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Singh // is a common title, middle name, or surname used in South Asia, mainly in India and Nepal and in Punjab used originally by the Hindu and Sikh Kshatriyas (warriors and kings). It is derived from the Sanskrit word सिंह Simha meaning Lion. It is used as a surname or middle name by Hindu communities like the , Rajputs, Jats, Yadavs, Gurjars and Ahirs among others, and Sikhs. Generally this surname is found in males.
By the sixteenth century, "Singh" had become a popular surname among the Maratha and Rajput warriors. It was adopted into Sikhism in 1699 as per the instructions of Guru Gobind Singh; the use of Singh as a last name is mandatory for all baptized male Sikhs since 1699, regardless of their geographical or cultural binding. Some Brahmins like Bhumihar Brahmins (see Kingdom of Kashi and Royal House of Benares) and Maithil Brahmins (see History of Mithila) and Rajpurohits also use this surname. The general editor of the book People of India (Bihar and Jharkhand), published by Anthropological Survey of India (ASI), and noted academician-bureaucrat, the late Kumar Suresh Singh, said that the surname "Singh", which used to denote connection with power and authority, was used in Bihar by Brahmin zamindars, like the surname "Khan" in Muslims. "Singh" has gradually emerged as a hereditary title to be used as a middle name, highlighting connections to a warrior status or occupation. The surname has also been widely adopted by other groups of India like Yadavs and Jats. However, this is not an exclusive usage, and many Hindu groups including Scheduled Castes and Vaishya have adopted this title without any significant warrior status or ties.
The first ruler of the Solanki/Chalukya clan who bore the title Simha ruled around 500 CE. The Vengi branch of the Chalukyas continued using Simha as a last name till the 11th century. The Rajputs started using Singh in preference to the classical epithet of "Varman". Among the Rajputs, the use of the word Simha came into vogue among the Paramaras of Malwa in 10th century CE, among the Guhilots and the Guhilot of Narwar in the 12th century CE, and the Rathores of Marwar after the 17th century.
In the 18th century, the non-Rajput martial tribes, including the Brahmins, the Kayasthas and the Baniyas of what are now Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, also started using the title Singh in imitation of the Rajputs. In the 19th century, even the Bengal court peons of the lower castes also adopted the title Singh.
The adherents of Sikh faith adopted Singh as a surname in 1699, as per the wish of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru. In the Spring of 1699, on the day of Baisakhi, Guru Gobind Singh Ji (originally named Guru Gobind Rai Ji), made it mandatory for all Sikh males to append the name suffix Singh after their name (see also Kaur).
Singh/Sinh is used by Sikhs, Bhumihar Brahmins, Maithil Brahmins and Kshatriya communities such as Jats, Marathas, Gurjars, Rajputs, etc. as either a middle name or a surname. e.g., Kotwal Dhan Singh Gurjar, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Maharaja Bhim Singh Rana, Prahlad Singh Patel etc. At times, the Marathi Brahmins also use Sinh or Singh as a suffix to their first names, e.g. Udaysinh Peshwa, the scion of the Peshwa Dynasty.
The last name "Singh" is in fact used by a wider population from Bihar Jharkhand Punjab to Uttar Pradesh and from Kashmir down into Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharastra to Uttarakhand as well as the far eastern states of Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Sikkim, and even Bhutan, spanning the entire subcontinent and even reaching Southeast Asia, where in Thailand, as the Chakri Dynasty strove to empower Siam after the fall of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, Singh Singhaseni (1777–1849) was a prominent general, and Chao ("Lord") Racha Wong Singh governed Yasothon, 1815–1823. The name is also found in use among West Indians of Indian origin namely in places of Guyana, Trinidad, and Surinam, as well as people of Indian origin found in Mauritius and Fiji Island.
Singh is often used the traditional way, as previously described, by having it as the middle name after the first name and followed by the clan/family name by many communities, groups and peoples. For example, Yogendra Singh Yadav, Prahlad Singh Patel, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Sikh examples include Gurmukh Singh Saini,Kirori Singh Bainsala, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, ((S.Logmansingh ))((Shivarajsingh )) and Hari Singh Nalwa. Thus Singh can be used as a middle name before the individual's surname (last name), a common practice among many groups in India, e.g., Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1: First name, 2: Singh, 3: Family lineage name). Many adherents of Sikh faith across the world, some of which may come from many other races, countries, cultures and groups use the name "Singh" as a middle name with last name as Khalsa, e.g., Avtar Singh Khalsa (1: First Name, 2: Singh, 3: Belonging to Khalsa spiritual family). Another practise among Sikhs is to use village/town/city/country lineage after middle name Singh to avoid using the caste lineage, e.g., Parkash Singh Badal (1: First Name, 2: Singh, 3: Village/town/country lineage).
Similar to how the Maratha men and women used the titles Rao (for men), Baisaheb (for women) or Raje (both men/women) as their middle name, earlier, a common practice among the Rajput men was to have Singh as their last name, while Rajput women had the last name Kumari (Princess) which is derived from Kanwar (Prince). However, many Rajput women have Singh in their name as well. Several times during history Rajputs migrated out of Rajputana; many of those who settled in other parts of India have since come to use Singh as their last name even though they belong to separate Rajput gotras and clans. This happened over several generations due to the local population preferring to popularly call them just Singh in the new places. This was usually enough to denote that they belonged to the Kshatriya varna and were Hindu Rajput warriors by caste.
A section of around a million adherents of Sikhism that live abroad in Western countries only keep Singh or Kaur as their last name. This has caused legal problems in immigration procedures especially in Canada with Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, India for a decade stating in letters to its Sikh clients "the names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada" people with these common Sikh surnames have to change their last names before coming to Canada.
The ban was denounced by the Sikh community, after which the Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced it was dropping the policy, calling the whole thing a misunderstanding based on a "poorly worded" letter.