Thursday, December 16, 2010

Have You ever wondered what is the meaning of your name?

The day was final year of my engineering, and I was attending Seminar on "Appearing Personal Interview". The lecturer for the day was from another college. He gave us many helpful tips on how to prepare for appearing PI. During the second half of the Seminar, he started to interact with us and ask many questions that could be asked by any company HR. Suddenly, he pointed his fingers at me. Asked me a simple question that What is my name?, after hearing the answer, he asked "What do you mean by it?". For a moment many thoughts came to me. My name Sharmistha is based on Hindu Mythology and history.

Sharmistha was the first queen of Arya, wife of king Yajati and daughter of King Vrisparba. She was known for her sacrifice. There is an old Oriya movie named Sharmistha and also a novel based on her. Even though she was born as a princess, she had to sacrifice a lot for her people and kingdom. The story goes like this.

Sukracharya was the preceptor of Asuras (demons). The Asura king Vrishaparva greatly respected Sukracharya as he knew the secret of Mritasanjibani, a drug that brings the dead back to life. Devayani was Sukracharya's only daughter and spoiled by her father's indulgence.
One morning, Sharmistha, the Asura princess, daughter of Vrishaparva, came to Sukracharya's hermitage with her friends. She asked Sukracharya to allow Devayani to accompany them for a bath in a nearby lake. Sukracharya agreed. They soon reached the lake and left their clothes on the bank to go into the water. Suddenly a storm blew up and scattered their clothes. The girls hurriedly came out of the lake and got dressed. It so happened that the princess Sharmistha, by mistake, clad herself in Devayani's clothes. Angered by this, Devayani insulted Sharmistha, the Asura princess. Argument began and Sharmistha pushed Devayani into a dry well and left Devayani in the well.
It so happened that Yayati, the king of a nearby state, came hunting in the forest and was looking for water to drink. When he came near the well he was surprised to find Devayani lying at the bottom. Devayani introduced herself and said that she fell into the well. She then requested the king to pull her out. Yayati helped her out. Devayani demanded that Yayati marry her as he has held her by the right hand. Yayati was alarmed and turned down her request on the ground that he belonged to lower Khatriya (or warrior) caste, and Devayani was a Brahmin (priestly) maid. Yayati then left and Devayani continued to sit under a tree.
When she did not return, Sukracharya set out in search of her. He found Devayani under a tree, her eyes filled with tears of anger and grief. When Sukracharya inquired, Devayani told her father every thing, carefully hiding her own faults. She refused to return to the kingdom of Vrishaparva as she was badly insulted by the Asura princess, Sharmistha. Failing to change her mind, Sukracharya returned to Vrishaparva and announced that he was leaving the Asura kingdom because of his daughter Devayani's unhappy conflict with princess Sharmistha. Vrishaparva begged Sukracharya to stay. Sukracharya left the decision with his daughter Devayani.
Vrishaparva wasted no time and went to Devayani taking his daughter Sharmistha along. He begged forgiveness for his daughter. Devayani agreed to return on one condition that Sharmistha be her handmaiden for the rest of her life. Sharmistha agreed for the sake of her father, the king. Devayani was pacified and returned to her father's hermitage. But Devayani was vindictive and humiliated Sharmistha by asking to massage her legs and run errands.
One day, king Yayati passed that way. Devayani introduced Sharmishtha as her maid and reminded Yayati that he should marry her. Yayati repeated that he could not marry a Brahmin maid. Devayani then took Yayati to her father. Sukrachaya gave his blessing on their marriage. They were soon married and led a happy life. Devayani had two sons.
Sharmistha continued to stay as Devayani's handmaid. Yayati made a palace for Shramistha at the request of Devayani. One day Sharmishtha secretly met Yayati and told him what happened between her and Devayani. Yayati was sympathetic. Sharmistha begged Yayati to take her as the second wife. Yayati agreed and married her but without the knowledge of Devayani. Sharmistha had three sons.
One day, Devayani met the three sons of Sharmistha. She asked the boys the name of their father. They pointed to Yayati. Devayani was shocked. She felt deceived and ran to her father's hermitage. Sukracharya was enraged and cursed Yayati with premature old age. Yayati begged for forgiveness. Sukracharya and Devayani felt sorry for him. Sukracharya then said, "I cannot take back my curse, but if any of your sons is ready to exchange his youth for your old age, you will be young again as long as you wish."

Then Yayati returned to his kingdom and called Devyani, And asked her to convince one of her son to take the father's old age. However, neither Devyani nor his son agreed to Yayti's proposal. Then Yayti called Sharmistha and his sons. When he asked the same thing to Sharmistha and his son Puru. They reluctantly agreed to his wish. And Puru took his fathers old age, so that his father being the king could rule the kingdom wisely and well.

I was named Sharmistha by my maternal Aunt. She read the novel "Sharmistha" when I was born. And she was so influenced by the sacrifices that Sharmistha made for the well being of her kingdom and people that she convinced my parent to name me after her.

When I was in 10th STD, I came to know from the Universe chapter in Physics that there is a constellation named after Sharmistha. The international name of this constellation is Cassiopeia. This is one of the 88 constellations known. Cassiopeia is easily recognizable due to its distinctive 'W' shape formed by five bright stars. Cassiopeia name originated from Greek mythology. Cassiopeia is the mother of Princess Andromeda and wife of king Cepheus.

However, that day I was not able to answer the question. The question was the meaning of word Sharmistha. The lecturer did not ask me about the mythology, history or stars and physics. Before, I could utter a word, he told "Every name has a meaning, and you should know the meaning of that word. Any HR probably ask you this and would expect you to give a prompt answer."

When I returned home, I called my Mom and Dad to ask the meaning of the word Sharmistha. To which my Dad answered, if you divide the word(Sandhivichhed) it becomes Sharma+ishta+aa. The meaning of Sharma is kind, well-wisher, happiness and ishta means the best. Aa is for a lady. So, comprising this the meaning goes as a Lady who is kind hearted,who gives happiness and is a well-wisher. In short she is the best. Then I google searched the meaning of my name and found another interesting representation.
The word was divided into two parts (Shandhivicched) and is Shar(shwar)+mishta and the meaning is one having sweet voice.

Well in any way the meaning of this word indicates a person with good heart and speech. I felt little proud that day to have this name. However, if someone expects me to sacrifice like the queen, then probably I can't. Sacrifice is not easy and you should have the deserving people to do such sacrifices. Hard for human being to do such things, is not it? God knows what Sharmistha the queen got by such sacrifices, I guess only pain. Might be she got satisfied with the happiness of the people of her kingdom.


  1. hi!! am your namesake...and like you was trying to find out a meaning of the name. read all you have written and want to thank you for sharing it...
    i once got the meaning in a Bengali dictionary and it says - one who is meant to do good to others...and your findings match it perfectly...Thank you once again...

  2. Thanks a lot for the findings. I want to share onething for your info... while I was also doing google search I happen to come across a site that has the hindu names and their meanings. I happened to find Sharmistha also there and the meaning was written.... "Shelter"......
    In any case I am happy to know that my name has so much of positivity and good intentions :-)

  3. heyy.... i am your namesake too and i live in Delhi... Though this question arrived at a very late stage in your life i was asked this question when i was in 7th... i too had no clue,, nor did my parents... so i found all this from the internet too.. just in case u want to know another meaning.. its like this .. if u pronounce it in bengali accent its.. SHOR+Mishtha.. shor means malai(clotted or devonshire in western countries).. that white thing that floats on top of a high quality milk... and mishtha means sweet .. so it can also mean.. sweet malai... Though i dont really beleive it.. but that was the closest meaning i cud get from my granny... whatever it is i think..its a nice name to have tho very common in bengalis.. but when i see ppl struggling to pronounce it.. it always produces a laugh from my side!!!! Cheers to this name!!! and ur article is really informative... :) :)

  4. Hi,

    Good to hear that my article is informative. About SHOR and Mistha we pronounce it little differently in Odia but the meaning remains the same SHOR being MALAI and Mitha( instead of Mistha as sweet). But, that appears to be very simple meaning is not it. I remember in childhood my brothers used to tease me on this meaning.

    I have got habituated to hear my name pronounced as Sharmista (as we pronounce "ta" in Arpita), I believe this happens because people in South India would write Mamata as Mamatha and they keep "h" silent with every name.

  5. a very detailed info mate! u surfed a lot through details about constellations too loved it.
    keep it going mate looking forward for more info
    pls try to red my blog sometime too.. u may like it anyways I hav stopped writing though..lolzzz

  6. Wow. Suddenly I feel good being named sharmistha. Great work.

  7. thanks for the information... :) i've searched alost all my life the meaning of my name...and,today i got,a huge thanks :)

  8. Hi,

    I don't know if this will help as I read your post too late. When I was working in a bookstore, I found the Sanskrit meaning of names where Sharmishtha meant the most fortunate one.

    Hope this helps all the namesake sisters out there!


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