Pal is a common surname found in India and Bangladesh. It is traditionally believed that 'Pal' originated from Sanskrit 'Pala' meaning protector or keeper. It is also occasionally found in other countries.
Pal or Paul surname is found in Bengal among Bengali Kayasthas. Historian Tej Ram Sharma mentions that the surname is "now confined to Kayasthas of Bengal" while referring to the names of Brahmins ending in such Kayastha surnames in the early inscriptions dating back to the Gupta period.
The Ahirs in Central India use Pal as surname.
In Punjab and other states, Pal is often used as a middle name followed by Singh.
In Bengal, during the reign of the Gupta Empire beginning in the 4th century AD, when systematic and large-scale colonization by Aryan Kayasthas and Brahmins first took place, Kayasthas were brought over by the Guptas to help manage the affairs of state. During this period, the Kayasthas had not developed into a distinct caste, although the office of the Kayasthas (scribes) had been instituted before the beginning of the period, as evidenced from the contemporary smritis. Tej Ram Sharma, an Indian historian, says that
The names of brahmanas occurring in our inscriptions sometimes end in a non-brahmanic cognomen such as Bhatta, Datta and Kunda, etc., which are available in the inscriptions of Bengal. Surnames like Datta, Dama, Palita, Pala, Kunda (Kundu), Dasa, Naga and Nandin are now confined to Kayasthas of Bengal but not to brahmanas. Noticing brahmanic names with a large number of modern Bengali Kayastha cognomens in several early epigraphs discovered in Bengal, some scholars have suggested that there is a considerable brahmana element in the present day Kayastha community of Bengal. Originally the professions of Kayastha (scribe) and Vaidya (physician) were not restricted and could be followed by people of different varnas including the brahmanas. So there is every probability that a number of brahmana families were mixed up with members of other varnas in forming the present Kayastha and Vaidya communities of Bengal.
Andre Wink states
Abu al-Fazl, describes these kings (the Pal Kings) as Kayastha. Bengal, in effect, became the land of the Kayasthas, having been ruled by the Kayasthas for about 2000 years. Sanskrit sources such as Rajtarangini however do not yet regard Kayastha as a caste in any sense but as a category of "officials" or "scribes". Between the fifth or sixth centuries (when we first hear of them) and the eleventh-twelfth centuries, its component elements were putative Kshatriyas and, for the larger majority Brahmins, who either retained their caste identity or became Buddhists while laying down the sacred thread. The Kayasthas obtained aspect of a caste perhaps under the Senas.
Accordind to Radhey Shyam Chourasia, an Indian historian, the Palas do not trace their origin to any ancient hero. The dynasty is so called because the names of all kings had the termination - Pala. The family has no illustrious ancestry.
The opinion of Guptajit Pathak, another historian, is that the Palas of Kamarupa, who had the same surname as the Palas of Bengal and Bihar (Gaura and Magadha), "were perhaps of non-Aryan origin".
Several kings of Pala dynasty were Buddhists.
According to the Khalimpur Plate of Dharmapala, Gopala I, the founder of the dynasty, "was the son of a warrior Vapyata and the grandson of a highly educated Dayitavishnu". Unlike other contemporary dynasties, the Palas "do not claim descent from any mythological figure or epic hero". The Kamauly Copper Plate inscription suggests that Palas call themselves Kshatriyas belonging to Solar dynasty. "According to Manjusree Mulakalpa, Gopala I was a sudra and according to Abul Fazl, the Palas were Kayasthas." In Ramacharita, the Pala King Rampala is called Kshatriya but later in the same book Dharmapala is described as Samudrakula-dipa. Bagchi suggests that "the non-mention of caste may be a reason that the Palas were Buddhists and they were not supposed to mention their caste like the Brahmanical ruling dynasties", though they performed the duties and functions of Kshatriyas for about four centuries.
- Bipin Chandra Pal (1858–1932), Indian Freedom Fighter, journalist, writer
- Kristo Das Pal (1839–1884), politician, journalist, orator and the editor of Hindoo Patriot
- Rupchand Pal (born 1936), politician
- Debi Prasad Pal (born 1927), Indian lawyer, judge and cabinet minister
- Ruma Pal (born 1941), Indian Supreme Court judge
- Radhabinod Pal (1886–1967), judge
- Anadish Pal (born 1963), inventor and poet
- Sankar K. Pal, scientist and researcher, Director of the ISI-Calcutta
- Sourav Pal, scientist and researcher, Director of National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, Pioneering figure of Quantum Chemistry in India.
- Aleksandr Pal (born 1988), Russian actor
- Arpita Pal, Bengali actress
- Colin Pal (1923–2005), actor and director (grandson of Bipin Chandra Pal)
- Jai Paul, British musician
- Niranjan Pal (1889–1959), screenwriter and director (son of Bipin Chandra Pal)
- Sunil Pal, Bengali actor and comedian
- Bachendri Pal, first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest
- Gostha Pal (1896–1976), football player
- Josef Pal, American soccer player
- Rajinder Pal, cricketer
- Subrata Pal, football player
- Tamara Pál (born 2000), Hungarian handballer
- Sharma, Tej Ram (1978). Personal and Geographical Names in the Gupta Empire. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. p. 56.
- Sharma, Tej Ram (1978). Personal and Geographical Names in the Gupta Empire. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. p. 115.
- Inden, Ronald B. (1976). Marriage and Rank in Bengali Culture: A History of Caste and Clan in Middle Period Bengal. University of California Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-520-02569-1.
- Alexander Nemerov (2001). The Body of Raphaelle Peale: Still Life and Selfhood, 1812-1824. University of California Press. pp. 206, 259. ISBN 9780520224988.
- Amal Datta (2003). Human Migration: A Social Phenomenon. Mittal Publications. p. 143. ISBN 9788170998334.
- Marvin Davis (1983). Rank and Rivalry: The Politics of Inequality in Rural West Bengal. CUP Archive. p. 65. ISBN 9780521288804.
- People of India: Maharashtra, Part 3. Popular Prakashan. 2004. pp. 1662–1667. ISBN 9788179911020.
- Trudy Ring; Robert M. Salkin; Sharon La Boda (1994). International Dictionary of Historic Places: Asia and Oceania. Taylor & Francis. p. 312. ISBN 9781884964046.
- André Wink (2002). Al-Hind, the Making of the Indo-Islamic World: Early Medieval India and the Expansion of Islam 7Th-11th Centuries. BRILL. p. 293. ISBN 9780391041738.
- Swami Bangovinda Parampanthi (1987). Bhagawan Parashuram and Evolution of Culture in North-East India. Daya Publishing House, Original from the University of Michigan. p. 109. ISBN 9788170350330.
- Ajay S. Rawat (2002). Garhwal Himalayas: A Study in Historical Perspective. Indus Publishing. pp. 278, 275. ISBN 9788173871368.
- B. P. Kamboj (2003). Early Wall Painting of Garhwal. Indus Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 9788173871399.
- Adhikary, Surya Mani (1997). The Khasa Kingdom: A trans-Himalayan empire of the middle age. Nirala Publications. ISBN 8185693501.
- Punjab (India). Public Relations Dept (1956). Kulu, the Happy Valley, Volume 25. Director, Public Relations, Original from Pennsylvania State University. p. 2.
- U. A. B. Razia Akter Banu (1992). Islam in Bangladesh. Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 5–6. ISBN 978-90-04-09497-0. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- André Wink (1991). Al- Hind: The slave kings and the Islamic conquest. 2, Volume 1. BRILL. p. 269. ISBN 9789004095090.
- Radhey Shyam Chaurasia (2002). History of Ancient India. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 199. ISBN 9788126900275.
- Guptajit Pathak (2008). Assam's history and its graphics. Mittal Publications. p. 62. ISBN 9788183242516.
- Promsak Jermsawatdi (1979). Thai Art with Indian Influences. Abhinav Publications. p. 55. ISBN 9788170170907.
- Jhunu Bagchi (1993). The History and Culture of the Pālas of Bengal and Bihar, Cir. 750 A.D.-cir. 1200 A.D. Abhinav Publications. p. 37. ISBN 9788170173014.