President Droupadi Murmu, Santhali name Puti
President Droupadi Murmu in a file photo

How a Santhali named Puti became Droupadi Murmu

India’s first tribal President had revealed in an interview that she was given her name Droupadi, based on the prominent character in the epic Mahabharata, by her school teacher.

In an interview with an Odia video magazine some time ago, she had opened up to confess that her Santhali name Puti was changed to Droupadi because her teacher did not like her name.

“Droupadi was not my original name. It was given by my teacher who hailed from another district, not from my native Mayurbhanj,” Murmu told the magazine. Teachers in the tribal-dominated Mayurbanj district used to travel from either Balasore or Cuttack in the 1960s, she claimed.

Her name was changed for good by her teacher, President Murmu had told the magazine, when asked why she is called Droupadi, a name similar to the Mahabharata character.  However, her name was changed several times, she was called Durpadi, Dorpdi and then eventually, the name Droupadi stuck. She stated that names do not die in Santhali culture.

“If a girl is born, she takes the name of her grandmother, while a son carries his grandfather’s nomenclature,” she said. President Droupadi, used the surname Tudu in schools and colleges, and started using Murmu after she married Shyam Charan Tudu, a bank officer.

Murmu on Monday (July 25) took oath as the 15th President of India. Chief Justice of India N V Ramana administered her oath at a ceremony held at Parliament’s Central Hall.

Also read: ‘I represent the deprived’: President Droupadi Murmu after taking oath

Women’s reservation in politics a must

Much before getting elected to the country’s highest Constitutional post, Murmu had made her views clear on the reservation for women in politics. “There must be reservation for women in politics dominated by men. The political parties can change this situation as they choose candidates and distribute tickets to contest elections,” she told the magazine.

Murmu, however, said women should focus on qualitative politics and raise their voices for empowerment in Parliament or state assemblies. “The women must strengthen their qualitative acumen by highlighting people’s problems at the right forums,” she had said.

Coping with a terrible personal tragedy

In another interview with Brahmakumari Godlywood Studio on February 18, 2020, Murmu narrated her ordeal after the death of her 25-year-old eldest son Laxman. “I was completely shattered and broken following the death of my son. I was depressed for about two months. I stopped meeting people and remained confined at home. Later, I joined Ishwariya Prajapati Brahmakumari, underwent yoga and meditation,” she confessed.

Also read: President Murmu should take a page from Narayanan’s book, not Kovind’s

The 15th President of India lost her younger son Sipun too in a road accident in 2013 and subsequently, her brother and mother too passed away. Known to keep a low-profile, the soft-spoken President has overcome several personal tragedies in her life. In a span of six years, between 2009-2015, she lost her husband, two sons, mother and brother.

“I have encountered tsunami in my life and seen three deaths of my family members in a span of six months,” Murmu said, adding that her husband Shyam Charan also fell ill and died in 2014. “There was a time when I thought I might die anytime,” President Murmu said, adding that sorrow and happiness have their own space in life.

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