calling a younger person "mama" or "papa" is very common in latin american communities, at least in new york.

prakrit māmi (whatever its connection to hindi māmā/māmī) is taught by hemacandra (8.2.195 māmi halā hale sakhyā vā) as a term of address for a female friend.

On Thu, May 23, 2013 at 7:12 PM, Richard Salomon <> wrote:
On the other hand, this usage is not exclusively South Asian. For instance, in Yiddish a little girl is referred to/addressed as "mamele" = "little mother." I would imagine there are (many?) other such cases from other languages/cultures.

Rich Salomon

On 5/23/2013 9:53 AM, Dipak Bhattacharya wrote:
Perhaps this is not pan-Southasian. In my school days a Sikh batchmate asked me why Bengali fathers called their daughters or girls of their daughter's age 'Ma!'
Calling a young woman 'Ma' is of course an honour as well as sign of responsibility of protection. This is characteristic of Bengali Muslims too. I have pleasant experience of that. Long ago travelling for a night in the Madras Mail I got an 'Instant ticket'. An 'Instant ticket' at that time assured entry without the guarantee of a berth. A Muslim gentleman watched us checking from berth to berth and at last assured my daughter on his own, 'For mother there will be no problem of a berth'. To me he said, 'Why! Your daughter is not my daughter?'
There is a famous story about Shvaji that a Muslim young woman was captured by his men and brought before him. Shivaji told her,
'If my mother were like you I would have been a handsome man.' That guaranteed protection.

From: Suresh Kolichala <>
To: Howard Resnick <>
Cc: Indology List <>
Sent: Thursday, 23 May 2013 7:28 PM
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] mAtAjI

This phenomenon is pan-South Asian. It is very common to address women as 'mother' 'maa/amma/aayi' and men as 'father' 'baapu, ayya, appa'. It is also common across linguistic families to address sons and daughters endearingly as 'mother' and 'father'.


On Thu, May 23, 2013 at 9:31 AM, Howard Resnick <> wrote:
Thank you, Matthew, for raising these key questions. Gaudiya [Bengali] Vaishnava communities, expanding around the world, typically follow and teach this "rule" of addressing women as 'mother.'  Are they merely propagating a Bengali Hindu custom? Or does it include Bengali Muslims? Is the custom, to any degree, pan-Hindu? pan-South Asian?
        Thanks to Jonathan and Somadeva for their information.


On May 23, 2013, at 4:33 AM, Matthew Kapstein <mkapstei@UCHICAGO.EDU> wrote:

> This thread included the comment that in Bengal men address even their daughters as Ma, and so far as I know this is indeed the case.
> Two questions:
> Is this so widespread outside of Bengal?
> Among Bengalis, is the use confined to Hindus or is it current among Muslims as well?
> Both of these questions, of course, are pertinent to the issue of whether or not this should be
> considered 'Hindu' usage?
> Matthew Kapstein
> Directeur d'études,
> Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
> Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
> The University of Chicago
> _______________________________________________
> INDOLOGY mailing list

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Richard Salomon
Department of Asian Languages and Literature
University of Washington, Box 353521
Seattle WA 98195-3521

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