Home > History, India, Politics, Religion, Social Trends > Does The State Have A Right To Decide Children Names?

Does The State Have A Right To Decide Children Names?

Talking of names, in parts of the Free World, names are State policy. Progressive, liberal and modern West.


any years ago, on a visit to Odisha, I met a gentleman named Duryodhana Nayak. At that time, to me Mahabharata was not itihaas but mythology. I could not imagine or fathom why any parents would name their child after Duryodhana.

The reason I found later, was that Duryodhana married a princess, the daughter of Chitrangadha, the Kalinga king. Kalinga part of the five eastern kingdoms, that included: Anga (east, central Bihar), Vanga (southern West Bengal and Bangladesh), Kalinga (Sea shore of Odisha), Pundra (western Bangladesh and West Bengal, India), Suhma (north-western Bangladesh and West Bengal).

Subsequent search showed that Odisha has many more Duryodhanas. I could find Duryodhana Rout, Duryodhana Kuanr, Duryodhana Singh, Duryodhana Bisoi, Duryodhana Mangaraj, Duryodhana Biswal, a minister named Duryodhana Majhi, Duryodhana Pradhan, Duryodhana Dehury, Duryodhana Mahapatra, Duryodhana Kanhar, Duryodhana Das, Duryodhana Jena, Duryodhana Roy, Duryodhana Samanata, Duryodhana Behera, Duryodhana Satapathy, Duryodhana Das – and Duryodhana Nayak who I met.

Talking of names, in parts of the Free World, names are State policy. In the Progressive, liberal and modern West.

A 15-year-old is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother. The problem? Blaer, which means “light breeze” in Icelandic, is not on a list approved by the government.

Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named. In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don’t question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.

In Blaer’s case, her mother said she learned the name wasn’t on the register only after the priest who baptized the child later informed her he had mistakenly allowed it.”I had no idea that the name wasn’t on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from,” said Bjork Eidsdottir, adding she knew a Blaer whose name was accepted in 1973. This time, the panel turned it down on the grounds that the word Blaer takes a masculine article, despite the fact that it was used for a female character in a novel by Iceland’s revered Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness.

Given names are even more significant in tiny Iceland that in many other countries: Everyone is listed in the phone book by their first names. Surnames are based on a parent’s given name. Even the president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is addressed simply as Olafur.

Blaer is identified as “Stulka” — or “girl” — on all her official documents, which has led to years of frustration as she has had to explain the whole story at the bank, renewing her passport and dealing with the country’s bureaucracy.

Her mother is hoping that will change with her suit, the first time someone has challenged a names committee decision in court.Though the law has become more relaxed in recent years — with the name Elvis permitted, inspired by the charismatic rock and roll icon whose name fits Icelandic guidelines — choices like Cara, Carolina, Cesil, and Christa have been rejected outright because the letter “c” is not part of Iceland’s 32-letter alphabet.

The board also has veto power over people who want to change their names later in life, rejecting, for instance, middle names like Zeppelin and X.

via Icelandic girl fights for right to her own name.


  1. February 19, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Never thought that someone would like to name their child as Duryodhana. Learnt something, I never imagined. The cause is quite plausible.

  2. February 19, 2013 at 8:46 am
    It is not one family.

    Many families. There are ministers, professors, Managing Directors, IAS who are named Duryodhana.

    Many Indians depend on jyotishis to provide an auspicious name for their children in consonance with their nakshatras.

    Presumably, it is these jyotishis who must have known Duryodhana’ kundli, who are naming these children as Duryodhana.

    I hope some Oriya readers of 2ndlook can add some local flavor to this.

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