What’s in a Bengali name?

Etymology, Themes and Some Philosophy

Sujatha R
7 min readDec 12, 2021

Through the tunnel of friends, school, college and workplace, happened to hear a variety of Bengali names. They stood out from the rest and not the usual ‘Rama’ ‘Krishna’. The longish names had an element of grandeur and mystery. From the land of philosophers, and poets giving the philosophical Sanskrit words a Bangla touch of ‘b’s and ‘o’s..

Through Bhagawadgita and other works, stumbled on these names here and there in recent times and was wowed… And the etymology geek in me is delighted writing this trivia. Some of them bit of a guess and imagination..

What’s in a name.. And yet it represents a culture, a baseline, a sense of what was fashion in the namespace. And Indian names in their deepest sense are a reflection of the grandeur of the Universe and open up the portals of vocabulary.

Endurance, Performance, Fearlessness and Purity

In a conversation, imagine if you had to address the other person in a variety of context-specific names in every sentence.. Very soon we would fall short of vocabulary.. Dear.. Honey.. Sir.. My lady.. Handsome! Genius! O intelligent one.. It might even seem odd as English does not have an elaborate scheme for this kind of addressing.

From the few verses that I have seen in Gita, and especially Ramayana, literally every verse has this kind of addressing to pep up the mood of the conversation.

Tapan

‘Tapan’ is Sun. ‘tapa’ is penance, heat and endurance. Arjuna and Rama were addressed as ‘parantapa’ as they were excellent warriors and would scorch and destroy their enemies.

Sabyasaachi, Partha

Arjuna was a great warrior and trained himself to conquer sleep and even gain mastery of using both hands at the same time. At the moment of delusion in the battlefield, when Arjuna refuses to fight, Krishna addresses him that he was the great Sabyasachi who was dexterous with both his hands.

Partha is another name of Arjuna. Son of Kunti aka Prutha.

Tamogna

Tamas is darkness and hence depicts ignorance. Tamogna is the destructor of darkness and ignorance.. It comes in the chant of ‘Aditya Hridayam’ as one of the many names of the ‘Sun’ and ‘the Absolute’.

Tamogna, Himagna, Shatrugna, Krutagn-agna Dispeller of Darkness, of Ice, of Enemies and of ungrateful folks..

Anindya

In Sundarakandam, Hanuman is on a search mission. Hanuman addresses Sita as Anandita, the one without a blemish ‘ninda’. Anindyo sounds similar.. The one without a blemish

Anirbaan

Perhaps it is related to Anirbinna.. As used in Gita, strong and indifferent from the inside and untouched from the inside to the circumstances outside.

Mrityunjoy

mrutyu jaya.. Victory over death.. In a sense victory over fear.. Swamy Vivekananda’s message Arise Awake inspired by Katopanishad had a similar vibe.. Tagore in his prochondo garjane expands over turmoils and the ultimate freedom and mrutyunjoya..

Elements

Arnab

Aarnav is ocean. Like in ‘ocean of compassion and grace’.. Or life samsaara is portrayed as an ‘ocean of ups and downs’.

Pranab

‘Praan’ is life and breath.. Pranava is another name for the divine sound of ‘OM’ which unfolds the depths of sounds.

Body, Mind and Senses

In his pursuit of ‘Who am I’, the young Nachiketa approaches Yama… “Like the chariot driven by the horses and steered by the reins, and controlled by the charioteer, this ‘body’ of ours is driven by the ‘senses’ and steered by the ‘mind’ and controlled by the ‘intellect’.. and we are the passenger inside witnessing this journey of life.” -Katopanishad

Tanushree

‘tanu’ is ‘to stretch’ ‘to extend’.. Perhaps the English words ‘tension, tensile, tentacles’ come from here.
tan, santaan, tanuja are related to body and its extension of offspring..
tanushree could meane a ‘girl with a beautiful body’ or a ‘extension of divine grace’..

Shantanu

He who is peaceful.. shant + tanu perhaps. Bheeshma’s father’s name was Shantanu.

Goswami

Go’ can refer to senses, animals or earth.. That which moves.. And it is senses that pulls and moves us from within..

He who has mastered his senses is Go swami.. Similar to Jeetendriya Indrajeet

Vivekananda

viveka- power of discrimination and judgement.
Viveka Ananda.. The bliss with judgement

Chaitanya

Chaitanya is that consciousness that illuminates the body-mind-senses and everything around.

Lights, Lustre, Divinity

Why do so many names have ‘light’ in them? Which light is it referring to?

It is the light of the Sun that guides us daytime. Come dusk, it is the light of the stars and the moon. In their absence, it is the guidance of the fire and sounds. And in its absence, is the guidance of the light within each one of us.

Be it in ‘day’, ‘din’, ‘deepa’ or ‘deva’,the ‘da’ sound indicates lights, lustre and effulgence.. Lustre of the Sun and the Moon, lustre of the creator, the lustre of the Gods, the lustre of the gems..

Moni Deepa, Sudipto, Sandeep

Moni Deepa: Light and lustre of a gem ‘mani’
Sudipto:
Illuminating

Dependu, Ardhendu

Indu is the light of the moon.. Deependu hence is the light of the moon.
Ardhendu is ardha indu.. light of the crescent moon.

Indrakshi

Perhaps modified form of Indivaraakshi.. Indivara Akshi.. Who has long beautiful kind eyes like the moist lotus buds. Just like Sulochana, Kamalaakshi..

https://skyandtelescope.org/

Suchanda

Beautiful like the moon Chanda

Robindranath

ravi-indra-nath
Indra is the King of Gods.. Indriya also means senses..
ravindranath the lord of the Sun and the Senses and the Gods.. a very befitting name for a poet.. For he sees beyond what the Sun and the senses can paint.

Debjani, Debaashish

Dev is Gods.. Dev is also anything shining and illuminating..

Debaashish : He who has blessings of the Gods

Debjaani : With hindi and urdu parsing, it seems ‘Beloved of the Gods’. The Daughter of Shukracharya was Devyaani. Perhaps inspired from there.

Colour Spectrum

Plurality of light is manifested as colours in this Universe. Interesting to see so many names take after colours, imaging and perception.

Neelanjana

Neel anjana is “dark kohled”.. It could be referring to a lady with dark kohl in her eyes.. Or to the dark rain-bearing clouds which look like the cosmic eye. Like in Rabindranath Tagore’s popular rain song Neelanjana gana kunjana

Neelotpaal

Dark lotuses and can also be a reference to the cosmic sky, Krishna or Shiva.

Buddha related

Tathagata

I used to have a colleague by this name. For lack of comprehension, we used to simply call him ‘toto’..

tatha-gatha: he who has gone to that pedestal or state: A title for Buddha..

Amit, Amitaabha

Amit” is ‘without limits’ or infinite. Like in ‘Limit’ ‘Nimitt’

Amitaabha is Amit Abha.. The one with infinite splendor.

Sumit, Anumita, Paramita

Sumit perhaps a simpler form of mitra meaning Friend.. A good friend..

Anumita.. Perhaps modified form of anamitra.. an amitra one without an enemy.

Paaramita is infinite.. paara.. It comes in this beautiful Buddhist heart sutra..

Names of the Absolute

Vishnu Sahasranamama celebrates the attributes of the Absolute. Some names from there

Sashwaati

That which is eternal and timeless

Suparno

Su parna: Beautiful wings.. In the Upanishads, it is said that our dual core is like the two birds sitting on a tree. The lower-self busy pecking the fruits and the higher-self just witnessing the whole thing.

Subrato

Su-vrat doing the right thing.

Nivruti

Liberated.. Another meaning as used in Gita is he who knows ‘when not to act’

Shubango

Beautiful looking

Saurabh

The fragrance of divinity.. of flowers.. Comes in Suprabhatam and Tagore’s compositions quite a few times..

Alok

Lochana is ‘eyes’ and loka is the perceived world.. Alok is ‘out of the world’. Used quite a bit by Tagore. Ei Lobhinu Sangha

Bipaasha

Vi paasha.. without rope or free from attachments.

Legend goes that Vashista Muni was very upset over his son’s death, ties himself with a rope tries to drown himself in a river. The river frees him from the clutches of the rope and does not allow him to be drown. And the river came to be known as Vipasha.

Story seems more like a metaphor for freeing oneself from the worldly grief.

REFERENCES

I just wrote from my mind. A few words like Debjaani, Indrakshi, Anumita, Amitabha were answered from a Sanskrit learning group. Was suggested to check here site for cross references, it is a repository of multiple dictionaries.

For those interested in simple dictionary, check out

https://www.learnsanskrit.cc/

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Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns