Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Caste Surnames Among Malaysia FB Users

The previous post on Dravidian Politics & Surnames have raised many questions regarding the surnames of the Tamils or Indians in general. This time the focus is on Indians who live in Malaysia.

"Do they use caste surnames?"

The answer is Yes and No.

Many Indians may not have their caste surname on official records such as birth certs. But the use of caste surnames is quite popular in business cards, wedding invitation and lately social media such as Facebook.

I decided to do a small study on the popularity of caste surnames among Malaysian residents who use Facebook. 

Lately, Facebook introduced a new tool called the Graph Search. It gives better search results than the classic interface.



The Graph Search allows us to be more specific in our search. We can filter it according to what we want to look for.

My search was limited to certain surnames used by the South Indian castes in Malaysia.




The North Indians use surnames too. The surnames usually reflects their family and the caste they belong too.  Bose is used by the Kayasthas, Nanua is used by the Sainis and Gill is used by the Jats.

I decided not to include theirs in my recent research. Names like Gill, Jassal, Nanua, Rendhawa were not included. The North Indians particularly the Punjabis of Sikh faith, usually end their names with Singh for males and Kaur for females. 

But lately, there is a trend in Malaysia to drop Singh and Kaur by replacing it with their family names. Some still use Singh and Kaur along their family names. For example, Gobind Singh Deo.

Prominent Malaysian politician and parliamentarian Gobind Singh Deo.
Gobind is his given name, Singh reflects his Sikh faith and Deo is his family name. The Deo family name is used by Punjabi people of the Jat caste.


There are few things which I would like you to consider when reading this.

1. Anyone can use any surname in Facebook. A person who calls himself Prabhu Nair may not necessarily be a real Nair. Facebook does not have any mechanism to control the use of surnames. You can even call yourself Ramesh McManaman despite not being a real McManaman.

2. Due to the first point, we cannot assume the statistics as the true population of that surname in Malaysia.

3. However, the statistics is a reflection of the popularity of the surname in Facebook.

4. Don't bother reading if you want to get emotional over this study by citing caste. I have no time to entertain that.


The picture above is the statistics which I manage to produce. I only searched for 26 surnames spelled differently. The result was quite surprising as there are almost 15,000 Facebook profile in Malaysia with these caste surnames. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg as I mentioned earlier that many surnames were not included in this study.

I have given the ethnic category of surnames. The ones in purple are shared by more than 1 ethnic. Pillai is used by both Tamils and Malayalees. Yadava is used by certain North Indians and Tamils.

Ethnic distribution of surnames

My statistics shows that 41.6% of the users use Malayalee surnames, followed by Telugus at 39.4%. The Tamil surnames are just 4.9% of the group.

We can probably conclude that the use of surnames is much more popular among Indians of non-Tamil origin. 

We can also conclude that the Malayalee surnames are much more popular than others.

However, we will not be able to figure out the actual number of both genuine and fake profiles. 

The Social Science students especially those from University Malaya's Department of Indian Studies can look into this matter with some interest and do a much more detailed study.



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