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Desai is an administrative title and surname  derived from the Sanskrit words deśa 'land' and svamin 'lord.' 'Desai' is a surname attributed to Hindus who were feudal lords and revenue collectors. People with the Desai surname are usually of the Anavil Brahmin or Vaishnav Vanik sub-caste. They could also belong to the Nagar Brahmin sub-caste; and some Patels and Reddys also have the surname 'Desai'.
Some people were sometimes honored with the title 'Desai' when serving as revenue collectors during the Mughal Empire in the Western Indian regions of Gujarat & also in some regions of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Konkan, Karnataka and Goa. In the Konkan region, the titular Desai surname is attached to another family name or the name of the village, e.g. Sawant Desai (primarily of Sawantwadi), Rane Sardesai, Raut Desai, Gawas Desai, Naik Desai. In the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh, the titular 'Desai' surname is used even today by the descendants of the ministers of the Palegar (Rajas) and they belong to the Nandavarika Niyogi Brahmin sub-caste.
Notable People with the surname Desai:
- Morarji Desai - fourth Prime Minister of India from 1977–79
- Vaishali Desai- actress and model
- C. D. Desai - Chunnilal Devkaran Nanjee: "Desai" - Banker and Philatelist
- Anita Desai - Author, thrice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, mother of author Kiran Desai
- Kiran Desai - Author, awarded the Man Booker Prize, 2006
- Krishna Desai, (d. 1970) CPI politician
- Mahadev Desai - The secretary and assistant of Mahatma Gandhi.
- Manmohan Desai - Director
- Padma Desai (born 1932), economist
- Meghnad Desai, Baron Desai - Economist and life peer of the British Labour Party
- Dr. Umedram Lalbhai Desai - Physician/Surgeon (1869–1930)
- Leela Desai - Actress/Producer
- Prachi Desai- Actress
- Bindu Desai - Actress
- Anoop Desai - American singer, contestant on American Idol Season 8
- Renu Desai - Telugu Actress
- Ebrahim Desai - Islamic scholar
- Gopaldas Ambaidas Desai - politician and former Prince of Dhasa.
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