Names and nomenclatures are important, interesting and fun. It’s why we make it a point to put a lot of thought into the ideas for the products that showcase them. Happily, all this hard work has helped us become India’s most accomplished maker of name plates and, in the process, introduced us to hundreds of names, nicknames, family names, and stories connected to tens of thousands of names. Many of these stories are rather intriguing and we think worth sharing with you; something we are going to do in a series of blog posts centred around answers to quirky questions like ‘Are Dwivedis, Trivedis, and Chaturvedis related?’ or ‘Why do most Sindhi surnames ends with –ani?’ or ‘Why do some surnames have two capital letters?’, and more. And on that note, let’s get right into the history of name-calling.
Etymology of the Bachchan surname
Amitabh Bachchan's family surname was Shrivastav. His father was Harivansh Rai Shrivastav. At home, Harivansh Rai was affectionately called Bachchan (bachcha in Hindi = child, bachchan = child-like in colloquial Hindi) while Harivansh Rai's elder brother was called Rajjan. Post independence, Harivansh Rai gave up the surname Shrivastav to protest against the caste system in India - especially in Uttar Pradesh (Surnames such as Shrivastav tell you the caste of a person). Harivansh Rai went on to become a famous poet and writer and would use the name Bachchan as a pseudonym.
Inspired from his father, Amitabh Bachchan gave up the surname Shrivastav and took up the surname Bachchan. So yes, Bachchan is not an inherited surname and so it isn't an old family surname that's spread itself.
Is the surname exclusive to Amitabh Bachchan & Family?
However, its quite possible that a few others may have adopted the surname. That's evident when you do a Facebook Search.
What about the phrase Bol-Bachchan?
The phrase Bol-Bachchan, however, is not connected to the surname Bachchan. It comes from the terms Bol and Vachan - both of which mean the same thing i.e. Bol = Vachan = Words of Wisdom (when translated from Hindi to English). The term Bol-Bachchan is now used in the context of motherhood statements / platitudes, or someone who has uttered them.
This post was originally written on April 2, 2016. On July 28, 2019, Amitabh Bachchan has thrown more light on the etymology of the Bachchan surname on his official blog. The same has been reproduced below:
Babuji was a strong opposer of the caste system .. the surname in Indian names described and related to a particular caste .. Srivastav, Sahai, Verma, Mathur the Kayasth caste ; Sharma, Iyer the Brahmin upper caste, Singh the Kshatriya , the warriors fighters .. and on ..
Babuji was born in a Kayasth home and a Srivastav .. but his temperament was always against the ailment of caste .. his nome d plume , his ‘takhallus’ his pen name he designed as बच्चन ‘BACHCHAN’ .. poets writers of great eminence often designed their names with a nom d plume ..
Ram Dhari Singh ‘Dinkar’ ; Shiv Mangal Singh ‘Suman’ ; Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’ ; Raghupati Sahai ‘Firaq Gorakhpuri’
.. all great poets and legends , some contemporaries of Babuji , some I had the honour of meeting and spending time with ..
.. so ‘Bachchan’ became my Father’s pen name, his poetic nom d plume .. but it lent credence of its concept later when I was born .. on being admitted to my first School, and being asked by the teachers what surname of this boy was to be filled in the admission form .. my Mother and Father had a quick discussion and it was decided that ‘Bachchan’ would be the family surname .. I then became the first bearer of the surname Bachchan .. and it has remained so .. and shall remain so ..
I had heard Firaq Gorakhpuri state once that ‘language has no caste’ .. could this have been the vision of my Father in designing his written works to be addressed in his pen name .. Bachchan .. a surname that did not depict caste ….