I think it's more likely that Gautama was not so famous at all during his early asceticism. However, it was fairly early on that Sariputra and Maudgalyana became his disciples. One may wish to check out the location where the latter two came from, however, because it may be some distance from the Sakyan area.
"Sariputra" is not his "Dharma name" at all. In fact, there was no such thing at the time. "Sari" + "putra" is simply "Sari's son", which is actually a kind of nick name and very personal, stemming from before his conversion, I'd say. (His mother, Sari, is herself named after a kind of bird.) Cf. Purna Maitrayaniputra, etc., though IIRC, "Maitrayani" is a clan name, not a personal name.
Another interesting element of his conversion and later realization is the story of his cousin / uncle (depending on what source you read), the sramana Dirghanakha ("Long nails"), who himself later became a disciple of the Blessed One.
Thank you! I wasn't sure if remember the name thing right. Now it turns out that also the name Upatisya is a name deriving from his native village. It is thus similar to tibetan names like Tsongkhapa, Gampopa, etc... that derive from there birth places. I think there is something in the Tipitaka about the name giving. Buddha talks about aryan birth
, when one becomes tranformed, through stream entry or through ordination, this is mentioned in the story of Angulimala.
It is true that often the new names do not stick. But there is a good reason for it that Angulimala got a new name !
That the Dharma names have not been preserved means a lot, it tells about the power of the outside society.
It says in the Uposatha sutta ( Ud 5.5.), verse 4: "...those of the four castes -nobles, brahmans, merchants, and workers- having gone forth from home to the homeless state in the Dhamma and Discipline made known by the Tathagata, abandon their former names and identities and are called just as 'recluses, the followers of the Sakyan son.'"
There is somewhere a sutta in the Tipitaka where Buddha recalls his years of extreme ascetism and says that his fame spread far and wide, just like there was a great bell hung in the vault of the sky and it was sounded!