Should India be renamed as Bharat? The very first article of the constitution says “India i.e. Bharat shall be a union of states and union territories.” India still is called Bharat in many native languages amongst the citizens who are living here. There were many other names associated with this country from times immemorial which has an untold history associated with these names. Ever since the nation is named India there was huge dissension from the people living here. Some scholars say that British act of renaming our nation as India from Bharat is “a clear sign of dominance” whereas some say that India is just an English name since many people cannot pronounce Bharat in the foreign countries and for many people in this nation it’s still the Bharat.
Origin of the term Bharat
There are multitudinous stories associated with this term. However, the most believed ones are according to Mahabharata – The popular story states that India was named Bharatvarsha after the king named Bharata Chakravarti. There was a prominent king named Bharata who was responsible for the formation of the Bharata dynasty and an ancestor of the Pandavas and Kauravas. His father was King Dushyanta who had ruled Hastinapur for several years and Queen Sakuntala. Bharata was a ferocious ruler and conquerer. He had conquered and acquired all parts of India and had merged into a single nation which was named after him as “Bharatvarsha”.
It was expressly written in the Vishnu Purana:
Uttaraṃ yatsamudrasya himādreścaiva dakṣiṇam
varṣaṃ tadbhārataṃ nāma bhāratī yatra santatiḥ
This shloka explains that “The region or the country that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bharatam.
The oldest Veda i.e. Rig Veda Samhita has given the origin of the word Bharat. The term has Sanskrit root bhr which means “to be maintained” (of fire). The other meaning for this word is “the one who is in search of knowledge”.
Origin of the term India
The origin of the word India comes from the river Sindhu, when the people from West Asia came to our nation they had to cross the river Sindhu and they referred to people who lived here by the name of this river. The word Sindhu was turned into Hindu in their language. When it passed on to Greece it turned into Indos and when it reached Romans it became Indus. Hence according to the Roman, the river is Indus and the land around the Indus river was turned as INDIA which means the land of Hindu according to them. Literally Sindhu means any large body of water in Sanskrit which technically makes India the land of water which doesn’t have any sense.
Various names of India
Vedic literature has also mentioned various names in association with India. In his text Manusmriti, Manu had referred to the land that was inhibited by the Indo-Aryans between the Himalayas in the north and the Vindhya mountain ranges in the south as ‘Aryavarta’. In several Vedic texts, this nation was also referred to as ‘Jambudvipa’ or ‘land of the Jamun trees’. Even today it is used in a few Southeast Asian countries to describe India.
According to their texts and literature; Jains believe that India was once called ‘Nabhivarsa’after the King named ‘Nabhi’. King Nabhi was the father of 1st teerthankara i.e. Rishabhanatha and also the grandfather of the great emperor Bharata.
Meluha was the most ancient name in association with this land. Indus Valley Civilization which is one of the oldest civilizations in the world was referred to as Meluha according to the ancient Mesopotamian texts.
British naming India
Bharat was the name associated within this land till the arrival of the British. Later on, they’ve turned it into India. Many great scholars explain it as the technology of dominance since it creates a sense of inferiority amongst the people. A human being is from their culture and history. The changing of the name which doesn’t instill any pride and which neither has any cultural background nor history associated with it is a clear sign of dominance.
There were heated arguments and debates on November 18, 1949, when Article 1 of the Indian Constitution was introduced by the BR. Ambedkar who was the chairman of the Drafting Committee. A member of Constitutional assembly from the Central Province H.V. Kamath had strongly opposed the language of Article 1(1) that says, “India that is Bharat.” Seth Govind Das opposed the words “India, that is, Bharat” and suggested to use “Bharat known as India also in foreign countries” instead. Mahatma Gandhi gave the slogan” Bharat Mata Ki Jai” which stresses the impact of the word Bharat on us. Later the then President Rajendra Prasad had put all the amendments to vote where in Article 1 remained intact as “India, that is Bharat”.
Later in 2005, a person named V. Sundaram who was a retired member of IAS as well as a freelance journalist had published an article calling on to take off the name ‘India’ by replacing ‘Bharat’ in that place. Shantaram Naik who was a member of the Indian National Congress had proposed a bill in the Rajya Sabha in the year 2012 by telling “India” gives a territorial feeling, whereas “Bharat” isn’t about the mere territories as India.
A Private Member’s Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in the year 2014 by Yogi Adithyanath. He had sought a substitution to the word “India” mentioned in the Constitution with “Hindustan” depicting “Bharat” as the primary name of the country. The bill proposed by him was to amend the language of Article 1 as, “Bharat, that is Hindustan, shall be a Union of States.” A PIL was filed by a Delhi based businessman to rename India as Bharat which was refused by the Supreme Court to entertain a petition but allowed it to be treated as representation before the concerned Union ministries.
Article 1 (The Constitution of India, 1949)
Name and territory of the Union
(1) India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States
(2) The States and the territories thereof shall be as specified in the First Schedule
(3) The territory of India shall comprise
Namah V. Union of India:
A Delhi based businessman named Namah Yadav filed a PIL in the Supreme Court of India in January. It went to hearing in the Supreme Court on June 2nd, 2020. The main contention of the petition was to change the name India and substitute it with the name Bharat in Article 1 of the Indian Constitution. Counsel for the petitioner, Advocate Aswin Vaish, argued that the name ‘India’ was derived from the Greek word “Indica”, and said that the change in name was sought to the exclusion of “India”. The Supreme Court refused to entertain a petition filed for changing the name of India to Bharat while allowing it to be treated as representation before the concerned Union ministries. We are yet to see whether the government will change the name or not.
Arguments in favour of the amendment
- In a nation especially like us, the name of a person or any river or a place has a lot of history associated with it and the name itself is a pride for us. The famous quote was given by Shakespeare “what’s in a name” isn’t really applicable to Indians. The British had changed the name Hindustan and started calling Bharat as India and that depicts the clear domination of theirs.
- Numerous people argue that this is a sign of slavery for our nation.
- The countries such as Sri Lanka(Ceylon), Myanmar(Burma), Ghana(Gold coast), Mali( French Sudan), Mexico( New Spain), Philippines( Spanish East Indies) which were named by the colonial rulers have renamed their names after Independence.
- Great leaders and politicians of our nation kept on opposing the idea of naming India from inception.
- Even in our National anthem, we included the sentence “Bharat Bhagya Widhata” and the slogan “Bharat Mata ki Jai” was given by Mahatma Gandhi, the highest civilian honour given in our country is “Bharat Ratna”.
- Many names of the places within our nation such as Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata(Calcutta), Chennai(Madras), Mysuru(Mysore), Bangluru (Bangalore), Allahabad(Prayagraj)which were named by the British have got amended.
- Every time when we have to praise our country we say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” or “Jai Hind” but not “India Mata ki Jai”.
- The hard-fought freedom by our ancestors will be justified if the word INDIA will be replaced with BHARAT.
ARGUMENTS OPPOSING THE AMENDMENT
- The Supreme Court had declared that “India is already called Bharat in Constitution”.
- ‘Bharat’ was thought to be too Hindu by the drafters of the Constitution that they introduced ‘India’ as a guarantee to the minorities that they would not be Hinduized.
- Veerappa Moily who was the law minister previously had exclaimed that the renaming idea only has nuisance value.
- Many foreigners cannot pronounce Bharat correctly and may change the name into totally different ones.
The name of anything isn’t a small thing for us (Indians). That’s the reason why people add their surnames to their original names. The name gives them a feeling of pride which depicts their origin, history, and roots of a person. India (Ind means Hindu and it means land) is a name from Greek origin and in Sanskrit, India means a body of water which is extraneous. Hardly 10% of Indians understand and can converse in English and how can a nation be named in English? The British had changed the name into India from Bharat to impose their supremacy over us.
Renaming India as Hindustan might be a little controversial thing again as various people understand it as the land of Hindus which is a religion and thus bring a lot of chaos in the society. If we get into the depth of history ‘Pakistan can now be called Hindustan because the Indus river is there. It was because Sind has become Hind: as (‘sa)’ in Sanskrit is pronounced as (Ha) in Prakrit’. Bharat has a lot of history and culture behind it and it doesn’t give rise to any communal clashes. From Indus Valley Civilization to the Post Independence period we had a lot of names starting from Meluha to India. But the name Bharat is very close to heart for all the citizens living here as it has a lot of history and prominence amongst the people. Hence, Bharat should be the 1st preference of the constitution as rightly said by Seth Govind Das, “India, that is, Bharat” are not beautiful words for the name of a country. We should have put the words “Bharat known as India also in foreign countries”. This will satisfy a large section of people living in India and will instill a sense of pride in our own nationality.
Prathyusha Singamsetty | Reva University