Blessings: A Name Change

What lies behind your name? PAGUMAN SINGH attempts an exploration

By Paguman Singh | OPINION |

In general, most of us have little or no understanding of the importance of the name and how it has influenced our personality and character. Our parents were very cautious as the Punjabi proverb “nau vaddeh teh darshan shote” meaning the name portrays something great but is not reflected in the actions. Thus, the Punjabi belief is a given name drives the character of the person and transforms behavior and actions. In accordance with this traditional belief most parents name the child with words that have a positive meaning.

This old belief has been verified through research using accepted scientific measures. Social scientists believe that names produce a Dorian Gray effect, influencing personality, how we’re perceived, and even physical appearance. In psychology, the Dorian Gray effect refers to the various ways internal factors, such as personality or self-perception, influence physicality. A name “is like an elongated shadow attached at our heels,” Mavis Himes writes in her new book The Power of Names. Our surname defines us in relation to our parents, customarily the father and in the Sikh religion to our spiritual parents the Gurus and to the family of enlightened persons collectively called the Khalsa Panth.

Guru Nanak Sahib met a young child named Bura from the village of Katthu Nangal. The sakhi as in Sikhan di Bhagat Mal by Bhai Mani Singh tells of this young boy offering a bowl of milk to Guru Nanak Sahib. In the conversation that follows, the young boy request to be absolved from birth and death. He had seen soldiers mow down all the crops ripe as well as unripe and came to the realization that there are no restrains from death. Guru Nanak Sahib Ji recognized the wisdom in the boy and changed his name to Buddha meaning an old man. This blessing not only changed the young boy it made him the most wise and enlightened Sikh of the Guru. Later known respectfully as Baba Buddha Ji. Baba ji was not only full of wisdom he dedicated his whole life in the service of the Gurus and had the unique honor of being the person spiritually capable appointed by Guru Arjan Sahib ji to carry Pothi Sahib on his head into Hari Mandir Sahib during the First Parkash in 1604. Baba ji was also appointed the first caretaker or Granthi of Hari Mandir, Amritsar.

In 1531, another great person belonging to a family of jewelers and the head of a sect worshiping idols made his way to Kartarpur. Motivated by Bani from Asa Ki Vaar pauri, 20 which he heard from Bhai Jodh, Lehna rode on a horse to meet Guru Nanak Sahib. The first meeting blew the mind of Lehna ji as he wi tnessed the humility, love and simplicity of Guru Nanak Sahib. It was commitment, acceptance and total attachment instantaneously for Lehna. This commitment led to a change that transformed Lehna through learning and action, earning the blessings and acceptance of Guru Nanak. In 1539 Guru Nanak Sahib appointed and installed Lehna as the second Guru of the Sikh faith. That event also witnessed a name change and Guru Nanak Sahib blessed him with a new name Angad. The blessing was a result of the total transformation and Lehna reaching a state of realization through committed action in accordance with the principles established by Guru Nanak Sahib. Guru Angad Sahib then continued to remove the barrier of ignorance in the general public through a program of literacy and spreading education as well as focusing on health and wellbeing.

We also witness Guru Amar Das extending the process of blessing and changing the name of Bhai Jetha to Guru Ram Das. Orphaned at the tender age of seven with the only support being given by his maternal grandmother Bhai Jetha received the support and guidance of Guru Ram Das to become a knowledgeable, enlightened and accomplished music maestro and leader. The business skills he acquired, in the formative years watching his father, laid the foundation for him to develop from a small-time trader at Basarke to a merchant in Govindwal. His strategic move to a newly developing town on a trade route provided him the opportunity to grow both in knowledge, skills, spirituality and leadership. The name changed to Ram Das carried recognition of capabilities and ability to develop and strengthen the growing Niara Panth.

Another Guru who had the blessing of having the name change was Guru Tejh Bahadur. Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji changed the name of his son after the battle in Kartarpur from Tegh Mal to Tegh Bahadur. Gur Hargobind Sahib Ji in recognition of Tegh Mal’s skills, which had been developed by Baba Buddha Ji, and valour in the battle named him Tegh Bahadur. This battle continued in life and Sikhs stand up in pride as Guru Tegh Bahadur become the first martyr defending human right and the rights to religious freedom.

These were individual name changes that had tremendous effects on individuals and their contribution to humanity. The greatest transformation of a whole society happened in 1699 on Baisakhi. Guru Gobind Singh changed the names of the five beloved and added Singh to their names and all females were given Kaur (princess). This is the first time in human history all humans adhering to the principles established by Guru Nanak Sahib ji had a single surname, Singh for the male and Kaur for the female. A point to note is that the five beloved – the panj pyare – had only Singh added not Khalsa to their name. The name is a reflection of the equality to be practiced. It also bonded all into a society of brave and regal persons caring and sharing as members of a family of humanists. Collectively, the Nirmal Panth established by Guru Nanak Sahib was now given the name of Khalsa Panth.

The history of name changes and the transformation of followers is amazing. The result was it filled them with moralistic values transformed into actions that have left its mark on humanity. The feeling of being called Singh or Kaur fills one with a sense of pride and appreciation and is the single most motivator to do a good, serve and perform actions that brings changes to individual lives and transform society. Live in the blessings of the surname showered upon all of us, while retaining our parent given name, which in most cases is derived from the first alphabet of the hukumnama at birth. Live the Blessings, as a name hold the power to change character and influence personality.

Paguman Singh, a retired senior official of a Malaysian-based social security organisation, has been involved in Sikhi parchaar for more than three decades. He now resides in New Zealand.

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.


Some ideas to celebrate Guru Nanak’s 550 birth anniversary (Asia Samachar, 17 Jan 2019)

Guru Nanak in Nepal (Asia Samachar, 29 April 2018)


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