INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: Indian names, -ji, Ustad/Pandit etc.


Author Message
Indian names, -ji, Ustad/Pandit etc. Sep 11, 2003 04:19 p.m.

Sorry but I just had to kill the chromatic tuner thread, RIP. this topic may have been already posted but I thought I could add a specific reference.

Well, according to Ali Akbar Khan and George Ruckert's book, The Classical Music of North India (a must have!), adding -ji "is an easy way to address anyone with an affectionate form of respect and is even used by itself as a substitute for the name of the person being addressed... The terms for family relationships... are also used by musicians to show respect to teachers and elders. The most common are baba (father), mata (mother), dada (elder brother), didi (elder sister)...Study with a teacher creates familial bonds. Brothers in the music are often called bhai (or gurubhai) and sisters bahen, and these terms are also used as suffixes. The suffix -dev (god) or -devi (goddess) might be used to show extreme reverence..."

of course these words differ according to the dialect, so watch out. also:

"In the old days, the titles Ustad (Muslim) and Pandit (Hindu) were awarded to musicians by the kings as recognition of their high mastery of their art. They were not so freely used as they are today, when lack of title might mean lack of box office attraction... Kappelmeister and maestro are possible Western equivalents. However, older musicians smile sadly when they hear this or that musician referred to as Pandit or Ustad... The suffix -sahib (pronouced like the car, Saab) was attached to the names of those Muslim musicians who were titled in the court, as in "Khansahib." Like Ustad, it is used more freely today to show respect..."

Hope that wasn't too much to swallow but I had the same exact questions myself when I started about 6 months ago. Tis' unfortunate we feel so uncomfortable or improper asking someone this, but I guess it is an inextricable fact of our "Western-ness."

PS. Billy, how's that Pandit Banerjee disc you beat me to on ebay?? maybe you could burn some copies for the forum, hehe...

Re:Indian names, -ji, Ustad/Pandit etc. Sep 11, 2003 11:50 p.m.

swansong (Sep 11, 2003 04:19 p.m.):
PS. Billy, how's that Pandit Banerjee disc you beat me to on ebay?? maybe you could burn some copies for the forum, hehe...

When I saw your posting, even before reading it, I knew I was going to mention the CD on eBay! Its hard to bid against people I know, and I usually won't. Or if I do, and it starts a bidding war, I'll definitely drop out before I force too high a bid. Anyway, I hadn't seen this CD being sold anywhere (though I admit not looking at too many places), so I went for it. Unfortunately, though I paid for it immediately at auction end, I haven't received it yet! I often sell items on eBay, and in my mind, if a buyer pays quick, I ship quick. Its only common courtesy.

BTW, this goes for everyone here on the forum, if you are bidding on something I'm bidding on, contact me and we'll discuss the auction. I often bid on items just because they're cheap, and don't want to pay much on them. We can work out which one of us should have the item.

Many thanks for the further clarifications on titles. Its importaint information. Even though its a bit off-topic, I think its essential that we know how to address and honor those master players we may encounter. I think overall, Pandit is probably the safetest.

Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Re:Indian names, -ji, Ustad/Pandit etc. Sep 12, 2003 12:23 a.m.

Billy, which CD was it?
Re:Indian names, -ji, Ustad/Pandit etc. Sep 12, 2003 07:59 a.m.

In your last post you said that "Pandit is probably the safest". Perhaps if you are in a geographic location where everyone is Hindu.
The reality seems to be that in many cases, the master artist in question is in fact Muslim and Pandit would not be the correct title. This would show to that person that you don't know the proper titles, but more often that you simply just hang out with people from the other set and don't know the rules of their particular culture. This is a language thing. In many of the languages of India the expressions that one uses are guided by Hindu/Muslim rules. A greeting is given, and from there it is determined which religion one you are addressing is from and the language adjusted to fit the situation. And if one says something to someone the return reply is more polite or respectful. Much like their music, they will build towards a "politeness climax" in a battle to see who can be most polite. So the safest bet is not to use the Ustad/Pandit title unless you are sure, another title of respect might be more appropriate.
Re:Indian names, -ji, Ustad/Pandit etc. Sep 12, 2003 09:30 a.m.

Lars (Sep 12, 2003 12:23 a.m.):
Billy, which CD was it?

It was "Lyrical Sitar" from Chhandra Dhara records. I have since found this listed on a few sites, but I still got a pretty good deal.

Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Re:Indian names, -ji, Ustad/Pandit etc. Sep 12, 2003 09:48 a.m.

Stephen (Sep 12, 2003 07:59 a.m.):
So the safest bet is not to use the Ustad/Pandit title unless you are sure, another title of respect might be more appropriate.

I guess I'll stick to "sir" or "ma'am".

I read that India is becoming the largest English-speaking country in the world. Of course, if you think about it, with a billion people, it only takes one in three to speak English to make it the biggest.

For years, I've had interests in Bollywood films, and have several on DVD, as well as seeing quite a few at the theatre. I'm always interested how they meet each other, whether the movie is set in modern times or classic times. But I am also interested between the interaction with the Colonial English, who amazingly, aren't always portrayed as tyrants, but often as bumbling fools.

Its also interesting to see references to caste. Of course, this usually is only in movies portraying older times, prior to the caste system being outlawed, at least outwardly. The movie Lagaan is interesting in how an untouchable became accepted in a group of men, a Cricket team.

But I was surprised in a modern movie I saw recently, where a father called a boy out to marry the father's promised daughter, a "half-caste". I looked it up, and it implies one born of half-European and half-Indian. I'm guessing this should be quite an insult, especially to someone who is not only all-Indian, but of upper class. But I don't recall any special reaction.

Any culture allows ample opportunity for faux pas. I've lived in Japan three years and visited much of the orient, lived in Germany three years and visited some of Europe, and have also visited Nepal and Tibet. I prefer to attempt to assimulate with the populace whereever I go, but I think sometimes its easier to play the bumbling tourist, it gives you an excuse to screw up.

Billy Enigmar Godfrey
Re:Indian names, -ji, Ustad/Pandit etc. Sep 12, 2003 02:30 p.m.

Sure, as long as you don't step over your "line" of comfortability, the polite intent is there and I think anyone (esp. indians, from what I've heard) prefers honest naivete' over phoniness. Especially in my classes where everyone thinks it's cool to touch our guru's feet and their foreheads and hearts and such, it looks really insincere even to an outsider. Another cultural backlash would be their intense dislike of overly "spiritual" people and hippies, who many times will jump at the opportunity to show off how much they think the East is cool and exotic. I unfortunately have very long hair and so another student warned me and said he cut his hair to avoid being singled out and picked on. Of course I won't go out of my way to please anyone else, all I can do is be as polite, attentive, and sincere as possible and my teacher will realize my true intentions.

Billy- no problem about the Lyrical sitar CD. I too look for good deals so maybe next time we can play virtual rock paper scissors. =P It's amazing what you can find on ebay, especially old out of print LPs for less than $10 with shipping, and many items I received were almost never played...

Re:Indian names, -ji, Ustad/Pandit etc. Sep 15, 2003 04:18 p.m.

i wanted to know something about the suffix to the names of great maestros. If you name is khan then people call you khansaheb, but what it isn't? would people still call you Mishra-saheb or prasad-saheb??
Keshav Das
Re:Indian names, -ji, Ustad/Pandit etc. Dec 13, 2003 10:51 p.m.

It's this simple. If the musician in question is Muslim - it's Ustad. If he's a Hindu it's Pandit. Just like you wouldn't find a Jewish lawyer using the word "Esquire" after his name on his business card which is only appropos of Goyim attorneys. If for any reason you are uncertain about the musician's heritage, a safe post-moniker for indicating respect is Maharaj. I always use this when addressing police or customs officials when in India. I like it better than sahib, which if not said with real confidence, can sound obsequecious. In India this is the term I have heard used zillions of times - specifically between musicians of high standing.
Chris Pereji
Re:Indian names, -ji, Ustad/Pandit etc. Dec 13, 2003 03:48 p.m.

Sahib also means 'gentlenam'.

While it is always proper to address the masters with due respect as 'Ustad', 'Pandit' it is important not to use these words loosely and carelessly. Great masters earn these titles through their devotion, diligence and a life of total commitmemnt to their art.

'Guruji' is also a safe way of addressing that is acceptable in both Muslim and Hindu cultures.

True respect to one's 'guru', 'teacher','ustad', 'master' is expressed not only through words and titles, but through the disciples' devotion, humbleness, behavior, obedience, trust and goodwill.

Great masters themselves show an exemplary humility in their speech and conduct. They communicate respect and love towards their disciples. They never criticize or speak lightly of other artistes. They always show you the right way. They command respect without having to prove themselves to anyone or without having to use many words. Their very presence inspires a sense of respect and devotion in you. You find yourself folding your hands and bowing with respect. You feel the greatest comfort sitting at their feet. You feel like listening to their music, their words - day and night.You will know when you come across a true 'Master'


[Previous] [Up] [Next]