The fictional protagonist of the novel, Siddhartha, though he bears the same name, is not the historical religious leader later known as Gautama Buddha, the founder of the Eastern religion Buddhism. Hesse’s novel is set in the sixth century BC, in the time of the Buddha, who is referred to as Gotama in the book.

Siddhartha is derived from two Sanskrit words siddha (achieved, accomplished) and artha (meaning or wealth), together meaning “one who has found meaning (of life)” or “one who has attained wealth (of knowledge).”