Home Bangalore The pandits of paradise

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    Legend has it that Emperor Akbar found a community from Kashmir to be so astute that he decreed they would officially be known as a�?Panditsa�� or the a�?learned onesa��. Even if the story were untrue, it has a ring of truth. As no other group in India a�� except maybe the Parsis a�� has wielded as much clout as the Kashmiri Pandits, despite being a small population.To a naming buff like me, the stuff that I find most charming is their sophisticated surnames. Who wouldna��t mind swapping aA� plain a�?Kumara�� or a�?Narayana�� for the important sounding a�?Kaula�� or a�?Haksara��.

    Interestingly, although the surnames carry the aura of a Brown Sahib, their origins are rather humble. a�?Nehrua�� does not carry any blue blooded lineage. It simply means one who lives near the banks of a nehar or canal. a�?Kaulsa�� are simply the progeny of the Mahakauls who were devotees of Lord Shiva. The exotic a�?Zutshia�� is a derivation from jyotishi (astrologer). The a�?Haksarsa�� are apparently emigrants from the village Hakchar in Baramulla!

    Many draw their roots from nicknames linked to physical attributes of a forefather. a�?Bambrooa��, for example, is the nick for a guy with a complexion as dark as a black bee (remember the Mission Kashmir song: Bumbro, bumbro, shyam rang bumbro?). a�?Mushrana�� is the stereotype big built ugly man. a�?Handooa�� is for the farmhand who is fat like a sheep. a�?Kachrua�� is the red-haired chap. a�?Ganjoora�� is the bald-headed. And a�?Shanglooa�� is for the six-fingered one. So if Hrithik were from the Valley, hea��d be Hrithik Shangloo!

    Others occupational. a�?Butta�� is the priestly class, a�?Munshia�� is an accountant, a�?Bhandaria�� is a store manager, a�?Mattooa�� is one who manages a religious math and if youa��re wondering about Anupam Kher, the Khers are basically a�?Kharsa�� a�� those who collect taxes from donkey drivers!

    Found an interesting Kashmiri surname story? Share it withanantha@albertdali.com

    -Anantha Narayan


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