What You Need To Know Before You Select a Sikh Baby Name

Sikhism Naming Customs and Protocol

Sikh Baby Boy In Traditional Attire
Sikh Baby Boy In Traditional Attire. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Sikh Naming Customs and Protocol

Are you are a newcomer to Sikhism, or wonder how to go about choosing a Sikh name with a spiritual meaning? Here are a few tips which will help you select the perfect baby name, or a spiritual name for yourself.

  • A Sikh name almost always is taken from the scripture of the Guru Granth Sahib.
  • Sikh names generally have no gender preference so are interchangeable and can be used for both boys and girls.
  • A baby name is usually chosen by the parents at the time of birth, or shortly after when the child is presented to the Guru Granth Sahib for a Sikh baby naming ceremony. Babies born in hospitals whose parents have not already selected a name are assigned temporary identities usually stating "baby boy" or "baby girl" along with their mother's name. Birth certificates must be completed with in a few weeks with the child's chosen name. It's a good idea to know your state regulations and requirements concerning birth certificates before the birth of your child to avoid any possibility of error. Amendments and corrections to birth certificates may require a doctors signature, an affidavit, or court appearance, which can be costly and time consuming.
  • In past centuries, as well as in modern times, the in-laws may give the bride a new name at the time of marriage. The bride or groom may also desire to take the name of their spouse. In addition to the name chosen, the groom adds the suffix of Singh to the shared name. The wife adds the suffix of Kaur to the shared name.
  • People interested in converting to Sikhism may take a Sikh spiritual name at any time, but may be given another name from Guru Granth Sahib should they decide to be initiated into the Sikh faith.
  • An initiate may take a spiritual name at the time of receiving Amrit, during the Sikh initiation ceremony. Customarily the Sikh name includes a suffix of Kaur for all female's and Singh for all males. This is especially true if a name is taken at the time of initiation. An initiate may also take the last name of Khalsa.

Selecting a Sikh Name

The method for deciding upon the name is to select a Hukam, or Vak which is a random verse read from the Guru Granth which is considered to be the Guru's divine command. The first Gurmukhi letter of the verse, determines the first letter of the name that is chosen. Create a distinctive name with a unique spiritual meaning for yourself, or your baby, by adding a suffix. Name combinations may include words taken directly from the hukam.

Obtaining the Hukam

Any of the methods outlined here are acceptable for obtaining the hukam which will decide the letter of the name, to be chosen.

  • Offer a prayer of ardas in the presence of the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth. This may be accompanied by an offering of prashad, a delicacy sanctified by reciting the hymn of Anand Sahib. Open the scripture to a random page, and read the hukam.
  • A hukam is selected every morning at the Golden Temple known to Sikhs as "Darbar Harmandir Sahib", in Amritsar India, and can be consulted online the day of a baby’s birth, or at anytime an individual chooses to select a name.
  • A name selected at the time of initiation, is derived from the first letter of the hukam read at the close of the Amrit initiation ceremony.

Regional and Colloquial Names

Some Sikhs select colloquial names with regional influence for their children, based on the first letter of the hukam, which may or may not have particular spiritual significance. However intent is the true deciding factor. Where there is devotion coupled with a spiritual frame of mind, and inner sacred presence, nothing exists outside of the divine.