INDIA

SELECT GLOSSARY

This Indian glossary deals with the common words, phrases or titles included in the text within this site. It is not exhaustive, but covers most of the Indian languages used, including Hindi, Persian, Urdu, Bengali and Tamil. Readers may also wish to consult the Persian pages for more detailed information on titles of Persian origin.

Abkari: excise duties.
Aga (or Agha): master, respected.
Aga Khan: the hereditary title of the leader of the Ismaili sect of Muslims.
Amani Raje: Trust of the Queens.
Amir: Arabic term signifying prince or commander.
Annadata: giver of food, an honorific applied to certain rulers.
Attar (or Ittr): fragrant oil made of jasmine, rose petals and other flowers.
Auruzbegi: Lord of Petitions, i.e. the master of ceremonies at court.
Ayah: nanny.
Azad: free (Azad Kashmir=Free Kashmir, i.e. those areas not directly ruled by India).
Azam: supreme.
Baba (or Bapa/Bapu): father.
Badshah (see Padshah, below).
Bahadur: the Honourable, the sixth highest title conferred by the Mughal and other important Muslim courts. Often added to more important honour to enhance them by one degree. Also a title of honour conferred on recipients of the second class of the Order of British India (OBI).
Bai: lady or mistress, title used as a suffix to names of noblewomen, but also used for dancing girl.
Bakht: fortune.
Banu: Lady, title used as a suffix to names of Muslim noblewomen.
Barot: Keeper of records and genealogical charts.
Beg: Turkoman title for Lord, often also used as a surname by Muslims on the sub-continent.
Beglerbegi: Turkoman title for Lord of Lords, used in Persia and Pakistan for Governor-General.
Begum: female equivalent of Beg, but used on the sub-continent for married Muslim ladies of all classes.
Bhai (or Bhaiya): brother.
Bhaiyad: collateral, relation of the same caste, clan or family group.
Bhang: dried hemp used as a narcotic.
Bhanu Deva: Lord of the Sun.
Bhil: aboriginal race of central and western India.
Brahmin: member of the hereditary Hindu priestly caste.
Brajendra (or Brijendra): Lord of Braj (Krishna).
Burqa (or Burkha): coverall garment with eye holes worn by Muslim women.
Carnatic: the black country, the area of southern India controlled by the Muslim Nawab Subedars between Madras and Madurai. Now more commonly spelled Karnataka.
Chhadidar: staff-bearer.
Chamaran: a fan made of swan and peacock feathers, a symbol of royalty.
Chandra Pal: Moon on the forehead (Shiva).
Chauth: military impost levied by the Mahrattas on conquered territories.
Chhatrapati: Lord of the Parasol.
Chobdar: a mace covered in gold or silver, signs of authority. Also used for the mace-bearer and state herald.
Chola: ancient Tamil kingdom which dominated southern India from the 10th to the 13th centuries.
Chowrie: a fly whisk made form a yak's tail, a symbol of royalty.
Crore: 100 lakhs or ten millions.
Dacoit: bandit.
Dafadar: senior palace servants.
Dalavai: mouth of the army, i.e. Commander-in-Chief.
Darbar: Royal court, used to refer to "the government" or "the state".
Dassara: an annual festival lasting about ten days in October-November. In southern India a very important Royal festival perfected by the Vijayanagar kings and the Maharajas of Mysore, in honour the goddess of war, wealth and education. In northern India a festival in honour of Lord Rama's victory over Ravana.
Deccan: designation used for the lands in south central India between the ghats, including Hyderabad state.
Dewan (Devan or Divan): the book of accounts. Later developed into an office or title for the keeper of accounts, and eventually for Chief Minister.
Devi: goddess, often used as a suffix in female names.
Dharma Dyumani: Sun of Dharma.
Dulha: bridegroom in Hindustani, sometimes used as part of a title for male consorts of female Muslim rulers.
Dulhan: bride in Hindustani, sometimes used as part of a name or title by Muslim ladies.
Durbar: Royal court, an important ceremonial held in the audience hall of a ruler to hear petitions and accounts, make investitures or official appointments, receipt and giving of presents, official letters, etc.
Durga: goddess of victory.
Elaya Raja: Heir Apparent, particularly in the states of Travancore and Cochin.
Erstwhile: a wordy term, invariably and monstrously over used by modern Indian hacks whenever discussing the princely states or princely order!
Faujdar: City Magistrate, Military Governor.
Firman: Royal command or order.
Gadi: the divan shaped royal seat or throne of a Hindu ruler.
Gaekwad: an important dynasty of Mahratta commanders and rulers over the state of Baroda.
Gajapati: Lord of the Elephants.
Ganesh: elephant faced god, son of Shiva.
Garh: fort or stockade.
Ghunghat: a veil that conceals the face.
Guru: teacher or spiritual guide.
Haji: a gentleman who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Hamira: Sanskritised form of Amir.
Hind (or Hindustan): India.
Holkar: an important dynasty of Mahratta commanders and rulers over the state of Indore.
Howdah: cereminial seat on an elephant.
Huzur: the presence. A term used to describe a ruler of the highest rank and also offices and appointments close to him, e.g. Huzra=courtier, Huzuri=court attendant.
Ilaqa: estate or dependency.
Imad: pillar.
Inam: a grant of land, given in reward for services of a military or civil nature.
Istimrardar: holder of an estate in perpetuity, on condition that he pays an annual revenue to the GOI, which is not liable to enhancement.
Izzat: honour, respect or prestige.
Jagat Seth (Shrieshta): best in the world.
Jagir: fief or assignment of revenue yielding lands to noblemen in return for service, particularly military service.
Jagirdar: fief holder.
Jah: magnificence, a suffix used as the part of the very highest title conferred by the Mughal and other important Muslim courts.
Jahan: the world.
Jahan Rao: Ruler of the World.
Jam: title of certain rulers in western India.
Jamadar (or Jemadar): military officer, also an official rank in the military forces of the HEIC and the Indian Army for junior commissioned officers.
Jang: war or battle, a suffix used as part of the fifth highest title conferred by the Mughal and other important Muslim courts.
Ji: a suffix used at the ends of names or titles to show increased respect.
Jodhbir (or Yudhvir): brave in battle.
Jubraj: see Yuvaraja.
Kaiser-i-Hind: Caeser of India, i.e. Emperor of India (also used for Queen Victoria, there being no equivalent for Empress Regnant).
Kalgi: aigrette.
Kamdar: Minister.
Kanda: sword:
Kanda marriage: morgantic form of marriage whereby the bride is married to the bridegroom's sword.
Kar: inhabitant, a suffix added to the name of a locality to form a surname, particularly for Mahratta families.
Karbhari: manager.
Khalsa: Crown land.
Khan: Lord, the most junior title of honour conferred on Muslims or Parsis, also used as a surname by large numbers of Muslims.
Khan-i-Khanan: Lord of Lords.
Khan Bahadur: a title of honour, one degree higher than Khan Sahib, conferred on Muslims and Parsis, and awarded with a decoration during British rule.
Khan Sahib: a title of honour, one degree higher than Khan, conferred on Muslims and Parsis, and awarded with a decoration during British rule.
Khannazads: female harem attendents.
Khanzada: son of a Khan.
Kharita: official letter from the paramount power, sent in an elaborate silk cover and received with great ceremony.
Khazanchi: treasurer.
Khilat: dress of honour of a specific valur, usually consisting of a turban, shawl and pieces of cloth not made up, sometime also including arms, jewels and other valuables. Presented on great ceremonial occasions, such as at installations.
Kiladar: Castellan.
Kiritapati: Lord of the Heavans.
Kodaikkar: umbrella bearer, the umbrella being one of the most important symbols of royalty. In certain states and at the Mughal court, the function would be carried out by important nobles.
Kothal: a plumed and decorated, riderless horse, led before a dignitary in important processions.
Kotwal: head of the town or city police.
Kshatriya: hereditary Hindu military and ruling caste.
Kumar: son, youth. The male descendant of a ruler in the male line, common in western India.
Kulashekhara: ornamant of the family.
Kumari: female descendant of a ruler in the male line, common in western India.
Kunwar: male descendant of a ruler in the male line, common amongst Rajputs.
Kunverba: female descendant of a ruler in the male line, common in western India.
Kutcheri: government or municipal office.
Lakh: hundred thousand.
Lakshmi: goddess of fortune and wealth.
Lashkar: army.
Lashkar Narvis Bashi: Muster-Master General of the Army.
Lokendra: Chief of the World.
Maa-Bap: mother and father, often used in reference to one's ruler.
Mahabharata: the great Hindu epic retelling the battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
Mahal: apartments within a palace complex, usually associated with the ladies.
Maha: great.
Mahant: head of a religious order.
Mahamahopadhyaya: A title of honour conferred on Hindus for eminent services in the promotion of Oriental learning.
Maharaja: A term signifying 'Great King' in ancient times, but greatly debased by the beginning of the nineteenth century. Thereafter, the meaning signifies great prince; used for ruling princes, certain jagirdars, zamindars, nobles and lesser members of important ruling families.
Maharaja Bahadur: a title of honour, one degree higher than Maharaja.
Maharajadhiraja (or Maharajadhiraj): great prince over princes, a title of honour, one degree higher than Sawai Maharaja Bahadur.
Maharajadhiraja Bahadur (or Maharajadhiraj Bahadur): great prince over princes, a title of honour, one degree higher than Maharajadhiraja.
Maharaja-i-Rajgan: great prince amongst princes.
Maharaj Kumar (or Maharajkumar): son of a Maharaja.
Maharaj Kumari (or Maharajkumars): daughter of a Maharaja.
Maharani: the wife of a Maharaja.
Mahendra: Great Chief.
Maheshvara: Great Lord.
Mahi Maratib: insignia of the fish, an important symbol of Royalty.
Maleka (or Malika): Queen consort.
Malik: King.
Mandapan: a temporary pavilion or tent constructed within a palace for important ceremonials, including a marriage.
Manney Sultan: Honoured Monarch.
Mansabdar: holder of a military command over horse or foot, usually awarded together with estates or revenues for their upkeep.
Marumakkathayam: matriarchal law of inheritance followed by the Malayalam-speaking people of the west coast of southern India, such as, the states of Travancore and Cochin.
Mian: Master, title of the sons of certain Sikh and Rajput ruling families of the Punjab.
Mir: another short form for Amir, commonly used in Pakistan.
Mirza: when placed before the a personal name the meaning is "learned" or "scribe", when placed after the personal name the meaning is son of a prince, from the short-form for Amirzada, son of a prince.
Modi-khana: commissariat.
Morchal: a fan made of peacock feathers, an important insignia of royalty.
Musahib: minister.
Mushraf: Master of the Horse.
Musnaid: the divan shaped royal seat or throne of a Muslim ruler.
Nabob: a corruption of Nawab, but used in this form to refer to wealthy European merchants or retired officials who had made their fortune in India.
Naib: Deputy.
Namastar: salutation made with both hands pressed together.
Nawab: a Muslim title of Persian origin and bestowed or, held by important rulers and nobles.
Nawab Bahadur: a Muslim title of honour, one degree higher than Nawab.
Nawabzada: son of a Nawab.
Nawabzadi: daughter of a Nawab.
Nazar: offerings of coins or presents on ceremonial occasions as tokens of allegiance. The return gift of equal value after the receipt of a khilat.
Nikah: Muslim marriage contract.
Nizam: title adopted by Europeans when speaking of the ruler of Hyderabad, but not one generally used by his subjects, or by Indians. The latter would speak of him as the Nawab.
Paan: betel vine leaves chewed with lime, nuts, etc.
Paan-supari (or Attar-Paan): offering made to guests at the end of ceremonial functions.
Patisaha: Sanskritised form of Padshah.
Padmanabha Dasa: servant of Vishnu.
Padshah (or Badshah): Persian term meaning Emperor.
Padshah-i-Ghazi: Victorious Emperor.
Paigar: household troops of the Nizam of Hyderabad. A term also applied to the vast estates conferred on the family holding command of those troops. By 1947 they covered 4,134 square miles, 23 taluks, and 1273 towns and villages.
Pallava: an important dynasty ruling in southern India, south of Madras, during the seventh to tenth centuries.
Padnit Pradhan: Brahmin Chief Minister, one of the titles of the Peishwa.
Pandyan: an ancient Hindu dynasty that ruled Madurai during the twelfth to fourteenth centuries.
Pargana: administrative unit within a provinces or state, dating from the Mughal period.
Patel: village headman.
Pattabhishekam: Tamil name for the installation ceremony of a Hindu ruler in southern India, including anointing and tilak.
Pillayadan: gentleman-in-waiting.
Pir: Muslim saint or religious leader.
Poligar: term used for a warlord or commander of an armed militia, sometimes ruling as an independent chief, usually in southern India.
Praja: the people.
Prant: administrative sub-division in the Mahratta states.
Prasadam: gracious gift, an offering of food to a god or important dignitary, then received back and consumed in sacrament by the giver.
Pratapvant: Possessor of Prowess.
Prithvi Indra: Lord of the Earth.
Prithvi Pal: Potector of the Earth.
Puja: homage, usually the offering of flowers, camphor and fruit to a deity and accompanied by prayers.
Qawam: support.
Qilla: fort.
Rai: title of honour for certain rulers in Northern India.
Rai Bahadur: title of honour for Hindus, awarded with a decoration during British rule.
Rai Sahib: title of honour for Hindus, awarded with a decoration during British rule.
Raikat: ruler.
Raj: government, principality, kingdom. A term now used in the post Imperial age to refer to the period of British rule over India after the end of Company rule, never actually in use during those times.
Raja: ruler, 'one who rules' and 'one whose duty is to please'. A term signifying 'King' in ancient times, but greatly debased by the beginning of the seventeenth century. Thereafter, the meaning signifies no more than prince; used for ruling princes, certain jagirdars, zamindars, nobles and lesser members of important ruling families.
Rajadhara: Support of the State.
Rajaguru (or Rajguru): royal preceptor or spiritual adviser.
Raja Bahadur: a title of honour, one degree higher than Raja.
Rajadhiraja (or Rajadhiraj): prince over princes, a title of honour, one degree higher than Raja Bahadur.
Rajadhiraja Bahadur (or Rajadhiraj Bahadur): prince over princes, a title of honour, one degree higher than Rajadhiraja.
Raja-i-Rajgan: prince amongst princes.
Raj-chinnha: Royal insignia.
Raj-gharana: Royal family.
Raj Kumar (or Rajkumar): son of a Raja.
Raj Kumari (or Rajkumars): daughter of a Raja.
Rajmandal: Council of Rulers.
Rajmata: mother of a Raja.
Rajpramukh: first amongst the rulers, i.e. constitutional Head of a Union of princely states, supposedly 'for life', under the post independence constitutional arrangements 1947-1956.
Raj-puohit: court chaplain.
Rajput: king's son, a Hindu of the Kshatriya warrior caste, usually descended from 36 specific Royal clans who originated from a sacred fire on Mount Abu in Rajputana.
Raj Rajeshwar: prince of princes.
Raj-tilak: ceremonial anointing of a ruler at his installation, eqiuvalent to the anointing with oil at a coronation.
Rajvi Sardars: nobles who were close relatives of the ruler.
Ramayana: Hindu epic retelling the life of Rama, one of the incarnations of Vishnu.
Ramraj: ideal ruler.
Rana: title for certain rulers in Rajputana and Western India.
Rani: the wife of a Raja or Rana.
Rao: title of honour.
Rao Bahadur: title of honour for Hindus, awarded with a decoration during British rule.
Rao Raja: a title used largely in Rajput states, usually for the male descendants of rulers by wives of inferior caste or concubines.
Rao Sahib: title of honour for Hindus, awarded with a decoration during British rule.
Rawal (or Raol): title for certain rulers in Rajputana and Western India.
Raya: Telugu form of Raja.
Rayat: ruler.
Razu: Telugu term meaning warrior.
Risala: troop of cavalry.
Risaldar: commander of a troop of cavalry, also an official rank in the military forces of the HEIC and the Indian Army for junior commissioned officers.
Rupee: unit of currency.
Sabha: assembly.
Safa: turban worn by princes.
Sahib (or Sahib): master or lord, often added to a higher title in order to confer higher respect.
Sahibzada: son of a Sahib, a title commonly used by the male descendants of a ruler of a Muslim state.
Sahibzadi: daughter of a Sahib, a title commonly used by the daughters of a ruler of a Muslim state.
Samasthan: Ancient Hindu principality, usually used for zamindaris within British India that had once been independent principalities.
Sanad: a charter or grant made by sign manual, not unlike letters-patent.
Sar: head or chief.
Sarasvati: goddess of learning, education and the arts.
Sardar (or Sirdar): military commander, a term later used for junior rulers, important noblemen or jagirdars, particularly amongst the Mahrattas and in the Punjab.
Sardar-i-Riyasat: Constitutional Head of State (of Jammu and Kashmir).
Sardarni: the wife of a Sardar, used largely in the Punjab.
Sardeshmukh: Chief of the Mahratta nation:
Sardesmukhi: Levy of 10%, other than chauth, collected by the Mahrattas from the territories conquered by them.
Sarlashkar:
Sarpech: ornament worn in the turban.
Sarvadhikarai: Chief Minister.
Sati: the act of self-immolation performed by a widow of a Hindu, on his funeral pyre, during the cremation of his remains.
Sawai: one and a quarter. When added to a title, meaning 25% superior than ordinary holders of the same title.
Sawai Maharaja: a title of honour one degree higher than Maharaja Bahadur.
Sawai Maharaja Bahadur: a title of honour, one degree higher than Sawai Maharaja.
Sayyid (or Syed/Said): a male descendant of Prophet Muhammad, also used as given or surname by Muslims of the sub-continent.
Sayyida (or Syeda/Saida): a male descendant of Prophet Muhammad, also used as a given name by Muslims.
Scindia: an important dynasty of Mahratta commanders and rulers over the state of Gwalior.
Senapati: chief of the army, commander-in-chief.
Servaikar: service to a sacred person. A Tamil term used for members of noble families who provided their ruler with troops in time of war.
Setupati: Lord of Rama's bridge.
Shah: Persian term meaning Shah, used for the most important rulers who held sovereign power, e.g. the rulers of Afghanistan or Oudh. Conferred by the Emperor of Delhi in ancient times on more junior rulers and therefore frequently found as a surname, e.g. Tehri-Garhwal.
Shahzada: son of a Shah, translated as Prince.
Shahzadi: daughter of a Shah, translated as Princess.
Shams ul-Ulama: A title of honour conferred on Muslims for eminent services in the promotion of Oriental learning.
Sher: Punjabi rendering of Shah.
Sherwani: long coat.
Shikar: a hunt.
Shiromani: the gem, the best.
Shriman: Possessor of Lakshmi.
Shrinath: Lord of Lakshmi (Vishnu).
Sikka-katar: the cignet and dagger of office, the term frequently applied to the ceremony of investiture with the Royal insignia.
Sikh: Punjabi religious sect following the teachings of the reformer, Guru Nanak.
Singh (or Singh, Sinha, Singhji): lion, used as a common suffix to given names or as a surname, mainly by Sikhs and Rajputs.
Sipah Salar: Leader of Armies, commander-in-chief.
Sirkar (or Sarkar/Circark): Persian term used to describe "the government".
Srinath: Lord of Fortune.
Subah: district within a princely state.
Subadar (or Subedar): Imperial Mughal Governor of important or large provinces. Also a junior commissioned officer in the armies of the HEIC or the Indian Army.
Sultan: ruler, a title used by certain Muslim rulers in northern, central and western parts of India.
Sultanat (or Saltanat): realm.
Suratrana: Sanskritised form of Sultan.
Tahsil: revenue sub-division within a district:
Tahsildar: local revenue collector.
Tajmi Sardars: class of nobles belonging to the highest rank.
Taluk: dependency, used for both a type of estate, as well as, an administrative subdivision. Usually smaller than a zamindari.
Talukdar: landholder with particular rights and duties of tenure, involving revenue collection, particularly in northern and eastern India. A state official in Hyderabad.
Talukdari: holder of a Talukdar.
Talwar: scimitar.
Tawaif: courtesan dancer.
Tazim: ceremonial reception of a feudatory ruler or noble by his chief.
Tazimi Sardar: hereditary noble entitled to be received in Tazim by his chief. The latter usually standing to receive him.
Thakore: hereditary ruler of a small state, particularly in Western India or a nobleman.
Thakur: the usual rendition of Thakore in northern and central parts of India.
Thakurani: the wife of a Thakur.
Thikana: the estate of a Thakur.
Tikka: ceremonial anointing on the forehead with a coloured sandalwood paste.
Tikka Raja Sahib(or Tika Sahib): the title of an Heir Apparent in a Sikh or Punjab Hill state.
Tikka Rani Sahiba: the wife of a Tika Raja.
Tilak: the mark made on the forehead by tikka.
Tondaiman (or Tondiman): the ancient title for the rulers of Todaimandalam, a kingdom in southern India. Adopted as a dynastic surname by the rulers of Pudukkottai.
Toshakhana: treasury, the department within the Indian Foreign and Political Department where gifts received by British officials or their relatives from rulers or merchants had to be deposited.
Trichnopoly: an important city in Tamil Nadu, formerly the capital of the Nawabs of the Carnatic.
ud-Daula: of the state, suffix used as the part of the fourth highest title conferred by the Mughal and other important Muslim courts.
ul-Mamaluk: of kingdoms, plural of ul-Mulk, a suffix used as part of the third highest title conferred by the Mughal and other important Muslim courts.
ul-Mulk: of the kingdom, a suffix used as part of the third highest title conferred by the Mughal and other important Muslim courts.
ul-Ulema: of the wise, a suffix used as part of a title conferred on Muslim religious leaders.
ul-Umara: of the amirs, suffix used as part of the second highest title conferred by the Mughal and other important Muslim courts.
Umrao: corruption of Umara, used to describe hereditary nobles or Sardars, particularly in the Mahratta states.
Vakil (or Wakil): agent.
Vastram: robes of honour and rich pieces of clothing given to mark certain important events.
Vizier (or Vazir/Wazir): Minister.
Wakil-i-Mutlaq: Regent plenipotentiary, the highest official at the Mughal court during its dying days.
Wali (or Vali): Turkoman title used in Persia and Pakistan for Governor.
Wali-Ahad (or Valihad): the Heir Apparent of a Muslim state.
Wazirzada: son of a Wazir, used by the male descendants of the more important Ministers of the Afghan Durrani court.
Wazirzadi: daughter of a Wazir, used by the female descendants of the more important Ministers of the Afghan Durrani court.
Wodeyar: a dynasty of important rulers in Mysore and the south.
Yuvaraja (or Yuvaraj/Jubraj): young raja, the usual title of an Heir Apparent in a Hindu state.
Yuvarani: the wife of a Yuvaraja.
Zaman: age.
Zamin: land.
Zamindar: landholder, a term used for a semi-independent ruler of a large estate, one level below a ruling price. The zamindar usually held his rights to his lands directly from the paramount power, on a permanent basis and with a fixed assessment of the value of its revenue. He enjoyed the right to collect taxes, dispense justice at magisterial level, raise troops, police, etc. Most of the more important zamindars also held princely rank.
Zamindari: the estate of a zamindar.
Zenana: female or feminine, the term applied to the harem or female quarters within a household where no males save close relatives, only eunichs or boys under the age of twelve.

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Copyrightę Christopher Buyers, January 2001 - February 2007