In India, a person is identified by his/her name, which usually is a reflection of his/her own family. It may contain not only your maiden name but also the name of your father and your surname/caste.

When you are born, you are usually given your special name, which you carry throughout your life unless it is changed for a specific purpose. For example, the surname may change after marriage or the in-laws may change the name, specifically, for a girl.

Artists often change their names to those which may reflect their profession. A classic example is Rajesh Khanna, who changed his name from Jatin to Rajesh, which was easier for the public to recall.

A name for a baby is chosen on any of the following grounds:

• The priest as per the horoscope decides the sound present in the universe and that Akshar (Alphabet) is given to the family to pick up a name starting with that Akshar.

• Sometimes, the name of the baby may be chosen depending upon the auspiciousness of the day he/she was born, e.g. a baby boy born on Krishna Janmashtami, may be named ‘Krishna’ by the family after Lord Krishna.

• If the parents have vowed a Mannat to a deity, then they may name their child after one of the many names of that deity. For example, if parents have taken a Mannat from Vaishno Devi, their baby girl may be named for one of the forms of Goddess Durga or Parvati.

• People may also choose similar names for their children, e.g. Ramesh, Mahesh, and Suresh.

• People may also keep the name of the child in the form of known pairs. If the name of the first child is Luv, the parents may like to name the second child as Kush, especially when the parents have twins. Other examples are Karan Arjun, Sita and Gita etc.

• Sometimes, parents name their child after their favorite celebrity. For example, if someone is a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar, he may name his child Sachin. Sachin himself was named after the noted Hindi film music director Sachin Dev Burman by his father, who was a great fan of SD Burman. Name has a lot of significance as Akshar in Sanskrit has a vibration and if that positive vibration matches with the vibrations of universe at the time of your birth, it helps in healing.

Normally, it is expected that you live up to your name. For example, if your name is Durga, you are expected to know all about Ma Durga and try to adopt characteristics of Durga.

Therefore, everyone is expected to know the literal meaning of his or her name and try to follow a lifestyle that is consistent with your name. For example, if you are named Ram, you are not expected to act like Ravana.

Namkaran Sanskar or the naming ceremony is a complete ceremony and is one of the 16 sanskars. It is both a social and legal necessity. As the naming process creates a bond between the child and the rest of the community, it is considered auspicious.

Some people name their child before he/she is born but a Namkaran Sanskar is usually performed on the 12th day after birth but it may vary from religion to religion and custom to custom. The formal ritual involves a Namkaran puja, which is held at their home or a temple where the priest offers prayers to all the Gods, Navagrihas, five elements, Agni and the ancestors. The horoscope of a child is made and is placed in front of the idol of the deity for blessings. With the baby in the lap of the father, the chosen name of the child is whispered in the right ear.

Some people name the child on the 101st day of the birth; while some choose the first birthday to name their child.

The name of the child also entails certain etiquettes as it reflects a person. You cannot take the name of a person with disrespect. If you abuse a name it means you have abused a person.

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