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Naming Rules

Naming the Baby

According to the general rule of the Gruhyasutras the Namakarana ceremony was performed on the tenth or the twelfth day after the birth of the child with the single exception of the secret name which was given, in the opinion of some, on the birth day. But the later options range from the tenth up to the first day of the second year. One authority says, "The naming ceremony should be performed on the tenth, twelfth, hundredth day or at the expiry of the first year." This wide option was due to the convenience of the family and health of the mother and the child. But the option from the tenth up to thirty second day was due to the different periods of ceremonial impurities prescribed for different casts. In the opinion of Brihaspati, "The naming ceremonies should be performed on the tenth, twelfth, thirteenth, sixteenth, nineteenth, or thirty-second day after the birth of the child." But according to astrological works even these dates were to be postponed if there was any natural abnormality or lack of religious propriety. "If there be a Samkranti (the passage of the sun from one zodiac to another), and eclipse or sraddha, the ceremony cannot be auspicious." There were other prohibited days also which should be avoided.

At the expiry of impurity caused by birth, the house was washed and purified, and the child and mother bathed. Before the proper ceremony, the preliminary rites were performed. Then the mother, having covered the child with pure cloth and wetted its head with water, handed it over to the father. After this, offerings were made to Prajapati, date, constellation, their deities, Agni and Soma. The father touched the breaths of the child, most probably, to awaken its consciousness and to draw its attention towards the ceremony. Then the name was given. How it was done is not described in the Gruhyasutras, but the Paddhatis contain the following procedure.

After preliminaries, the parents give the offerings to gods and feel the breath of the child symbolising the awakening of its consciousness and utters in its ear three times: "Your name is …..". The Brahmins and elders are asked to follow, calling the child by that name and blessing it.

The parents, Acharya (teacher) etc. give name to the child. It is written in the Gobhiliya 2/8/8-18 and the Shaunaka Grihya Sutra that a meritoriously attractive and pleasant name should be given to the child.

Composition of the Name

The first question which has been discussed from the time of the Gruhyasutras onwards is the composition of the name. According to the Paraskara Gruhyasutra, the name should be of two syllables or of four syllables, beginning with a sonant, with a semivowel in it, with the long vowel or the visarga at its end, with a Krt suffix, not with a Taddhita. In the opinion of Baijavapa there is no restriction of syllables. "The father should give a name to the child containing one syllable, two syllables, three syllables, or an indefinite number of syllables." But Vasistha restricts the number to two or four syllables and asks to avoid names ending in l and r. the Asvalayana Gruhyasutra attaches different kinds of merits to different number of syllables; "One who is desirous of fame, his name should consists of two syllables, one who desires holy lustre, his name should contain four syllables." For boys even number of syllables were prescribed.

Naming a Girl

The naming of a girl had a different basis. The name of a girl should contain an uneven number of syllables, it should end in a and should have a Taddhita. Baijavapa says, "The name of a girl should contain three syllables and end in i." Manu gives further qualifications of the name of a girl: "It should be easy to pronounce, not hard to hear, of clear meaning, charming, auspicious, ending in a long vowel and containing some blessing." She should not be given an awkward name indicating "a constellation, a tree, a river, a mountain, a bird, a servant, and a terror." Manu forbids to marry girls who were named after these objects. The most probable reason seems to be that such names were current in the non Aryan peoples with whom the Aryans were not willing to form matrimonial relations.

Fourfold Naming

There was current fourfold naming, according to asterism under which the child was born, the deity of the month, the family deity, and the popular calling.

Nakshtra Name

To begin with the Nakshtra name, it was a name derived from the name of a Nakshtra (a lunar asterism) under which the child was born, or from its presiding deity. Sankha and Likhita prescribed that, "the father or an elderly member of the family should give the child a name connected with the constellation under which the child is born." The following are the names of the constellations and their deities: Asvini - Asvi, Bharani - Yama, Kritika - Agni, Rohini - Prajapati, Mrgasira - Soma, Ardra - Rudra, Punarvasu - Aditi, Pusya - Brihaspati, Aslesa - Sarpa, Magha - Pitrni, Purvaphalguni - Bhaga, Uttaraphalguni - Aryaman, Hasta - Savitri, Chitra - Tvastra, Svati - Vayu, visakha - Indragni, Anuradha - Mitra, Jyestha - Indra, Mula - Nirti, Purvasha - Ap, Uttarasadha - Visvedeva, Sravana - Visnu, Dhanistha - Vasu, Saatabhik - Varuna, Puryabhadrapada - Ajaikapada, Uttarabhadrapada - Ahirbudhnya and Revati - Pusan. If a child was born under the constellation Asvini, he was named Asvinikumara, if under Rhini, Rohinikumara etc. Another method of naming the child after the constellation was also current. The letters of the Sanskrit alphabets are believed to be presided over by different constellations. But as there are fifty two letters and only twenty seven constellations, each constellation has more than one letter under its influence. The first letter of the childīs name should begin with one of the letters ruled over by a particular asterism. A child who was born under Asvini, which presides over the letters Chu - Che - Cho - la was named Chudamani, Chedisa, Cholesa or Lakshmana according to the different steps of the constellations.

According to Baudhayana, the name derived from the constellation was kept secret. It was the second name for greeting the elders and was known to the parents only up to the time of the Upanayana. In the opinion of some authorities the secret name was given on the birth day. About the greeting name Asvalayana also says that it should be selected on the naming day and should be known to the parents only. Saunaka is of the same opinion, "The name by which he should greet the elders after being initiated, should be given to him. Having thought over it, the father should pronounce it closely to the child so that others may not know it. The parents should recollect this name at the time of initiation." The name derived form the Nakshatra was vitally connected with the life of the individual. So it was kept secret less enemies may do mischief to the man through it.

Name according to aksara corresponding to nakshatra:

Each naksatra is divided into four equal parts. Each part is assigned a syllable. After determining which nakshatra and which quarter of the nakshatra that the child was born in, a name shoul be chosen which begins with syllable corresponding to the particular quarter of the nakshatra. Any syllable with an "o" sound may substitute an "au" sound. An syllable with an "e" sound may substitute an "ai" sound. "S" may be substituted for "s".

Nakshatra at birth: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters or padas of it:
asvina cu, ce, co, la
bharani li, lu, le, lo
krtikka a, i, u, e
rohini o, ba, bi, bu
mrga sirsa be, bo, ka, ki
ardra ku, gha, na, cha
punarvasu ke, ko, ha, hi
pusya hu, he, ho, da
aslesa di, du, de, do
magha ma, mi, mu, me
purva phalguni mo, ta, ti, tu
uttara phalguni te, to, pa, pi
hasta pu, sa, na, tha
citra pe, po, ra, ri
svati ru, re, ro, ta
visakha ti, tu, te, to
anuradha na, ni, nu, ne
jyestha no, ya, yi, yu
mula ye, yo, bha, bhi
purvasadha bhu, dha, pha, dha
uttarasadha bhe, bho, ja, ji
abhijit ju, je, jo, kha
sravana khi, khu, khe, kho
dhanistha ga, gi, gu, ge
satabhisa go, sa, si, su, sa, si, su
purva bhadra se, so, se, so, da, di
uttara bhadrapada du, tha, jha, na (and tra)
revati de, do, ca, ci

According to zodiac sign:

Begining with the letters as follows:
21 March/ 20 April mesa / Aries : a, la
21 April/ 20 May vrsaba / Taurus; u, va, i, e, o
21 May/ 20 June mithuna /Gemini; ka, cha, bha, na
21 June/ 20 July karkara / Cancer; bha, ha
21 July/20 Aug simha / Leo: ta, ?
21 Aug/ 20Sept kanya / Virgo; pa, tha, ya, na
21 Sept/ 20 Oct tula / Libra: ra, tav
21 Oct/ 20 Nov vrsicha / Scorpio; na, ya
21 Nov/ 20 Dec dhanus / Sagitarius: bha, bha, pha, dha
21 Dec/ 20 Jan makara /Capricorn; tha, ja
21 Jan/ 20 Feb kumbha /Aquarius: ga, sa
21 Feb/ 20 March mina / Pisces: da, ca na, jha

Name after Month deity

The second mode of naming was based on the deity of the month in which the child was born. According to Gargya, the names of the deities of months beginning from Margasirsa are Karnna, Ananta, Achyuta, Chakri, Vaikuntha, Janardana, Upendra, Yjnapurusa, Vasudeva, hari, Yogisa, and Pundarikaksa. The child was given a second name connected with the deity of the month. The above names are all of Vaisnava sect and they originated much later than the sutra period.

Name after Family deity

The third name was given according to the family deity. A family deity was a god or goddess worshipped in a family or tribe from every early times. The people naming a child after it thought that the child would enjoy special protection of the deity. The deity may be Vedic e.g. Indra, Soma, varuna, Mitra, Prajapati, or Puranic e.g. Krishna, rama, Sankara, Ganesa etc. While naming the child, the word Dasa or Bhakta (a devotee) was added to the name of the deity.

Popular Name

The last mode of naming was popular.The formation of this name mainly depended on the culture and education of the family.

Forbidden or prohibited names

The following female names should be avoided.

Names after a constellation such as Rohini, Revati etc. should be avoided. Names of trees and plants such as Champa, Tulasi etc., Names of rivers such as Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati etc. Names formed on the basis of lowering merit like Chandali
Names of mountains like Vindhyachal, Himalaya,etc.,Names of birds like Kokila, Hansa etc., Names of snakes such as Sarpini, Nagin, etc

Names suggestive of menial servants or other orderlies like Dasi, kinkakari etc., Names that create an awe or fear like Bheema, Bhayankari, Chandika etc.,. The above types of names are prohibited names for female children.

The scriptural authority for the above prohibitions is taken from Manu Smriti 3/9. Which reads as follows:
"Let him not marry a maiden named after a constellation, a tree, or a river, nor one bearing the name of a low caste, or of a mountain, nor one named after a bird, a snake, or a slave, nor one whose name inspires terror."

If the child is female, the name should be of one or three or five letters like Shree, Hrihi, Yashoda, Sukhada, Saubhagyaprada etc. According to Asvalayana, the names of boys should have an even number of syllables. A two-syllable name will bring material prosperity and fame and a four syllable name will bring religious fame.

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