Sikh Rehat Maryada (SRM) – Ceremonies pertaining to Birth and Naming of Child
In a Sikh’s household, as soon after the birth of a child as the mother becomes capable of moving about and taking bath (irrespective of the number of days which that takes), the family and relatives should go to a gurdwara with karhah prashad (sacred pudding) or get karhah prashad made in the gurdwara and recite in the holy presence of the Guru Granth Sahib such hymns as “parmeshar dita bana” (Sorath M. 5 ,Guru Granth Sahib p. 628 ), “Satguru sache dia bhej” (Asa M. 5 , Guru Granth Sahib p. 396 ) that are expressive of joy and thankfulness.
Thereafter, if a reading of the holy Guru Granth Sahib had been taken up, that should be concluded. Then the holy Hukam (command) should be taken. A name starting with the first letter of the hymn of the Hukam (command) should be proposed by the granthi (man in attendance of the holy book) and, after its acceptance by the congregation, the name should be announced by him. The boy’s name must have the suffix “Singh” and the girl’s, the suffix “Kaur”.
After that the Anand Sahib (short version comprising six stanzas) should be recited and the Ardas in appropriate terms expressing joy over the naming ceremony be offered and the karhah prashad distributed.
This is from the English translation of the SRM, as found on the SGPC website.
The first thing that struck me is that there is no fixed time span given for the day on which the ceremony is to take place. Go to the Gurdwara as soon as the new mother has sufficiently recovered. I also like the idea of making the karhah prasad at home. Why leave it to the Gurdwara if we can do it ourselves.
According to this clause of the SRM you can give the child any name, as long as it starts with the first letter of the vaak. When I got my name the Granthi told me that the first word was Har, and asked if I knew a name starting with Har. I told him to choose a name for me and he suggested Harjinder.
Recently in Belgium the Granthi and I did the ceremony in the Sint-Truiden gurdwara as the hospital wanted a name straight away, and again ‘Har’ was the first word of the vaak, and I texted that to the parents.
Going by all the names starting with Har, Gur, Man, Jag etc this is what most people practice. If you just go by the first letter than you can choose any name, whether this name has a spiritual meaning or not.
There is no need to restrict ourselves to ‘Indian’ names. If Devdata (God-given) is acceptable then Deodatus (Latin) and Theodorus (Greek), names that have the same meaning, should be acceptable too.
Sikhs should obey Guru’s order and not use their family names but instead use Singh and Kaur. No more Gills, Sidhus, Sehmis or Kalsis, just the name given by the Guru Granth Sahib followed by Singh or Kaur.
I often call myself Harjinder Singh Amritsar, to avoid confusion with the other Harjinder Singhs. My Sikh ‘birthplace’ was Amritsar. This type of addition is acceptable as long as it is not used to make you more important than others!