Introduction: the present scenario
Recently, the invites sent by President Draupadi Murmu for dinner on the sidelines of G20 addressed her as the “ President of Bharat”. This has led to speculations that the government is about to rename India as “Bharat”. Even the podium of the Prime Minister during the summit had the nameplate of Bharat. Conventionally, the practice had been to mention India when the text is in English and Bharat when it is in Hindi.
After the making of the constitution, a long 75 years of Independence, the question of What and Why the name of the country came up.
A surprise five-day special parliamentary session has been called by the government from 18th September to 22 September, in which, it is speculated that the government is likely to bring a resolution to rename India as ‘Bharat’.The stated reasons for this move by the party members and ministers is that the name India is tied to colonialism and slavery. Earlier, a petition seeking to name India as Bharat only was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2020. A similar petition was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2016 too.
Renaming places: a Hindu- nationalist ideology?
The nationalist policy followed by PM Narendra Modi’s government has led to the changing of names of several towns and cities. The ruling party has renamed several cities and landmarks that were linked to the country’s history of Mughal or colonial rule. Last year, the Mughal Garden at the Rashtrapati Bhavan was renamed the Amrit Udyan. These moves have been critiqued as an attempt to erase the legacy of the Mughals, the Muslim rulers of the subcontinent.
From Allahabad being renamed as Prayagraj to Delhi’s Rajpath being now called Kartavya Path, the list of places renamed continues and also involves places like Mughal Serai junction which was renamed as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Railway Station and Faizabad district being changed to Ayodhya.
Changing the name of a country; a global perspective
The phenomenon of renaming a country is not unprecedented. Earlier, Ceylon was renamed Sri Lanka in 1972, Rhodesia changed its name to Zimbabwe in 1980 and Burma was rebranded as Myanmar in 1989. The most recent phenomenon was that of Turkey renaming itself as Turkiye last year.
History of both the names
While some people argue that the name ‘India’ was given by British colonizers, historians claim that the name predates colonial rule. India comes from the word Indica, which is itself derived from the river Indus, or Sindhu, as the river is called in Sanskrit. Travelers from faraway regions, such as Greece, identified the region southeast of the Indus River as India even before Alexander’s campaign in the 3rd century BC. It is argued that it was a name with foreign roots and became prevalent by foreign invaders and traders.
The name Bharat is even older, appearing in ancient scriptures. It refers to the “BHARAT” as the motherland of Bharata’s people (Bharatam Janam) and to the sons of Bharat (Bharataputra). The idea of ‘Bharatavarsha’ as a geographical entity can be traced back to Puranic literature and to the epic Mahabharata(which must have been compiled in the 3rd century BC and 4th century AD).
However, experts say that it was a term used in socio-cultural identity rather than geography. In the scriptures, the term Bharatavarsa referred to territory that stretched beyond the country’s present borders.
Recognizing the Constitution
The constitution of India explicitly recognizes the names, BHARAT and INDIA alternatively with equal value under the very first Article of the constitution for the naming of the country.
Interestingly, the preamble to the English version of the country’s constitution starts with the words- “We, the people of India…,”. Part One of the document states- “ India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”. However, in the Hindi version of the document, it is the Bharat name that is mentioned everywhere, except the part where the country’s name is defined- ‘Bharat, that is India, shall be a Union of States”.
Another popular name for the country is Hindustan, which means “land of the Indus”. This word is of Persian origin and is not legally recognized.
Constitutional Assembly debates on the name
There was a section of people in the Constituent Assembly, which included leaders like Seth Govind Das and Hari Vishnu Kamath who preferred the Bharat name over India and underlined that India could only be a substitute for Bharat in the English language.
“People of northern India only wanted ‘Bharatvarsha’ and nothing else”, was stated by Harigovind Pant. Das also argued with references to significant Hindu ancient texts such as Vishnu Purans.
However, there was another section withstanding their support for the establishment of an independent nation with the name “India” only. The leaders gave their arguments in the manner that we have lost our identity and if we do not continue with the same name we will not be recognized worldwide.
The complexity and diversity of India are reflected in the concepts of “India” and “Bharat“. “India” represents the modern political and international identity, influenced by foreign rule and the mistreatment and slavery of many generations of citizens. “Bharat” reflects the deep-rooted cultural and historical heritage that holds significance to the people and the motherland. Together, they embody the essence of a country that has evolved through millennia, embracing its rich past while moving towards a promising future.
This duality makes India a unique and remarkable nation on the global stage. Unfortunately, the past still affects us today and is an integral part of our history. Names of places are just as important as our names, as they represent our identity and ownership. Therefore, the issue of having two names is debatable but requires compromise and understanding.
The prominence of the value of the Bharat on our land is important today, to have a stake as a powerful nation with a strong identity in the world. The matter of fact in the current scenario is that the Independent India (Bharat) already has its name, but it needs to be recognized by every citizen and the world.
-LAVANYA AND MALYA