People often say that a lot of Nepali names are similar to the ones found in India. While this is somewhat of an overgeneralization it is certainly not false. The main reason behind this is the process or the ways on how babies are named. Because Nepal shares a lot of cultural similarities with India, it also shares some processes on how babies are named as well.
But that is not all there is to it as you can see that there are a lot of names which are specific to Nepal as well and those are the Names which you might find to be a common occurrence in Nepal but along with that exclusive to Nepal as well.
As we all know that everyone has two different types of names which they are known until they receive a title, one is a given name and another is a family name. It is also not unusual for people to have middle names as well but that is a bit on the rare side and has been in decline as it is not mandatory for Nepalese to have a middle name when compared to the other two.
The given name is the name that one is given at birth and that is the one that Nepali are known for their entire life for the most part. This is an individual part of a person and it may or may not represent anything at all. Also, people can change their first name if they need to or if they want to but they have to go through a long process which is why people don’t often do this but there have been quite a few cases of people changing this.
As for the family name which is commonly known as a surname, it is something that is carried down by their family. When both of these combine, one can tell a lot about a person just from their name. Most of it has to do with the culture and their place of origin.
For example, when someone says they are Mr. Dangol, we can easily guess that they are from the Kathmandu valley. Similar to this we can easily guess where a certain group of people belong based on their surname and along with this their caste and culture as well as a surname are directly related to their culture and caste.
How are Nepali babies Named?
Since we know what a name is and what it represents we can now discuss how are Nepali babies Named. The first thing we have to know is that naming babies is an individual process that is entirely up to the parents and the family. Although there are some names which are banned in some parts of the world, there is no official record of any banned names with the exception of naming the babies curses words or some general words with meanings with a bad or a negative significance like “Rakshas” which means “devil” or “monster”.
Needless to say, no parents would ever want their child’s name to be associated with any bad meaning regardless of how devilish they might think their child may be. With that in mind following are the 5 general practices used to name the babies in Nepal:
1. Based on the culture of the parents
This is probably the first thing that people think about the names of the babies in Nepal, which matches their culture. Regardless of the name, be it the “Tenzing” of the Sherpas or “Luniva” of the Newari, most of the names reflect their culture in some way, be it through language or symbolism. This is not to say that people are exclusively named after their culture but just to say that where the person is from and what language is their culture and tradition based on has a huge hand on what babies are named.
As we all know that a Nepalese culture and traditions are basically inseparable from an individual, now we have to consider that maybe it does have something to do with how babies are named in which the culture and tradition of a person’s family plays a significant part on.
2. Based on Language
In the previous point, we mentioned that a language also has some part in how their babies are named. To go a bit more into detail on this, we have to first ask why does their birth language have to do anything with the babies are named by their parents. The reason is purely psychological for this and the main reason is “birth language is easier to understand”.
Due to this a person usually has a greater general vocabulary of their birth language rather than their second or third language. Along with this if a baby is named in their mother tongue, s/he will be easily identifiable in the world which is filled with people with lots of names and associate that baby to their parents and their culture easily.
3. Based on society
Although culture and society are tightly linked together they are not one and the same. There are a lot of societies with mixed cultures in them and the Kathmandu valley is a prime example of that. With this thing considered a baby can be named totally independent of their culture if they are born or if their parents live/d in a mixed society. In a mixed society, the boundary between different cultures tends to be blurred and people often celebrate all forms of cultures and follow all forms of traditions which exist in that society.
Due to this, the name of the baby born in such a society may come from another culture and tradition. Similarly, there is no lack of a society with only a single form of culture and tradition and in such cases, the way a baby is named will be mostly dependent on the culture of that society and the wish of parents.
4. Based on Astrology
One thing that most Nepalese society has in common with each other regardless of how different they may be in their belief is astrology. While this belief is declining as technology is advancing and people are becoming modern, a lot of people still believe in this. Due to this many babies are named based on astrology. Apart from astrology states that “the name of a person has a direct link to his/her destiny”.
This means that your name has a lot to do with where you will end up in life. Since many Nepali people believe in astrology which also includes this theology, many people follow a festival called “Nwaran” which is literally the festival of naming their baby.
The rituals may vary depending on the culture and tradition but generally, an astrologer is called. The astrologer then sees the horoscope and gives the parent a set of letters which is related to the horoscope of the baby. The parent then has to choose the letter and then the astrologer determines what sound should the name of the baby start from. The parents then choose the name of the baby as per the sound given by the astrologer. There are even some cases where the entire naming process is left to the astrologer as well.
5. Based on the individual wish of the parents
With all things said, it should not be forgotten that the final determining factor of naming the baby is the parents, and how they name their kid is their decision in the end. While society and culture may put some expectations on them, as long as they don’t name their baby the illegal names, no one can stop them from doing anything. With that being said as we have mentioned no parents would want their child to be named after something bad so they usually give their baby meaningful names or name them after a great celebrity or a hero figure in history.
While this being said there are some names with no meaning at all as well and these names are usually the ones which are formed by combining the parts of the parent’s name. An example of this is the child of Bipashna and Prakash being named Bipish. But regardless of the meaningless of the name sounds beautiful and in the end, as long as the name does not sound vulgar or offensive or can easily be made fun of, it is valid.
In the end, regardless of what naming process is followed to name the baby, all parents want is for their child to be easily recognizable and be accepted into the world and make a name for themselves which will surpass the name that the parents have given them. This is as true for anywhere in the world as it is for Nepal.
Since we have mentioned astrology if you are curious about it you can follow this up with our work on “5 Intriguing Questions about Cheena“.