Brahmins were traditionally priests (pandit, purohit, or pujari) or teachers (guru or acharya). However, Indian texts state that only a sub-sect of Brahmins was originally involved in priestly duties, whereas others were warriors, doctors, agriculturists, traders, poets, writers, landowners, and held a variety of other occupations in the Indian subcontinent (1).
Most Brahmin surnames are influenced by profession, beliefs, community, place of birth, or proficiency in a subject. This post takes you through a list of the most common Brahmin surnames from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
List Of Most Common Brahmin Surnames By Region
Telugu Brahmin Surnames
It is a Brahmin surname commonly found in the South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Its meaning is not listed.
The surname means “soldiers” or “warriors.” It likely has a Sanskrit origin.
There are multiple variants of this surname, such as Dheekshithulu, Dekshithulu, Deekshuthulu, and Dikishitulu. The Telugu Indian writer, Deekshitulu Chinta of Dangeru village, is a famous bearer of this last name.
The last name Josyula is predominantly found in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and the meaning is not listed. The surname is said to symbolize proactivity and self-discipline.
It is a toponymic surname derived from people living in a village called Navuluri, between Vijayawada and Guntur in Andhra Pradesh.
The Sanskrit meaning of Sharma is “joy” or “prosperity.” It is one of the common surnames among Indian Brahmins.
Sastry refers to a scholar and means “one who is proficient in the Sastras” in Sanskrit. The spelling variants are Shastri and Sastri.
Ths surname means “the land of the sun.” The people holding this surname were once sun worshippers and built sun temples.
Also spelled Upadhyaya, it means “teacher” or “guru” in Sanskrit, and refers to a person who teaches students in Gurukula.
It means “prosperous” or “thriving” in Sanskrit. Vardhamana was the childhood name of Lord Mahavira, one of the spiritual teachers revered in Jainism.
Dwibhashyam, Mishrula, Saraswatula, and Shashtrula are some other common Telugu Brahmin last names.
Bengali Brahmin Surnames
Bagchi is a common surname among the Barendra Brahmins of the Sandilya Gotra. Bagchi probably has a toponymic origin and refers to those originally from the historic Varendra region, now part of Bangladesh.
12. Bandyopadhyay / Banerjee
Banerjee is a combination of two elements, “Ban,” a diminutive of Bandoghat village, and “Jee,” a diminutive of “Upadhyaya,” the Sanskrit word for priest. The surname, therefore, refers to “a teacher or priest from the Bandoghat village.”
The surname Bhaduri has a toponymic origin and refers to Brahmins, who originally belonged to the Bhadur village in the Bangaon district of West Bengal.
14. Bhattacharya / Bhattacharjee
Bhattacharya is a noble title bestowed on those who were involved in sacred rituals. The word is a combination of the Sanskrit words “Bhatta,” meaning “Vedic priest” and “Acharya,” meaning “teacher” or “preceptor.” This surname is prevalent in Assam, too.
The Bengali Brahmin surname is formed from the Sanskrit elements, “Chakra,” meaning “wheel” and “Vart,” which means “to roll.” It may metaphorically refer to “a ruler whose chariot wheels roll everywhere without any obstructions.”
16. Chattopadhyay / Chatterjee
It has its origin from the elements, “Chatta,” referring to a village and “Jee,” a short form of “Upadhyaya,” a Sanskrit word that means “priest” or “teacher.” Chatterjee/Chattopadhyay, thus, refers to “a teacher or priest hailing from the Chatta village.”
Choudhary is adapted from the Sanskrit element “chaturdhara,” meaning “holder of four,” which denotes a measure of land.
It is an amalgamation of the Sanskrit words “Das,” meaning “devotee” or “servant” and “Gupta,” meaning “protector.” The surname is commonly found among individuals of the Baidya community in West Bengal.
19. Gangopadhyay / Ganguly
This Brahmin surname probably refers to “teachers from the Gangul Village.” It may also be a combination of the Sanskrit words “Ganga,” meaning the “Ganges river” and “Upadhyaya,” meaning “teacher” or “priest.” Thus, the name referred to “teachers or priests by the Ganges river.”
Ghoshal is derived from the Sanskrit word “Goushal,” meaning “cow-shed.” The surname likely referred to Brahmins, who worked as cow-herders or milkmen.
It is a surname mostly found among Barendra Brahmins of the Sandilya Gotra. Lahiri has a toponymic origin and refers to those who originally belonged to the Laheria village.
22. Maitra / Moitra
Moitra or Maitra likely has a toponymic origin and refers to Brahmins, who originally belonged to the Maitreya village.
23. Majumdar / Mazumdar
Majumdar is a combination of the words “Majmua,” an Arabic word meaning “collection,” and the suffix “dar,” meaning a “keeper” or “possessor.” The surname Majumdar, thus, refers to “an archivist” or “keeper of records.”
24. Mukhopadhyay / Mukherjee
The surname is a combination of the Sanskrit words “Mukhya,” meaning “chief” or “head” and “Jee,” a short form of “Upadhyaya,” a Sanskrit word that means “priest” or “teacher.” he name thus referred initially to a chief priest or headteacher.
The surname Roy is a variant of the surname “Rai,” which means “king” or “ruler” in Sanskrit.”
It is a surname common among Barendra Brahmins of the Vatsa Gotra. Sanyal likely has a toponymic origin and referred to Brahmins originally from the Sen Lal village.
27. Tagore / Thakur
The surname Tagore is derived from the surname “Thakur,” originally a feudal title of Sanskrit origin that means “lord” or “master.”
Joardar, Kanjilal, and Patitunda are other common surnames among Bengali Brahmins.
Marathi and Kannada Brahmin Surnames
It is a toponymic surname referring to those who originally belonged to the village of Airani in central Karnataka.
The Marathi surname Bhatta comes from Sanskrit and means “Vedic priest,” “the learned one,” or “scholar.” The surname likely referred to those who had learned all the four Vedas.
Desai is a combination of the Sanskrit words “Desa,” meaning “country” and “Swami,” meaning “lord.” It was an honorary title given to a leader of a village in Maharashtra.
Deshmukh refers to someone who was the head of the district or the chieftain for a region. It means the “head of the state” or “head of the region” in Marathi.
The Marathi surname Deshpande is a combination of the words “Desh,” meaning “country” and “Pande,” meaning “accountant.” It originally referred to the district accountant or the head of finances for a region or a kingdom.
33. Fadnavis / Phadnis / Phadnavis
Phadnavis refers to the “maker of lists,” and is derived from two Persian elements, “Fad” and “Navis.” It was an important administrative position during in the kingdoms of Maharashtra.
It is a surname used by the Deshastha Brahmin group that belongs to Maharashtra and northern Karnataka.
Hegde or Hegade is a Kannada Brahmin surname that is derived from the Old Kannada element “pergade,” meaning “chief.”
It refers to an astrologer and is derived from the Sanskrit word “Jyotisha,” referring to Vedic Astrology and astronomy. The alternative spelling of the surname is Jyoshi.
It is a combination of the Sanskrit words “Kul,” meaning “clan” and “Karni,” meaning “archivist.” The name was originally given as a title to the head of accounts and finances in a village or kingdom. Kulkarni is a surname found in both Maharashtra and Karnataka.
The name refers to a “head” or “chief” in Marathi. It was originally given as a title to a village chieftain or landlord.
Padhye or Padye is a diminutive form of the Sanskrit word “Upadhyaya,” meaning “priest” or “teacher.” The Padhye Brahmins are even mentioned in the Skanda Purana, one of the Mahapuranas.
The surname is likely derived from the Sanskrit word “Raja,” meaning “king” or “chief.” Rao is a title and a surname found in many other Indian states, such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana.
The surname refers to “Lord Rama” or “Lord Vishnu” and is of Sanskrit origin. The alternative spelling of the name is Sriram.
The surname likely originates from the Marathi element “Var,” referring to “above,” “top,” or “supreme.” Another origin of the name could be the Sanskrit word “varnan,” meaning “narration.” The surname may have referred to a chief priest or a highly knowledgeable person.
Gujarati Brahmin Surnames
It comes from the Sanskrit word “Bhatta,” meaning “Vedic priest,” “teacher,” or a “scholar.”
The surname may be a variant of “Thakur,” a feudal title of Sanskrit origin that means “lord” or “master.” Thaker’s origin is commonly attributed to Kashiraj Thaker, an 11th century Kashmiri Brahmin who traveled to Gujarat to spread Hinduism.
The Hindu Brahmin surname is derived from the Sanskrit title “Upadhyaya,” meaning “teacher of the Vedas” or the “chief priest.”
A surname comes from the Sanskrit word “Vyasa,” meaning the “compiler.” The surname would have been associated with those who worked as compilers of ancient texts.
Tamil Brahmin Surnames
It is the surname of a group of Shaivite Brahmins known to be the priests and administrators of the historic Nataraja temple in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. The surname likely originates from the Sanskrit word “Diksha,” meaning “to prepare a ceremony” or “to initiate devotional worship.”
The surname is likely derived from the Sanskrit word “Guru,” meaning “teacher” with the suffix “Kkal,” indicating “plurality.” Gurukkals are usually priests at Shiva and Ganesha temples.
49. Iyer / Aiyar
The Iyer Brahmins are a prominent community in Tamil Nadu. They are Srauta-Smartha Brahmins, most of whom follow the Advaita philosophy. Iyer is derived from “Arya,” a Sanskrit word that means “wise,” “noble,” or “honorable.”
Iyengars are a prominent Vaishnavite Tamil Brahmin community. The surname has a similar etymology to Iyer since Iyengar is derived from the Sanskrit word “Arya,” meaning “wise,” “noble,” or “honorable.
Assamese Brahmin Surnames
51. Acharya / Acharjee
It has its origin in the Sanskrit word “Acharya,” which refers to a “teacher” or an “instructor.”
It is derived from Borua, the original spelling of the surname. Baruah was a title given to Buruk clan members, who held significant military positions in the historic Chutia kingdom of the Assam region.
Bhagavati comes from Sanskrit and means “fortunate” or “prosperity.” It is also another name of Goddess Durga.
It comes from the Sanskrit word “Gayen,” which means “singer” or the “praiser.” Gayen was likely an occupational surname for bards or those who sang hymns. The alternative spelling of the surname is Gain, and it is also popular in West Bengal.
Goswami originated from the amalgamation of two Sanskrit words, “Go,” meaning “cattle” and “Swami,” meaning “lord” or “master.”
Pathak is derived from the Sanskrit word “Pathaka,” meaning “teacher” or “scholar.” The surname is also found among Brahmins of North India.
The surname comes from the Sanskrit word “Siddhanta,” meaning “axiom” or “principle.” The name may have originally referred to teachers and priests.
Bardalai, Khound, Shrutikar, and Tamuli are some other common Assamese Brahmin surnames.
Bihari Brahmin Surnames
Chaturvedi comes from Sanskrit and means “a person who knows the four Vedas.” It is related to the surname Chaubey and originally referred to the families of saints or rishis.
It refers to a rishi (hermit or saint) from whom the eponymous clan has descended. The members of the Kashyap clan are also known as Kanshilyas or Koshyals.
Mishra is of Sanskrit origin and means “mixed” or “manifold.” The name was used as an honorific title for learned and highly educated individuals.
61. Ojha / Jha
Ojha or Jha surname is a diminutive of the Sanskrit word “Upadhyaya,” meaning “teacher” or “Vedic priest.”
Shandilya is a Brahmin clan with Rishi Shandilya as their progenitor. This surname may have its roots in the Sanskrit word “Sanatana,” meaning “perpetual” or “eternal.”
Jajware, Lakhlani, and Pingal are some other Bihari Brahmin surnames.
Malayali Brahmin Surnames
Kurukkal is a surname referring to a group of Brahmins from the Ambalavasi community, a large Hindu community from Kerala. Kurukkals are said to have originally belonged to the Kingdom of Travancore of Kerala.
64. Namboothiri / Nampoorithiri
Namboothiri is a Vaishnavite Brahmin community native to the state of Kerala. Alternative spellings of the name are Nambudiri, Namboodiri, and Namputiri. Namboothiris are noted for their unique practices and adherence to several Vedic rituals.
65. Nambissan / Nambeesan
Nambissan belong to Kerala’s Pushpaka Brahmin community, who originally performed the task of making floral garlands for a temple’s deity.
It is a surname referring to Brahmins, who migrated to the place called Plappally in Kerala. The place got its name from the name of the Brahmins.
Potti means “deep respect for someone” in Tulu, and is used as a surname by a community of Malayali Brahmins.
Unni is a surname of a group of Brahmins from the Pushpaka Brahmin community. The name Unni originally comes from Sanskrit and refers to a “leader” or “lord.”
Moosathu and Sivadvija are some of the other Malayali Brahmin surnames.
Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, And Other North Indian Brahmin Surnames
Agnihotri comes from Sanskrit and refers to the “one who maintains the sacred fire during the fire rituals.” The surname is found in many parts of North India.
70. Bajpai / Vajpayee
It refers to a Brahmin group from the Kanyakubja Brahmin community, which belongs to the Pancha Gauda major Brahmin group. This surname is predominantly found in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
The surname refers to those who are descendants of Bharadwaj, a rishi, or sage mentioned in the Vedas. The name Bharadwaj comes from Sanskrit and means “one who has strength or vigor.”
72. Dikshit / Dixit
It is an adjectival form of the Sanskrit word “Diksha” meaning “to prepare a ceremony” or “to initiate devotional worship.” The surname is also found in other regions of India.
73. Dubey / Dwivedi
Dubey or Dwivedi is a Brahmin surname, which means “versed in two Vedas” in Sanskrit. Some alternative spellings of the surname include Duvedi, Diwedi, Dubay, Dube, or Dobe.
The last name Pandey is derived from the Sanskrit word “Pandita,” meaning “learned,” “wise,” or a “spiritual scholar.”
It is a slightly shortened form of the Sanskrit word “Pandita,” meaning “learned,” “wise,” or a “spiritual scholar.”
Pujari means “worshipper” in Sanskrit. The name originally referred to those who worked as priests at temples and performed puja, a Hindu devotional ritual.
Purohit surname comes from Sanskrit and means “the front placed” or the “prime one.” The surname originally belonged to those who became family priests or spiritual advisors to families.
It comes from Sanskrit and means “versed in three Vedas.” The other variants of the surname are Tripathi and Trivedi.
Shukla is of Sanskrit origin and means “bright,” “white,” or “pure.” It is a common Brahmin surname in many parts of North India.
Nayapaul, Nirmal, Siritiya, and Tote are some other common Brahmin surnames in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and other regions of North India.
Kashmiri Pandit Surnames
The surname comes from the Sanskrit word “Bhatta,” meaning the “Vedic priest,” “the learned one,” or “scholar.”
It was originally an honorific title for those who held important positions, such as a village chieftain, a warlord, or the head accountant.
It means a “caterpillar” in Kashmiri. It may have been a colloquial occupational surname of those who grew or sold leafy vegetables.
Kak refers to an “elder brother” in Kashmiri. The name may have originated as a title and later evolved into a surname.
The name comes from the Sanskrit word “Kaul,” meaning “the one from a noble or aristocratic family.” Alternative spellings for the name include Koul, Kol, and Caul.
The surname comes from Hangul, which refers to the Kashmir stag. The surname may have been of a toponymic origin, referring to those who lived near the herd of Hangul.
The name is likely a combination of the Persian word “Raz,” meaning “secret” with the suffix “Dan,” meaning “keeper.” The surname may have referred to those who formed a part of a king’s clique.
Sapru is the name of a clan of Kashmiri Pandits. The majority of them are now living in the diaspora outside the Kashmir Valley.
It is a toponymic Kashmiri Pandit surname referring to those who originally belonged to the town of Sopore in Jammu and Kashmir.
Bachloo, Draboo, Kher, Mattoo, Tikoo, and Wanchoo are other common Kashmiri Pandit surnames.
Odia Brahmin Surnames
It is a variant of the surname Das, which comes from the Sanskrit word “Das,” meaning a “devotee,” “servant,” or “worshipper.”
It is the combination of the Sanskrit words “Deva,” meaning “God” and “Sharma,” meaning “prosperity” or “joy.”
Also spelled Mahapatra, the Brahmin surname comes from Sanskrit and means “prime minister” or “prime leader.” The surname was an honorific title and has been in use since the Vedic period.
This Brahmin surname comes from the Sanskrit word “Nanda,” meaning “happiness,” “delight,” or “prosperity.” It is a surname also found in parts of North and West India, and among Sikhs.
It refers to a group of Shaivite Brahmins, who originally observed a Hindu sub-tradition called Natha. The surname “Nath” comes from Sanskrit and means “lord,” “master,” or “protector.”
Panda is derived from the Sanskrit word “Pandita,” meaning “learned,” “wise,” or a “spiritual scholar.” This title was bestowed to those who were pious, noble, and had immense knowledge.
The surname comes from the Sanskrit word “Pati,” meaning “master” or “lord.” It may have originally been an honorific title.
Rath, Ratha, or Rathasharma are Utkala Brahmins and descendants of Sage Atreya. They were originally a group of highly learned scholars proficient in the Ratha form of reciting the Vedas.
Sahu, also spelled as Sah, Sahoo, or Shahu, means “moneylender” or “businessman” in Hindi. It may have originally been an occupational surname.
It comes from the Sanskrit word “Saamant,” meaning “captain” or “chief.” The name may have been originally used a title for a leader or head of a province.
It comes from the Sanskrit word “Shatapati,” meaning the “lord of hundred doctrines.” The Brahmin surname originally referred to someone who had mastered several books, such as the Vedas. Alternative spellings of the surname are Satapathy, Satpathi, Satpati, Satpathy, and Shatapathy.
It means “knowledge” in Sanskrit. Vedi surname originally referred to someone with knowledge or filled with wisdom.
Bishi, Debata, Khuntia, Padhi, Panigrahi, Pattojoshi, and Sarongi are some of the other Odia Brahmin surnames.
These Brahmin surnames reflect the cultural, lingual, and geographic history of various regions of India. Many surnames have been unaltered for centuries, thus making them even more fascinating.