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The story behind the Modi Surname

Today, everyone in this world are inquisitive about a certain surname, i.e MODI.

To begin, we will have to understand the art of naming in Gujarati. The Gujarati surnames seem to derive from four main sources: place names, trades or occupations, nicknames and traditional Hindu castes. 

Names such as Khambhata (remember, the famous Persis Khambatta), are derived from Khambhat, a municipality in Anand district of Gujarat. Surnames, such as Gandhi were ‘perfumer’, Jhaveri, were ‘jeweller’, Kapadia (Dimple Kapadia), were Cloth (Kapada in hindi) seller.

Further, there are many Gujarati surnames which started as the nicknames for a certain generation, for example, Mankad (Vinoo Mankad) means bug, or Hathi (Jaisukh lal Hathi). Lastly, surnames were based on Hindu castes (sub-castes, mini castes, etc), like Joshi, Gohil, Vaghela, etc.

Now, coming back to our main story, the story of Modi. Well the origin falls under the second category, i.e. it is named after an occupation. It connotes of all the caste and religion who traditionally were ‘grocer’.  Coincidentally South Asia’s two greatest leaders (Gandhi and Jinnah) were also from Gujarati mercantile castes. While, Gandhi (derived from gandh गंध, meaning smell) was a Hindu perfume seller bania, Jinnah, a Lohana-converted into a Shia Muslim (Ismaili Khoja). According to many, even Modi is a part of Lohana, along with various other surnames such as: Daiya, Dattani, Kotak, Kothari, etc.  

Thus, since Modi indicates a profession. A Modi surname can be a Hindu bania (Lalit Modi) or OBC, Jain, or even a Parsi (Rusi Mody) and Muslim (Syed Modi, the eight-time National Badminton champion).

Narendra Modi is a Ghanchi, which is considered to be a backward caste, since originally they were oil-pressers (teli). Ironically, the Muslims involved in the Godhra incident were also Ghanchi.

Further, the outgoing Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh's surname is also derived from merchant community (Khatri) . Their ancestor were also said to be from oil-pressers (teli) community. His gotra is said to be Kohli, which has come from Kolhu (कोल्हू).

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