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Surname Originated in India

A lot of surnames in Ancient India originated out of professions. Some come from clans and tribes. Some other are to trace lineage to famous kings and dynasties. As with a lot of other cultures, many help identify the geographical origin of someone's ancestry. Adding to the mix are religious, caste and other affiliations that blur lines between these divisions.

While the growth and evolution of each of these names is fascinating and worthy of study individually, I'll list out the few I can recall off the top of my head.

Profession based:

Pujari, Pandit (Pundit), Pandey: priests who performed Pujas or had religious knowledge

Reddy, Patel, Choudhary: village headmen. Originally titles that became surnames.


Yadav: descendants of King Yadu.

Agarwal, Agrawala: to denote those belonging to Agra

Clans & tribes:

Jain: followers of the Jain religion

Rajput: of the Rajput clan

Malhotra, Mehra, Mehrotra: of the Malhotra clan

Kapur, Kapoor: of the Kapur clan


Singh, Sinha, Singhal: originate from the Sanskrit word for lion (singha). Typically used by warrior tribes such as the Jats and Rajputs.

Kumar: prince. Was originally a title that has devolved into a surname.

Pillai: originally a title, has now come to identify a higher caste of landowners in the South.

Rao, Raja: derived from Maharaja (King). Used in large parts of the country.

Sarkar: granted title in honour of contributions made or for authoritative figures.

I'm not an onomastician. I just happen to be intrigued by the origin of names. I went through my friend list and wrote down whatever I remembered about them. I shall add more as I find them.

In retrospect, my answer is wrong. The question is on the origin of surnames, NOT the origins of common surnames. I'll leave the answer here till I find a better place to put it.

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