The naming of the child is the most critical Samskara or scripture based rite of the Hindus. Hindu names are inspired by the divine qualities of deities, gods and goddesses. A baby named after a deity is supposed to follow the path of righteousness.
According to Hindu astrologers, the most auspicious first names are those that begin with syllables that correspond to one's birth star or Nakshatra.Birth star refers to that constellation to which the moon was aligned at the time of birth. There are four sounds or padas for each constellation one of which gives the starting syllable for the baby's name. for e.g. Bharani Nakhshtra has the Padas, Li, Lu, Le,and Lo.
There are also three main lists of Hindu names- the Vishnu Sahasranamam, the Lalitha Sahasranamam, and the Siva Sahasranamam. Each of these hymns has 1008 names of the particular deity and are usually sources of names for Brahmin children. These hymns are but three among several name giving hymns of Hindu scriptures.
The Indian name is complicated when it comes to surname and family name. Hindu names often reflect caste and sect. For e.g. Iyer is South Indian Saivite Brahmin. Caste names are drawn from the occupation of the family and are not family names. Some Indian last names are sub- caste names- groups within a caste who are differentiated like Shenoy who are Goan Brahmins.
Religion is sometime the decider of last names in an Indian name. Sikhs have a middle name Singh which some may use as last name. Jains have last name Jain. Sometimes the village or place of origin is indicated in the Indian name. This is popular among musicians and people of Andhra Pradesh.
Descriptive names are common among some people like Syrian Christians who use the description of their ancestral homes as Surnames. Some people carry the names of their father as their surname. Some Hindu names as well as Muslim names are split into two and used by a single person. For e.g. Abdul Kalaam and Kishore Kumar.
The naming system in India varies from the North to the South. Typically Hindu Names will have a given first name like 'Arjun', a middle name which is the father's name and a last name or family name like "Sharma". A southern Indian will use only the first name with his caste/village prefixed. Some Telegus have the practice of family name, followed by first or given name and last, a caste name.
In most parts of Northern India, Hindu baby name follows the Western style of first, middle and last names. Where first name is personal, middle name is father's name and last name is family name. Women take their husband's name as middle name and also the husband's family name.
In Southern India, the initial system is followed wherein Hindu names take up the initial before the name. This initial is the first letter of the father's name. An initial may be required for legal documents. As for women, they use father's initials before marriage and husband's initials after marriage.
Hindu names have religious, social and familial connotation. An Indian name is similar to Hindu names. Indian Christians use Sanskritised first names like Vijay Amritraj. In Muslim names, Abdul is a prefix to indicate servant or slave like Das, a suffix to indicate slave in Hindu names. Names have bound Indian culture together.