Namakaranam (नामकरणम्)

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Namakarana (Samskrit: नामकरणम्) is the naming ceremony. Nāma means name of a thing or being. Ever since men evolved a language, they have tried to give names to things of daily use in their life. With the .progress of social consciousness men were also named, because without particular names of individuals it was impossible to carry on the business of a cultured society.[1] To give individual identity in relation with the father, family and society, a name is selected for the child with care.

Namakarana Samskara

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

As quoted in Viramitrodaya, Brhaspati with a poetic exaggeration remarks about the desirability of naming:

नामाखिलस्य व्यवहारहेतुः शुभावहं कर्मसु भाग्यहेतुः । नाम्नैव कीर्ति लभते मनुष्यस्ततः प्रशस्तं खलु नामकर्म ॥ (Viramitrodaya)[1]

“Name is the primary means of social intercourse, it brings about merits and it is the root of fortune. From name man attains fame. Therefore, naming ceremony is' very praiseworthy.”

The scope of Namakarana is restricted to ceremonial naming process mentioned in Sanatana dharma. It is generally found that the choice of a name for the child is often connected with religious ideas. The child is frequently named after a devata who seems to be regarded its protector or is named after a saint whose blessings are sought for it. Secular ideas are also responsible for determining names. They denote a particular quality in the person named.[1]

The assuming of a secret name is also found. It involves the personality of a man and is, therefore, withheld from enemies. The child was named according to his Nakshatra secretly during Jatakarma according to some texts. The adoption of the father’s name is prevalent, which is based on the family attachment and pride. Thus there are so many factors working behind the system of giving name to a person.[1]

Namakarana Samskara in Vaidika Literature

In the Rigveda, the word, "Naman" or name is of common occurrence. Names of objects and persons are found in the Vedic literature. However, using the secret name as given in the Sutras is not instanced in the Vedic times. The adoption of a second name is assumed for success and distinction in life. The common fashion was to adopt two names. The one name was the popular one, the other being a 'patronymic' or 'matronymic. For example, Rama was the popular name while "Dasarathi" is his patronymic name after his father. In the name "Brhaduktha Vamneya", the second name is derived form "Vamani" (the name of the mother); in such cases, however, it should be noted that parentage was not necessarily direct. A person could be named even after a remote ancestor. Some local names, although not prescribed by scriptures, are found in the Brahmanas, e.g., Kaushambeya (named after Kosambi), Gangeya (named after Ganga) (Shatapatha Brahmana 8.6.8). We find in Ramayana that Sitadevi is called Mythili (named after Mithila).[1] The earliest reference to Namakarana is traced to as early as Shatapatha Brahmana where it is stated that by such act papa (sins) are removed.

तस्मात् पुत्रस्य जातस्य नाम कुर्यात् पापमानमेवास्य तदापहंत्यापि द्वितीयामपि त्रितीयाम् ॥ (Shat. Brah.

In the Grhyasutras, except the Gobhila, do not quote Vedic verses to be recited on this occasion, though they lay down rules for the composition of the name. It seems that the Namakarana was more a custom than a ceremony in the beginning. But being the occasion of a great social importance, it was later on included in the Samskaras.[1]

Composition of the Name

Naming a Boy

According to the Paraskara Grhyasutra, on the tenth day the father should name the child. 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 suffix.[1]

द्व्यक्षरं चतुरक्षरं वा घोषवदाद्यन्तरन्तस्थं दीर्घाभिनिष्ठानं कृतं कुर्यान्न तद्धितम् ॥ २ (Para. Grhy. Sutr. 1.17.2)[2]

Vasistha restricts the number to two or four syllables and asks to avoid names ending in ल (lakara)" and र (rakara).

The Ashvalayana Grhyasutra attaches different kinds of merits to different number of syllables: “One who is desirous of fame, his name should consist of two syllables, one who desires holy lustre, his name should contain four syllables." For boys even number of syllables were prescribed.[1]

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 अ (akaranta) and should have a Taddhita suffix. According to Baijavapa, त्र्यक्षरमीकारान्तं स्त्रियां - the name of the a girl should contain three syllables and end in इ (ekaranta). Manu gives further qualifications of the name of a girl:

स्त्रीणां सुखोद्यं अक्रूरं विस्पष्टार्थं मनोहरम् । मङ्गल्यं दीर्घवर्णान्तं आशीर्वादाभिधानवत् ॥ २.३३ (Manu. Smrt. 2.33)

“It should be easy to pronounce, not hard to hear, of clear meaning, charming, auspicious, ending in a long vowel and containing some blessings.’’ 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.[1]

Name based on Varna

People of different varnas should have different additional names according to Vyasa Smriti: “Sharman was added to the name of a Brahman, Varman to that of a Kshatriya, Gupta to that of a Vaishya and Dasa to that of a Shudra.”

शर्मेति ब्रह्मणस्योक्तं वर्मेति क्षत्रियस्य तु । गुप्तदासात्मकं नाम प्रशस्तं वैश्यशूद्रयोः ॥ (Vyasa)[1]

What a man would be in the world was a foregone conclusion and, accordingly, he was provided with privileges of social significance. But varna system was not peculiar to the Ancient Indians alone. It was prevalent, and is still common, in other Indo-European peoples also.[1]

Fourfold Naming

The ancient practice of naming is currently followed by a very few people lately. Names were given based on practices in various paramparas as the society evolved. Four categories can be summarized as below

  1. Nakshatranama - the nakshatra in which the child is born
  2. Masadevatanama - the deity of the month
  3. Kuladevatanama - the family deity
  4. Vyāvahārikanāma - popular name

The Grhyasutras knew the Nakshatra name and the Vyavaharanama or the popular name. The rest were unknown to them. The system was fully worked out by the latter Smrtis and the astrological works. This development was due to the rise of religious paramparas and astrology. The sectarian religions gave birth to the family deities. Naming according to Nakshatras was a part of astrological influence which were later expanded to the concept that every period of time was presided over by a deity.[1]

Nakshatra-Nama (based on nakshatra)

Nakshatranama is the name derived from the from the name of a Nakshatra (a lunar asterism) under which the child was born, or from its presiding deity; with the name given by the father or an elderly member of the family. The deities presiding over the Nakshatras are given in the Taittriya Samhita. For example, if a child was born under the constellation Ashvini, he was named Ashvinikumara. 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. A child who was born under Ashvini, which presides over the letters Chu-Che-Cho-La was named for example, Chunni, Chetana, Chowdeshvara or Lakshmana respectively according to the different padas (parts) of the constellations. The Letters/Syllables corresponding to the different nakshatra padas are found in the Panchangas.[1]

According to 'Baudhayana, the name derived from the constellation was kept secret. Nakshatranama is described in Jatakarma where this name is given to the child in many instances and kept as a secret until the child is ready for Upanayana and subsequently used while performing yajnas. Since the decline in yajnas this practice of naming the child during Jatakarma is followed very rarely in the present times.[1]

Masadevata-Nama (based on 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 Margashirsa are Krsna, Ananta, Achyuta, Chakri, Vaikumtha, Janardana, Upendra, Yajnapurusa, Vasudeva, Hari, Yogisha, 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.[1]

Kuladevata-Nama (based on family deity)

The third name was given according to the family deity. A family deity was either a devi (female) or a devata (male) worshipped in a family or tribe from 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. Krsna, Rama, Sankara, Ganesha etc. While naming the child, the word Dasa or Bhakta “a devotee” was added to the name of the deity.

Vyavaharika-Nama (popular name)

The last mode of naming was popular. The popular name was meant for general use in the society and was very important from the practical point of view. The rules of the composition given above were consulted in framing this name. The formation of this name mainly depended on the culture and education of the family. This name was desired to be auspicious and significant. Naming convention to a certain extent followed the use of above three criterial to a certain extent in certain families the present times. Some principles to be followed in naming can be summarized as below.

  1. it should be easy to pronounce and sweet to hear
  2. it should indicate the sexual difference
  3. names of men and women were to be so selected as to be indicative of their natural built and disposition (men are hardy and robust, women are naturally tender and lovely)
  4. Female names generally should end in आ-karanta and इ/ई-karanta and should contain uneven number of syllables/letters
  5. name should be significant of fame, wealth, power etc
  6. name should be suggestive of the varna (though it is not practiced in the present times) suggesting their social status without any inquiry.

Repulsive name

This is so far as the scriptural methods of naming were concerned. But the common people must have' taken many other things into consideration, as they do even now. The unfortunate parents who had lost their previous issues gave the child an awkward name, repulsive and disgusting, frighten away demons, diseases and death.[1]

संस्कारविधिः ॥ Samskara Vidhi

उपयुक्तकालः ॥ Suitable Time of Performance

Generally the eleventh day or twelfth day is prescribed as the suitable time to perform this samskara, however we do have exceptions based on various situations.

Baudhayana Grhyasutra दशम्यां द्वादश्यां वा नामकरणम्।२३ (Baud. Grhy. 2.1.23)[3]

Tenth* or twelfth day.

Paraskara Grhyasutra दशम्यामुत्थाप्य ब्राह्मणान्भोजयित्वा पिता नाम करोति १ (Para. Grhy. Sutr. 1.17.1)[2]

Tenth day*

Vyasa Smrti एकदशेऽह्नि नाम (Vyasa. Smrt. 1.17)

Eleventh day

Gobhila Grhyasutra Parishishta The naming ceremony should be performed on the tenth, twelfth, hundredth day or at the expiry of the first year.[1]
Brhaspati The naming ceremonies should be performed on the tenth*, twelfth, thirteenth, sixteenth, nineteenth or thirty-second day after the birth of the child.[1]

*According to the Harihara Bhashya of Paraskara Grhyasutra, the term दशम्याम् (Dashamyam) is explained thus:

दशम्यामिति सूतकान्तोपलक्षणम् । ततश्च यस्य [वर्णस्य] यावन्ति दिनानि सूतकम्, तदन्तदिने सूतकोत्थापनमित्यर्थः ।

Dashamyam means the tenth day. It should be noted that both Jaata-Asoucha and Mrta-Asoucha are stipulated for a period of ten days. So after the tenth day i.e., on the next day, the eleventh day, Namakarana has to be performed after the purificatory bath of the mother and 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 Sankranti (the passage of the sun from one zodiac to another), and eclipse or Shraddha, the ceremony cannot be auspicious.[1]


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 (Gobhila Grhyasutra 2.7.15). After this, offerings were made to Prajapati, date, constellation, their deities, Agni and Soma. The father touches the child most probably, to awaken its consciousness and to draw its attention towards the ceremony. The ceremony should be done on tenth day* or on a date after tenth day according to Apastamba.

दशम्याम् उत्थितायां स्नातायां पुत्रस्य नाम दधाति पितामाता इति। आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम् १५.८॥daśamyām utthitāyāṃ snātāyāṃ putrasya nāma dadhāti pitāmātā iti। Āpastambagṛhyasūtram 15.8॥

On the tenth day, after the mother wakes up, takes bath, both the father and mother establish the name.

द्व्यक्षरं चतुरक्षरं वा नाम . . . । आपस्तम्बगृह्यसूत्रम् १५.९॥ dvyakṣaraṃ caturakṣaraṃ vā nāma । . . . Āpastambagṛhyasūtram 15.9॥

The name should consist of two or four letters. There are other conditions regarding the form of the name in different Gṛhyasūtras. This is called Vyāvahārikanāma (the name useful for day to day worldly transactions).

Ayurveda's viewpoint on Namakarana

Acharya Vagbhata in Ashtanga Samgraha treatise describes in depth about the Namakarana Samskara. [4]

The time of samskara

There are 4 different opinions regarding the right time to perform Namakarana samskara. Acharya Vagbhata has mentioned these 3 times as below,

  • 10th day after birth
  • 12th day after birth
  • 100th day after birth
  • On completing 1 year of age


  • The newly born child's mother completes 10th day post delivery. She is advised to take a bath and wear new clean soft cloths.
  • The same is applicable to the baby as well who should be bathed and adorned. As a part of Rakshavidhi (See Jatakarma samskara for details) child's body is advised to be smeared with herbo-mineral mixtures containing agauru, Chandana, Manoha, Haratala (Arsenic compound) etc.
  • Close relatives are called for the ceremony.

दशमे द्वादशे वाह्नि गोत्राचारैः शुभैः शुभे|

सूता स्नानोत्सवं कुर्यात्पिताऽपत्यस्य नाम च|

दिने शततमे वाख्यां पूर्णे संवत्सरेऽथवा|


Who should perform the naming ceremony

One can find the reference in Ashtanga Samgraha that the child's father has been assigned the duty to name the child.

How to select the name for the child

Acharya vagbhata has proposed few guidelines with the help of which the parents are advised to select the name of their child. The guidelines are as follows,

पूज्यं त्रिपुरुषानूकमादौ घोषवदक्षरम्

अवृद्धं कृतमूष्मान्तमनरातिप्रतिष्ठितम्|

नक्षत्रदेवतायुक्तं तदेव तु न केवलम्|

मङ्गल्यमन्तरन्तस्थं न दुष्टं न च तद्धितम्|

पुंसो विसर्जनीयान्तं समवर्णं स्त्रियाः पुनः|

विषमाक्षरमक्रूरं विस्पष्टार्थं मनोरमम्|

सुखोद्यं दीर्घवर्णान्तमाशीर्वादाभिधानवत्||२६|| (Asht. Samg. 1.26)

  • The name of the child should be somewhat mathcing the names of his father, grandfather and forefather.
  • The first letter of the name should be 'Ghosh akshara' means the 3rd letter in the multiple groups from samskrit varnamala
  • The last letter should be the 'ushma akshara' from samskrt varnamala
  • two names should be decided.
    1. Nakshatrika name- On the basis of birth nakshatra and devata of that nakshatra
    2. Abhiprayika name- The actual name
  • The name should be reputed, sacred, having good meaning
  • For a male child- The name should end with visarjaneeya letter at the end. Also it should have even number of letters.
  • For a female child- The name should have odd number of letters. Her name should be gentle, pleasant and have clear meaning which suggests happiness. It should end with 'Deergha varnas' from samskrt varnamala.
  • The name should be such that whenever anyone calls the child with that name, it should appear as if the calling person is blessing the child.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 Pandey, Raj Bali. (1949) Hindu Samskaras, A Socio-religious study of the Hindu Sacraments. Banaras: Vikrama Publications. (Pages 130-144)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Paraskara Grhyasutras (Kanda 1 Adhyaya 17)
  3. Baudhayana Grhyasutras (Prashna 2 Adhyaya 1)
  4. Ashtanga Samgraha (Uttarasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutra 26)