Traditional Sindhi names

In the past, names such as Kishinchand, Pursram, Gehnomal and others were recognizable as belonging to Sindhis. General Hindu names had their own Sindhi identity: Vishnu was Vishindas; Krishna was Kannhaiyalal; Hindu names like Mohan and Narayan received traditional Sindhi name-endings like ‘das’, ‘mal’, ‘chand’ and ‘lal’. A few Sindhi names like Gul, Lal and Tulsi could be either male or female. Quite often, the long names would be shortened and a diminutive used: Bullo for Boolchand; Rattan for Rattanchand; Gopal or Gopaldas could become Gope. Sindhi girls were often named for Hindu goddesses like Sita, Lachimi, Parpati, and they too had distinctive Sindhi names like Duru, Putli and Kiku. Precious metals and stones were also favoured and gave rise to names like Sonu (gold), Hira (diamond), Moti (pearl). After Partition, losing the relative isolation of their homeland, Sindhis began using more mainstream Indian names – Hassomal was soon being called Haresh, just as Parpati became Pushpa. When Sati Shahani was appointed Lecturer in English at Fergusson College, Poona, in the early 1950s, the Head of the Department said to her superciliously, “Sati! What kind of name is that? We will call you Sita,” and Sita she remained, forevermore.

Sindhis living in places around the world were quick to shorten or simplify their names for the convenience of the local population and so as to blend in better, Harkishan easily became Harry; Indru was soon Andrew. From the written records at Haridwar, too, the flexibility is evident: Kishinchand is referred to interchangeably as Kishinmal; Khubchand as Khubbamal; Keshodas as Keshomal; Fatumal as Fatarmal; Gagganmal as Gaggandas; Pursomal as Parsram; Udharam as Udhodas; Kishinchand as Kishindas. Gianchand is sometimes given as Gianmal; he even appears as Khanchand more than once. After all, the really important things were one’s identity, one’s traditions and one’s spirit – a name was just a superficial label. Girls getting married easily took on new names along with their new identity.

Excerpted from Sindhi Tapestry: an anthology of reflections on the Sindhi identity

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