Ramayana Insights - 1

Wise souls that walked this earth

What was Shri Rama's surname?

Bharata – A melting pot

Bharata Desha is a melting pot of surnames. From Sharmas, Saxenas, to Guptas and Varmas, Mehtas and Malhotras, Iyers and Iyengars…well the list can keep going on. For most of us today, we believe that our surnames merely indicate our caste or jati, and nothing more. It is such a thought process that has led many to even shed their surnames out of a feeling of unfounded shame or reluctance.

What did our surnames really mean? Well, let us go a little backwards to a practice known as Abhivaadana.


Abhivaadana Mantra

Many communities in Bharata follow the practice of Abhivaadana, or salutation, when one greets or seeks the blessings of elders & Gurus. The Abhivaadana mantra goes something like this, detailing the kula-gotra (clan descended from a Rishi) and pravara (family) of the said person. For instance, the Abhivaadana mantra for a Brahmana individual will have the following terms –

Abhivaadaye – Salutations to you

Trayaarishayah Pravaraanvita – Salutations to the three Rishis of your gotra

Gotrah – Naming your Gotra (the Rishi’s clan you descend from)

Sutra – The Grihya Sutra that you follow for household Vedic rituals

Veda-Shaakha-Adhyaayi – The specific Veda and its branch you are bound to study

Shree (Your name) – The is the crucial part in the Mantra that also reveals your Shastraic Surname

Aham Asmi Bho – Thus, such and such am I, O elder!

Shri Rama’s Surname – “Varman”

Of the above, let us now come to the name, and understand it with an example. Well, who better than Shri Rama himself.

*Prabhu Shri Ramachandra having been born into the glorious Ikshvaaku Vamsha, as a Kshatriya, had “Varman” / “Varma” as His surname. Let us delve deep into this word.*

In ancient days it was the custom to add the word ‘Varmā’ to the names of Kshatriyas. The word also interestingly means an armour, a coat of mail, which further lets us infer that it indicates “Shelter” and “Protection, Security” that Kshatriyas are duty-bound to offer to those around them.

The same term also arises in other Bharatiya languages such as Tamizh, Kannada and Hindi  – வர்மன், as a title of the Kshatriyas.

Other scriptural references

Let us look at some more scriptural references on surnames –

Pāraskara-Gṛhyasūtrā, 1. 17.4.—‘Sharma is for the Braahmaṇa, Varma for the Kṣhatriya, Gupta for the Vaishya.’

Yama-Smṛti —‘Śharma and Deva are for the Brāhmaṇa, Rājā for the Kṣatriya, Gupta and Datta for the Vaishya.”

Further, Aashvalaayanaachaarya says, —‘The name of the Braahmaṇa should end with Sharmaa because he imparts Sharma (happiness, bliss) to the world through his religious character, calmness and self-control; that of the Kshatriya should end with Varmaa, because like the Varma (armour), he protects the world from the three kinds of pain; that of the Vaishya should end with Gupta, because he fosters (Gopaayati) the people by giving them money at certain times…

So that’s how Shri Rama would
have bowed to his parents and elders – Shri Ramachandra Varmanaha, Aha Asmi Bhoh. 

What was Shri Rama’s Gotra. There is an interesting snippet there too…

 Let us see it in the next blog!