Sikh Naming Customs
If you are a newcomer to Sikhism, or wonder how to go about choosing a Sikh name, here are a few things which will help you pick a baby name, or a spiritual name for yourself.
- A Sikh name almost always comes from the Sikh scripture of the Guru Granth.
- Sikh names 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.
- In past centuries, and in modern times, the in-laws may give the bride a new name at the time of marriage. The bride or groom may also take the name of their spouse. In addition, 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.
- An initiate may take a spiritual name at the time of receiving Amrit, during the Sikh initiation ceremony.
Selecting a Sikh Name
The method for deciding upon the name is to select a hukam, which is a random verse from the Guru Granth and is considered the Guru's divine command. The first Gurmukhi letter of the verse, determines the first letter of the name which is to be chosen.
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 ardaas 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 or "Gurdwara Harmandir", 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, comes from the first letter of the hukam read at the close of the Amrit 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.