“What is in a name?” Yes, indeed what IS in a name? I do not know what is in a name, but what is in a last name, is of importance for many. A last name can be a source of pride. History determines what your last name depicts to others who hear it for the first time. In India last names give away your caste, religion and region your ancestors were from. My late Grandfather must have had the same thoughts and that must have the reason he changed all his three sons last names from Singh to Amitabh. He believed that the last name of Hindu Kshatriya Rajput’s (warriors and kings) was being attached to non-Rajput’s as the caste system was antiquated when he had his 3 sons. The last name Singh, is also used by many castes such as the Yadav’s, Jat’s, Brahmins, Scheduled and Vaishya castes without any significance to the warrior or king status or ties.
In the year 1699 the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Rai changed his name to Guru Gobind Singh because his belief was that name affects the human nature. Guru Gobind Singh witnessed the Rajput Kings were quite brave and possessed royalty like tigers. Singh literally means Lion (derived from the Sanskrit "Simha")- but it was bestowed to the Sikh men, as a title of royalty and kingship - reminding a Sikh that every Sikh male is a king in his own right (accompanied with other symbols such as the Turban - which as well as many other purposes, is a crown in many traditions). This reminds a Sikh that they should behave like a king, but not forgetting to treat everyone else as equals at their own level.
Coming back to my maiden last name, Amitabh, I believe my grandfather wanted to establish a new era of Rajput’s that could be traced back to him. A clan that could be easily distinguished from the rest of the Singh’s, hence he came up with Amitabh. Amitabh means Unlimited; One with boundless splendor; Boundless luster. He also changed the last name of some of his brother’s children to Amitabh. From the original 5 Amitabh clan there are now 20 plus Amitabh’s who are my Uncles, Aunts and cousins.
Call it fate or coincidence, but I got married to a Sikh and took on his last name, Singh. The very last name that my Grandfather had changed for his generations to come, came back to me. My husband often teases me that I did not take on his last name, but just took on the last name of my grandfather. People from India, who knew the history of last names, used to look at me funny before marriage when I told them that my last name was Amitabh. They did not know the history behind it and to tell you the truth, neither did I. Most of them had never heard of anyone with a last name of Amitabh. After marriage I go by Shweta Amitabh Singh, and a lot of people who know about the history of middle names and last names look at me as though I am playing a prank on them.
Recently, I got in touch with my second cousins and I had a “aha” light bulb moment. I realized that there were only about 20 or so of us in the world, we were unique, we were connected by blood, and our last name was a boon of my grandfather. My name provides me with a true source of pride in my heritage. Shweta means fair one (fair complexion) or lovely, Amitabh means Unlimited; One with boundless splendor; Boundless luster, and Singh means Lion; brave, also for me Singh connects me to my Hindu Kshatriya Rajput roots, which is part of my history. What is in a name, one might ask? For me my name symbolizes my proud history, my future and describes me perfectly as Shweta Amitabh Singh.