Why do people from Maharashtra have surnames that end with ‘kar’?

Written by: Nimish Adani



Time to read min

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.

The -KARs

We have taken up 6 popular surnames ending in -kar and undertaken online/offline research on each of these surnames – Ambedkar, Gavaskar, Holkar, Mangeshkar, Savarkar & Tendulkar.

In a nutshell, -kar = inhabitant of. But then, are there really places called Ambed-, Gavas-, Hol-, Mangesh-, Savar- & Tendul-? Read further to find out.

Ambedkar / Baba Ambedkar

Babasaheb Ambedkar's original surname was Ambavadekar. This surname Ambavadekar comes from his native village ‘Ambavade’ in Ratnagiri district. So how did he get the surname Ambedkar?

It seems one of the teachers in the High School had taken a special liking for the boy, making him virtually his protege. As a token of his respect and affection for his “Guru”, Bhimrao adopted the latter’s surname for himself.

Babasaheb Ambedkar by Kurukundi Raghavendra Rao

Gavaskar / Sunil Gavaskar

While I couldn’t find any details on the origin of this surname, it will be pretty clear from the other research that the -kar surnames originate from the ancestral village i.e. -kar = inhabitant of. And so one could perhaps conclude that Gavaskars came from Gavaswadi – a village in the Kolhapur / Sindhudurg district in Maharashtra.

Holkar / Holkar Dynasty

The father of Mulhar Rao, the founder of the dynasty of the Holkars, was a shepherd. To this occupation he added the more profitable trade of a weaver of blankets. He lived in the village of Hol, on the river Nira, whence he derived the surname Holkar – the adjunct kae or kur signifying inhabitant.

An Historical Sketch of the Native States of India in Subsidiary Alliance by George Bruce Malleson

Mangeshkar / Lata Mangeshkar

The famous musical family of the Mangeshkar’s belong to this village of Mangeshi. Their father, Deenanath Mangeshkar was born(1900) in the village of Mangeshi then in Portuguese India to a temple priest and handmaiden of the deity Mangesh. His mother tongue was Konkani. His father was Brahmin and mother belonged to Gomantak Maratha community of Goa. The family’s last name used to be Hardikar; Deenanath changed it to Mangeshkar in order to identify his family with his native town – Mangeshi.

Wikipedia article on Mangeshi village

Savarkar / Veer Savarkar

It is not possible to trace how the family began to go by the name Savarkar. About six miles away from Guhagar, there is a stream and a dam at Palshet. Close by there is a locality called Savarwadi. According to Savarkar, the family name may have been derived from it.

Veer Savarkar: Father of Hindu Nationalism by Jaywant Joglekar

Tendulkar / Sachin Tendulkar

Don’t count Sachin Tendulkar as an outsider, Tendul near Pernem was colonised by Goan Brahmins, or so they say

Conversation in a Yahoogroup titled Goa News Clips, which in turn referenced a book by Goan author Mario Cabral e Sa.

If it is a Friday and you happen to be in Goa, it must be Mapusa. On that day everybody in Goa – and ones even beyond, from Banda, Sawantwadi, Kudal up north in Maharashtra and on occasion from the hilly tracks of Jamboti or Malwan and Tendul the ancestral village of Sachin Tendulkar – you know who… looks forward to a trip to Mapusa.

UpperCrust: India’s First and ONLY Food, Wine and Travel Magazine

The -Es & some more

I am not sure yet but I will add to this answer once I get my hands on the People of India: Maharashtra series of books by the publishing house Popular Prakashan. The answer lies in Part II and Part III of Volume XXX. Currently, these are out of stock on Flipkart.

However, some excerpts of the book which can be accessed on Google Books, leads me to conclude:

-e = of the (in Marathi)

Also there’s a page about Surnames that’s accessible – salient points of which are:

  • Maharashtra is a paradise for hunters of surnames.
  • Many surnames are linked with environment (plants, birds, animals and trees), history and culture i.e. totemistic.
  • Surnames with the names of village suffixed with kar is mostly found in Maharashtra
  • There are Rajput origin clan names like Chavan and Pawar
  • There are those of extinct Maharastra dynasties like Kadam and Shinde
  • There are those of extinct dynasties from Andhra like Kakade – from Kakatiya of Andhra
  • Some are purely totemistic like Kurhade (the axe), Kudale (the pick-axe), Landge (the wolf)
  • Some titles have turned surnames (Kulkarni, Deshpande, Joshi)
  • Some surnames come from personal characteristics of the founders (Mahabale = mighty; Vinode = funny fellow; Manohar = charming; etc)

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