TODAY -

Is "Singh" a Misnomer to Meiteis? Not really, but...

Sanjib Meitei *

Is Singh a Misnomer to Meiteis?



Saturday morning is always pleasant for me. It is a day I can spend some time with myself in a nearby university's sport ground without the need to rush back before 8 am to ensure I reach office by 9 am. It is day I can think of something other than never ending office works. One Saturday morning, when I am back from the ground at around 9.45 am, I saw a miss call from one of my friends whom I have not been in touch for a long time (around 2 years). I called him back to inquire the reason behind his missed call.

The reason was amusing and sound trivial. He wanted to remove the word "Singh" from his last name. So, he wanted to know procedure to change his name in his degree certificate. My first reply was "Are you serious?" I tried to persuade him by giving a workaround solution just the way I generally provide to scientists from our partnering organizations whenever my informatics solution fails to cater their research needs.

I tried to simplify. That is simple, you just use an easy name like mine "Sanjib Meitei" in your credit card, PAN card and use the name instead of your certificate name. You don't need to change your name in certificate. Moreover, you don't show your degree certificate when someone asks your name. Well, he didn't ring me up to listen to my free workaround solutions. He had already taken up a step further than I imagined. He had managed to strike off "Singh" from his name in HSLC certificate.

Now, he wants to get rid of this word from his name from the degree certificate too. He reasoned in short, "it's embarrassing to have "Singh" in a Meitei's name". I pondered for a while and understood the eventual futility of any suggestions to stop doing his quest to remove the word. I assured him that I will assist getting his name change done.

Being Saturday, I had the privilege to spend some time thinking about the reasons that might force him to prioritize a task that has nothing to do with his professional life. As the day progressed, my mind was wandering on the thought whether it really matters when someone uses Singh as his last name. Why this Kolaveri Di? Well, in the context of the Indian society, my friend has a point to feel something awkward about mismatch between last name and our race especially in Hindu and its nearby societies.

Most of the popular names and surnames in India are clan/caste/region specific. So, whenever your name is announced, people already imagined a template of your look/caste/race/region in their mind. This is where Meiteis with Singh as last name become a mismatch to many people who are not even aware of the existence of an Indian state called Manipur.

A few years back, I read a piece of news titled "Singh from the east" in a national newspaper (it must either be Hindustan Times or Times of India since I read these papers only). It was amusing news although not very important. Either Rennedy Singh or Gouramangi Singh (sorry, I could not remember the exact one and I don't want to dig the information out) went to Australia to play high level club football matches. It was a matter of pride that Indian footballers got to play football in Australian league matches.

All the people from Punjab living there in Australia gathered to welcome the Singh. Anyway, it is matter of pride to have one sporting icon from your community or caste or region. It is a global phenomenon that is not only restricted to Indians only who are starved of legitimate sport stars. Phillipinos will rightly gush about Manny Pacquio, the reigning king of boxing while I, as a Manipuri always like Mary Kom to win gold in every competition she participates.

Coming back to the story of the news I just mentioned, when Singhs in Australia saw the Singh from the east, they were left shocked and confused. Luckily, some Manipuris living there turned up to take the charge and organized a welcome party for the name wise mismatched Singh. Well, similar stories of confusion continue to brew up for many common Singhs from the east in Indian schools, colleges, offices and many other places. Some are sensitive and some just move on ignoring the raised eyebrows.

On the other side, from the shocked people who just realize the existence of Singhs in the east, some brash people questioned or commented on the mismatch between name and the race while some polite people just get on keeping their wonder and curiosity to themselves. But a generic line accepted among all people when they saw Singhs from east or some not so popular communities runs freely "Aaj kal har koi apane naam ke aage Singh likhte hain". And for sure, the same sentence might have been used by stunned Singhs in Australia when they realized that the Singh of football was from the east.

I am not going to request Singhs from the east to change their last name. Different people have different experience in life. Who knows, some people might have got social acceptance and honor because of Singh as last name. But, I, in this article, bring in some basic information regarding people belonging to different castes/communities/regions who generally write Singh as their last name. I don't say all Meiteis do not know the lineage of Singh but it is also a fact that many of my fellow Meiteis are oblivious to the reason and significance of writing Singh as last name.

"Singh" derived from a Sanskrit word "Simha" means lion. It is one of the most popular last names (many write it as their middle name too) and is used predominantly by people belonging to Rajput clans to symbolize their bravery and warrior pedigree. The rajputs are divided into three clans namely Suryavanshi, Chandravanshi, and Agnivanshi. As per legends, Lord Ram belonged to Suryavanshi rajput clan, Shri Krishna belonged to Chandravanshi clan (there seem to be some argument regarding this when Yadavas claimed that they are the legitimate descendents of Yadubanshis) and Chalukya rulers belong to Agnivanshi clan.

Historically, different clans ruled several western, eastern, southern and northern states of current India although it didn't reach NE states of current India. Besides rajputs, the Sikhs also write Singh as their last name. They started using "Singh" as mandatory last name under the leadership of Guru Govind Singh in 1699 AD. Well, Meiteis (although I am not scholar in this field), especially the king and his family should have started a little bit later as compared to the Sikhs during the reign of Maharaja Garibniwaj.

Most probably, by the time of "Chahi Taret Khuntakpa", I think common Meiteis too started using "Singh" as last name (anyone, please educate me more regarding this). To my not so erudite understanding, taking "Singh" as last name by Meiteis was not wrong from the context of literary meaning of the word "Singh" since Meiteis are warriors since the time of immemorial.

Although Sikhs and Meiteis started using the last name Singh around the same century, Singh by a Sikh is well accepted while it is a misnomer for Meiteis to general Indian populace. Sikh's contribution to Indian history is significant and they have always been a part of it. Even in today's India, although their population is around only 2% of total Indian population (well Meitei population is negligible), they produce people who are always in public knowledge.

Easiest examples, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, many Army Chiefs to name a few who make significant contribution to the nation as well as become popular names among common people. Meiteis, despite our bravery and history in our right, are quite unheard of among majority of the common people of India and never got our share in Indian history also. Well, I don't need to write in detail regarding this. In simple language, majority of Indians are not familiar with Singh attached to names of Chinese looking people. So, Singh becomes a misnomer to Meiteis to them.

Scientifically, the reluctance of majority of Indian common people to recognize Singh as last name Meiteis is very reasonable. Just see how letters are arranged in computer keyboards. When I saw computer keyboard for the first time, I felt disgusted. I thought how on the earth, letters are arranged horribly out of order on keyboards. However, it is so popular with people that if a company comes up with a new keyboard having letters arranged in different order to the current one then I doubt it will be acceptable to people.

My friend who decided to strike off "Singh" from his name seem to be quite sensitive as far as mismatch between the last name and our ancestry. My only concern was that he needs to change his name in many important documents which may require legal proceedings. I hope, he named his son accordingly.

I am not sure if I would have gone all the ways to remove the word had it been in my last name. Anyway, in this big bad world where we cannot avoid many uncomfortable things, one should be comfortable at least with his own name. If some of my fellow Meiteis are embarrassed with their last name, I will blame a few generations of Meiteis who failed to promote our own language to define things properly. They could have come up with our own word to define ourselves instead of burrowing it from other established languages and corresponding utility.

Many communities use "Singh" and other variants of the word to symbolize that they are warrior descendant. "Meitei Nongsha" is a word that we use to praise people who show bravery in the face of adversities. We, the Meiteis, for sure belong to a proud warrior community who withstands the test of time, intruders and many more unwanted situations. We can proudly use a name to symbolize having descents of a warrior clan.

However, would I use "Singh" to do so? My answer is a big Never! Because, there are already people who have established their own historical, political, social and cultural lineage for this last name in Indian society. To me, working hard to make Singh a popular Meitei's last name just sounds like investing upon developing a keyboard with different letter arrangement from the current popular one without much resource at hand.

I feel proud that my fellow people start seeing the importance of developing our own identity rather than just living with a last name which majority of the people consider it to be a misnomer.

We belong to a small community and if a Meitei brings laurels for the nation, we cannot afford to lose the credit in confusion to other well established communities. I will not force other people who write Singh as last name to change their last name but personally, I will love to see Meiteis using their own Surname or Yek as last name.

Read a related article on the same subject by Ranjan Yumnam What's in a name?


* Sanjib Meitei contributes regularly to e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at sanjibmeiteicha(at)rediffmail(dot)com
This article was posted on February 16, 2012.



* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni #2 : Gallery
  • CAB Protest #1 [21 Jan] : Gallery
  • Rongmei and Kabui are one
  • Rani Khidir : Kalaritu (Laiyekpa) : Profile
  • MPs in Lok Sabha must be increased
  • Sri Hanumanji is universal :: WJ
  • Facing the consequences
  • Words of caution for the expendable citizens
  • 11 in line for Congress ticket
  • Gaan-Ngai @Majorkhul #1 : Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • CAB, 2016: Ethnocide of Indigenous People
  • When 7th Pay & UGC regulations for college
  • Truthfully Yours :: Poem
  • Detox your hair
  • Job Openings at PR Enterprises, Imphal
  • Police action to protestors in Tripura
  • India in grave danger
  • Issues, issues everywhere, anytime
  • Match: 4th Women's Polo #1: Gallery
  • CAB Protest [17 Jan] : Gallery
  • Ranjit Ningthouja : Profile of a playwright
  • Poetry Of Manipuri Women Authors #3
  • Bird's Eye view at 'Go To School' Mission
  • 10 % reservation & ST demand ?
  • Poetic Justice - III :: Poem
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Legislative Assistant to MP- Fellowship
  • The changing face of Manipuri youths
  • Rolling up sleeves for ST tag
  • Symbolism in the Tribal Art #1
  • Chongdeinem, Abothem :: eMing
  • ST Demand - Poster Campaign : Gallery
  • Retrospective View On Driver's Day
  • Integrated farming & its importance
  • Nightingales in winter :: Poem
  • Tour to Delhi for border area students
  • Nagaland Cabinet Meeting on CAB
  • Gaan-Ngai @Chingmeirong : Gallery
  • Gaan-Ngai - festival of Kabui #1
  • Protest against CAB [Jan 15] #2: Gallery
  • Gaan-Ngai, Festival of Zeliangrong
  • Understanding Mao Tse-Tung
  • Of Vernacular & my Enlightenment..
  • Teacher wanted at Tekcham High School
  • Demanding release of Kishorechandra
  • BJP's Agenda : Curtain raised
  • Topping in enrolment in pvt schools
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni #1 : Gallery
  • Gaan Ngai :: Flash Presentation
  • CAB Protest [16 Jan] : Gallery
  • Dr Thokchom Asha: Teacher Award
  • Cry of a Dying River - 62 :: Poem
  • Occasion & festivity as career choice
  • Rejoinder to NDPP on CAB by NPF
  • Saving tomorrow for our children
  • Open invitation to Mission schools
  • Women's Intl Polo [Jan 17] : Gallery
  • A Hymn for Goddess Emoinu
  • Manipur tops enrolment in private schools
  • Variance of laboratory results
  • A Christian perspective on solidarity #2
  • Naga International Trade Fair at Dimapur
  • Has Loktak mortgaged to Company
  • CAB: Lining up public convention on Jan 20
  • Purnima Ngangom (Printmaker) :: Profile
  • CAB Protest [11 Jan] #3 : Gallery
  • Poetry Of Manipuri Women Authors #2
  • CAB & scoring 21 out of 25 ?
  • Complications :: Poem
  • North East Business Summit at Delhi
  • Almond oil is the ultimate skin care
  • The Bill that haunt the government
  • Over 50 police personnel chargesheeted
  • Insurgency related incidents in NE states
  • Myanmar border fence going nowhere
  • Protest against CAB [Jan 15] #1: Gallery
  • Crop diseases & organic way of managing
  • War and Poetry :: Poem
  • Landeng-Pena yakaiduna Poster Campaign
  • The Killing Fields 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Condemns communal nature of CAB 2016
  • PCC, Arunachal Pradesh on CAB, 2016
  • CAB and other issues before LS polls
  • Sit-In against CAB [Jan 14] : Gallery
  • CAB : Our Identity & Culture is at stake
  • Re-Imagining the Naga Peace Process
  • Demand for ILP :: Articles/Photos...
  • Northeast Startup Summit 2019
  • Ponder them to live like human beings
  • No Shield for Manipur against CAB
  • Missing link: NE, CAB & obscure assurance
  • JCILPS Protest against CAB : Gallery
  • AMUCO Rally against CAB : Gallery
  • Poetic Justice - II :: Poem
  • Makar Sankranti Musing
  • Biren should release Kishorchandra
  • New archaeological site in Senapati
  • A Christian perspective on solidarity #1
  • New craft gallery to promote NE products
  • Rights body warns Nagas on Article 371 (A)
  • NE Black Day against CAB : Gallery
  • CAB Protest [11 Jan] #2 : Gallery
  • Narendra Modi @ Imphal #2: Gallery
  • Myanmar-India Business Summit, Sagaing
  • Cry of a Dying River - 61 :: Poem
  • Preventing the Dengue threat
  • NPF on Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016
  • Nagaland Chief Minister On CAB 2016
  • Hijacking by pseudoscience
  • Mr. CM, you can't fool people on CAB
  • CAB 2016: Adoption of foreign citizens
  • CAB Protest [11 Jan] #1 : Gallery
  • CAB & question of India's North East
  • Poetry Of Manipuri Women Authors #1
  • Local actions for #GlobalGoals
  • Know your HIV status
  • Pope Francis - the last Pope!
  • CAB is unsecular discriminatory bill
  • When Govt. disregard Constitutions...
  • Citizenship Bill: An exceptional exception
  • The Walking Lady : A Short Story
  • 4th Convocation Ceremony of CAU
  • The Voice of Silence :: Poem
  • Against CAB 2016 : 6 Student Bodies
  • Need for a separate time zone
  • BOOM MMA : 'Manipur Top Team' members
  • Against Citizenship Bill Act 2016
  • Lt Gen Rajeev Sirohi at Spear Corps
  • Is the middle man responsible
  • Economically weak at Rs 8 lakh per annum ?
  • Umanglai Haraoba: Traditional Institution
  • Strike against CAB : Gallery
  • People - animal conflict
  • Fine on relieving in public
  • Flawed/divisive Citizenship Bill dangerous
  • Broken :: Poem
  • Meetei gi mayokta leiba Political party..
  • NE uniting under shutdown call : CAB
  • Trains in NE to get 'glass-top' coaches
  • Yubi Lakpi #2 : Gallery
  • Freedom's fault lines
  • Traditional Manipuri Curries
  • Governance in Multi-Ethnic States
  • Understanding animal welfare
  • Unite against corruption for development
  • Manipurgi Maraibk Kari Oihougani
  • On restoring of director of CBI
  • Citizenship Bill : scourge for NE
  • Feel good factor from UNC
  • New Year picnic at Sekmai #2: Gallery
  • A tale of two falcons
  • Artificial Insemination in livestock
  • The Naked Truth :: Poem
  • My itinerary visit to Veeranapalya
  • Test for Free Coaching for IIT/AIIMS
  • Critique of Transgender Persons Bill
  • Press Rejoinder from NPF [7 Jan]
  • Nagaland Cabinet on Citizenship Bill
  • Can we expect something from govt
  • Mova Cave, Ukhrul #2 :: Gallery
  • Sangai Fest: Sumo Wrestling #2 :: Gallery
  • Maipaksana RK: Entrepreneurship Award
  • Poetic Justice - I
  • IIT-G Technology Incubation Centre
  • Sana Chahi Ahum & 1857 revolt #2
  • Economics of climate change & growth
  • Singhat Students tour to Delhi & Agra
  • Congress against Modi on Rafale Deal
  • Press Club celebrates foundation day
  • NSF to impose 11-hr bandh on Jan 8
  • 518 drug traffickers arrested in 2018
  • Gangmumei Kamei Memorial lecture
  • Taking the Street Vendor seriously #1
  • WWII museums in Japan: Gallery
  • Schedule : HSLC Examination 2019
  • Schedule : Class XI Examination 2019
  • Schedule : HSE Examination 2019
  • Caste System in Contemporary India: Book
  • Save energy and save your skin
  • Benefits of henna for beauty
  • Coronary In-stent obstruction treated
  • A take on PM visit to Imphal
  • No over the top promises, assurances
  • Narendra Modi @ Imphal #1: Gallery
  • Management of commercial broiler farming
  • 61st CC Meet Football Tournament 2019
  • Noise Ruins & Blights Lives
  • Social media & freedom of speech
  • Cry of a Dying River - 60 :: Poem
  • Declare war against air pollution
  • Winter relief at Thanga
  • Of monologues and conveniences
  • Raising posers before PM's arrival: Cong
  • Irengbam Bedamani :: eRang Photos
  • Poireiton Chakhao at Loktak Lake
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • New Year picnic at Sekmai #1: Gallery
  • Sangai Fest: Evening Prog #2: Gallery
  • Nupi Lal Ningsing Lamjel #4: Gallery
  • Bye Bye 2018 !!! : Gallery
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2019 : Download
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2018 #6: Gallery
  • A view of Ukhrul Town #1: Gallery
  • January Calendar for Year 2019 :: Tools
  • National Mathematics Day & Ramanujan
  • Snowfall @Tamei, Tamenglong : Gallery
  • China spreads across Indochina Peninsula
  • Ningol Chakkouba Shopping #2: Gallery
  • Xmas: Churches @Lamphel : Gallery
  • The Crying Call of Motherland :: Poem
  • Kwatha Festival #3 : Gallery
  • Harvard Leadership Program at Don Bosco
  • Christmas @Churachandpur : Gallery
  • UN Rapporteur briefed on Kishorechand
  • Nupi Lal Ningsing Lamjel #3: Gallery
  • Irengbam Bedamani - Actress :: eRang
  • List of Restricted Holidays for 2019
  • List of Public Holidays for 2019
  • List of General Holidays for 2019
  • Ningol - mapam lamdam : Gallery
  • Fabrics of Bangladeshi Manipuri: Download
  • Manglandasu Nang - OST :: e-pao Radio
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic
  • SPONSORED ADS