Why some people in India have Christian names while they see themselves as lower caste Hindus?

Why some people in India have Christian names while they see themselves as lower caste Hindus?https://www.quora.com

1 Answer

Jacob Jose .
Jacob Jose .
All Indian Christians can be classified under the following 5 groups, and this  explains everything:

1. Syrian Christians of Kerala
The Oldest Christian community in the subcontinent, with roots dating back to the 1st century AD. Believed to be converts from the elite Hindu classes, who also intermarried with Persian/Middle eastern Christian migrants to the Malabar coast in the 1st millennium. They use the 'Syriac liturgy' in their rites and prayers (Syriac - sister language of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus). They hail from the Central and South central regions of Kerala, but now spread all over the state as well as the urban centers of the country. Majority of the Syrian Christians belong to the Roman Catholic Church, with a large minority belonging to both Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches. The Syrian Christians are a Malayalam speaking group, and have traditionally been considered an upper caste in the Kerala society.

The Syrian Christians have traditionally used Syriac-Malayalam names such as Chacko, Kurien, Cherian, Chandy, Ooommen, Maammen, Matthai, Maani, Varghese, Poonnen, Ittyavira, Uthup, Inashu, Eapen, Ousep etc. The influence of the Catholic Portuguese on the Syrian Christians resulted in names such as Devassya (Sebastian), Dummini (Dominic) Praanchi/Porinchu (Francis) etc. Anglicized names of Biblical origin became common following the introduction of the English educational system in the 19nth century. This include names such as Jacob, Thomas, Matthew, Joseph, Abraham, Philip, Paul, George etc.

Syrian Christians have a custom of  naming their children after their parents. The eldest male gets his paternal grandfather's name, and the second son, his maternal grandfather's. The same applies for female children as well (they inherit their grandmother's names). Of late, many of the Syrian Christians adopt an Indian name as their first name, which is followed by their Christian surname or father's name. Examples include Deepak Joseph, Rahul George, Rohan Varghese etc.

2. Goan Christians and Mangalorean Catholics
The second oldest group of Christians in the country, the Goan Christians are both descendants of Portuguese intermarriages with the local population, and Jesuit missionary converts from various Hindu castes including the Brahmins, Kshatriyas and others that took place in the 16nth and 17nth centuries.  The Mangalorean Catholics belong to the same group, who migrated out of Goa to Mangalore a couple of centuries ago. These Christians speak Konkani, and enjoy the same social status as their caste Hindu Brethren.

The Goan Christians have absorbed several European customs in their lifestyle, owing to their long association with the colonial Portuguese who occupied Goa for nearly 5 centuries. The Goanese Christian names are almost entirely Portuguese, with predominance of surnames such as Gonsalves, Pereirra, Da'costa, Da'silva, D'Cruz etc. Some of them also use Anglicized Christian names as their first name.
Eg: Peter Perreira, Jose' Gonsalves etc.

3. Local Converts by Western Colonialists:
The Third group of Indian Christians in the chronological order, these groups constitute the major share of the country's Christians, who originally hail from the lower caste groups. These local converts to Christianity can be divided into:

a) Converts by Portuguese missionaries to Latin Roman Catholicism
These groups comprise the coastal community of fishermen in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. There's also a small Marathi speaking group around coastal Bombay. These folks were converted to Catholicism in the 16nth and 17nth centuries by Jesuit missionaries under the leadership of St Francis Xavier. In Kerala, this group is called the 'Latin Catholics', in order to distinguish them from the older community of 'Syrian Catholics'. In Tamil Nadu, the converts come from other oppressed castes such as Nadars - a caste of palm climbers, apart from fisherfolks.  Typically, these groups of Christians are categorized under 'Other backward castes' by the Govt. of India.

The Latin Catholics also use western names, mostly with Portuguese flavors like that of the Goanese Christians. There are many who also use Indian names as their first names. Eg include Silvester Rodriguez,  Dileep Fernadez etc. The Nadar Roman Catholics use full Tamil names, or Christian names combined with Tamil names or Caste name etc. Eg: Remigius Nadar, Rosylin Soosa Pakiam, Lurduraj Jebaratnam etc

b) Converts by British missionaries to Anglicanism and Protestanism
This group largely constitute the oppressed classes/lower castes who were converted by the British missionaries in the 19nth and 20th centuries. They have a Pan Indian presence, with relatively high concentrations in regions of British colonial presence such as urban centers and hill stations of North and South India. All local Christians of Northern India fall under this category. Large number of lower castes from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, particularly Ezhavas, Naadars, Dalit groups such as the Pulayas, Parayas, Chakiliyaars and tribes such as the Mala Arayas have been successfully converted by Anglican missions in the 1800s. The churches are presently organized as CSI (Church of South India) and CNI (Church of North India). British Missionaries have also succeeded in converting very few members of the upper castes such as Bengali Brahmins, Reddys of Andhra Pradesh, among others, who too are part of the above mentioned 2 churches.

These Christians either maintain their Hindu surnames with their Christian first names (in case of high caste converts) or adopt fully Western or Christian names. Some also use an Indian first name with a western/christian Surname. Eg: Rohan Gladwyn, Edward Johnson, Robert Singh, Peter Banarjee etc, Vimal Livingston etc.

4. Anglo Indians
Anglo Indians are a small minority in India who are the descendants of British residents that intermarried local Indians. Anglo Indians typically belong to the Anglican church (now CNI and CSI) but some also adherents of Roman Catholicism as well. Anglo Indians can be found in regions of traditional British presence and influence such as Urban centers (places of British administration), hill stations etc. Eg: Bombay, Calcutta, Chennai, Lucknow, Bangalore, Quilon, Cochin, Shimla, Ooty, Dehradun, Nainital etc.

The Anglo Indians mostly speak English, and can often handle a local Indian language. They follow the Western culture and lifestyle, and use completely western/British names. Eg: William Dungston, Rosylin Campbell, Nadiya Tailor, Christopher Smith etc.

5. Recent converts to Christianity
The latest group of Christians in the country, the recent converts are those who became Christians in the early and late 20th century, the vast majority hailing from the scheduled tribes category (tribal communities). They can be further classified into:

a) Northeastern tribal converts to Baptist and Pentacostal churches
Northeast Indian Christians are largely the descendants of those tribal folks converted to Protestant and Evangelical Christianity by independent western Missions, particularly the American Baptist missions of the early and mid 20th century. Such neo-converts are presently the majority group in states such as Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, and are a growing minority in other regions of the Northeast such as Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and the hills of Assam.  There's also a significant presence of local Indian missionaries, particularly from the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, who work among the tribal groups of the region.

The Northeastern Christians are one of the most westernized indigenous groups in the country, who are quick to adopt changes in lifestyle, culture etc. Many of the Christians here still retain their traditional tribal customs that are practiced alongside their Christian faith.  Their names largely remain non Christian, with a few using western first names with their native surnames. Eg: Zhapuvi Legasy, Jamiti Jamir, Tokape Tacoza, Wetso Kezo etc.

b) Tribal converts in Eastern and Central India
Tribals of the forested plateaus of Jharkhand, Chatthisgarh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, such as the Gonds, Mundas, Santalis among others, have been targets of both independent western missions and local Christian missions (based in Kerala and TN) for several decades. A large minority of them  embraced the Christian faith in the mid and late 20th centuries, who practice their tribal way of life alongside their newfound faith.  They belong to all sects of Christianity such as Pentacostal, Evangelical, Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. Such Christians retain their original Hindu names, and barely adopt Christian names. Eg: Sathish Munda, Mahesh Soren etc.

c) Arbitrary conversions from other religions to Pentacostalism
Such conversions are arbitrary and have a pan indian distribution, cutting across caste, class, religion, region or language. These converts embrace Christianity owing to the influence of other devout Christians. They are common in colleges, schools, work places  and other organizations etc, and are exceptionally high among the youth groups. Such converts either retain their original names, or adopt a Christian name as per their choice