of Ananthrama chikkappa has no initial at all! BTH Govinda Rao is officially called Badettu Govinda Rao and he was so proud of Badettu family name that there is even a restaurant in Sarovar Hotel in Ernakulam by that name! Our life time name identity happens at a most critical juncture during our life time when some one escorts us, crying all over, to the much dreaded school which signifies that our "grachara" is about to start and spending happy times at home eating, playing and enjoying is about to be over! Once the admission process starts those who take us to the school invariably have no clue regarding who we are except that we are the children of such and such father and blurts out information which may or may not be accurate. 

I wonder how many among us have read the famous book by Maneka Gandhi providing hundreds of names with their meaning? I am sure many of us must have taken appealing names from her book while considering the naming of our children. A stark difference between our old system of naming and the present one is that most names given to us were those of Gods or Goddesses either singly or in combinations for which there is no shortage in Hindu religion. Other names like Kamala, Jalaja, Vanaja, Raja, Guru, Mallika, Champaka, Gulabi, Geetha, Maya, Vasanthi, Tulasi, Ganga, Yamuna, Kaveri, Sheila, Sundari etc, most of them associated with nature, are also given. Can it be that this system allows the parents to utter the names of God frequently every day without actually praying as per the custom, a painless process of earning punya!  

Have you ever thought about the "pet" names used by our family to call us? This is a very interesting area of inquisitive thinking. There are umpteen number of such names in Badettur family also. Nanu is the pet name of Narnappaya and he is better recognized by his contemporary fellow Padubidrians. Then we have names like Ginda, Gopa, Padda, Apri, Chachu, Bangaru, Nandi, Easha, Gidha, Vicha, Subba, Kicha, Seena, Cheeya, Chetha, Appukutta, Chachi and a few others commonly used. In my own family I use Gubi, Anji, Nichu, Bhavu, Palli, Appu and Ammu!  is it not terribly complicated to remember who is who? That is the essence of life! 

Among Christians, names are repeated over generations by affixing Roman numbers after the name. Also in vogue was affixing the word junior to the names of the ancestors. We also have a system of using same names by which our ancestors were known. Take for example the name Vasudeva the second generation patriarch in Badettu family. As far as we know the name of the father of Narnappaya was also Vasudeva. Similarly Venkatramana, the name of another second generation patriarch was a repetition of the name of Narnappaya's grand father! Coming to third generation, we have a Narayana in Kollam, last son of Vasudeva which is repetition of that of our great Ajja. Thinking about it those of us who regularly follow the sharda practice every year in memory of our mothers and fathers may not be realizing that this system provides us with a mechanism to remember all our ancestors at least once in an year. Is this not remarkable? It is another matter that many of us do not have correct information about all the relatives who passed away before us in whose name we have to do tharpana. Our family with over 700 members will find it increasingly difficult to name our ancestors if a conscious effort is not made collectively to perpetuate their names through accurate documentation. Who will come forward to do this, is a million dollar question! 

Coming to the practice of using our fathers' name following our given name is truly an anachronism of history because according to me the mother also deserves a mention for the trauma of conceiving and giving birth. Probably I would have preferred to be known as Hariharan Kaveri Venktraya rather rather than Venkatrao Hariharan Potty! There is a Malayalam picture by the title Baba Kalyani in which Mohanlal says that he is proud of using the name of his mother Kalyani because of his appreciation of her sacrifice. Another tradition that defies logic is why after marriage the newly wedded bride has to change her name at all. Is it not ridiculous that some mother-in-laws even rename the newly brought bride forcing her to forget her own family given name by which she was identified before marriage for the rest of her life! Why can not she retain her original name? Probably I may be ostracized for my provoking thought by many conservatives but is it not logical? This argument is all the more relevance in to day's world where both husband and wife are earning members of the family sharing their happiness and grief on equal terms. From practical point of view also one set of names through out life make it easy for retaining the identification ans satisfying all legal requirements.

Other day some one asked me why any body should have a name at all? A truly significant question because more than the name what one needs is the AADHAR number or Election Commission Card or the Ration Card to be recognized by most of the government agencies which do not do business with unless you have the necessary photo identity! Even to day in the defense forces and police community one is known and called by number! Many people do not like the names given by their parents and change them through public announcements and legal proceedings. Don't we know that Yeddyurappa and Jayalalitha who mutilated their original names by changing the spelling slightly on the advice of their astrologers! In spite of all said and done, human beings will never change the existing naming practices come what may, simply because the name recognition is still a social necessity, though it has lost much of its relevance long ago!  

Answer to the last Quiz

The one and the only popularly known LN, aka L N Potty aka Lakshminrayanan Potty ( Vasudeva Doddappa's first son-in-law) is the person I had in mind. He must be in his mid eighties  now and it is quite some time since I ave seen him, an unpardonable lapse on my part. He was a popular teacher and many of our third generation members were taught by him in Kollam. Besides he is a muli talented person with fluency in many languages, an accomplished musician, a small time politician operating only in Kollam town area, an editor, poet and has many other accomplishments to his credit. Let us all wish him good health and a few more years of useful life.

Quiz for the current issue

Who among the second generation members of Badettu family had traveled from Kashmir to Kanyakumari?  


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