The sudden shift by the BJP to call India “Bharat” is raising a lot of eyebrows in India as to whether it is an election gimmick or due to the Opposition’s I.N.D.I.A.
The main dispute arose when an invitation for a G20 dinner addressed the President of India as the “President of Bharat” instead of the customary “President of India.” This move has sparked a debate within the political landscape. On another thought, changing the name of a country like India of over one billion people will not be as easy as changing the name of Burma to Myanmar with its 55 million people! We can call it a Muhammad Bin Tughlaq movement!
The BJP always called India by its name, “India”, so why this change?
In fact, a video is running around the Internet where the Prime Minister is asking the people to vote for India signifying there was never a question of changing the name to Bharat. If the BJP seriously found anything wrong with “India”, the Prime Minister would not have enthusiastically prodded the public to “vote for India.” This sharp change just before the elections appears to be a concoction of political stunts for dreamy-eyed voters.
Check out this video from 2013 where Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps chanting, “Vote for India.” He never said, “Vote for Bharat.”
However, now, a comparison is being drawn between Modi and Jinnah as both were against the name “India.’
The controversy surrounding the name ‘India’ was sparked when the Opposition faction united under the banner of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A). This marked the first instance when Prime Minister Narendra Modi drew a comparison with entities such as the East India Company, Indian Mujahideen, and the Popular Front of India (PFI), all of which incorporate ‘India’ in their names.
PM Modi pointed out, “The East India Company, PFI, and the Indian Mujahideen also employ ‘India’ in their names. People can see the similarities.”
Former Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad echoed the sentiment, stating, “PM Modi has emphasized that both the Indian National Congress and the East India Company were founded by foreign nationals. Today, we see groups adopting names like the Indian Mujahideen and the Indian People’s Front.”
Here’s The Truth
India was never named by the British
India is first mentioned in the Jewish Torah in the Book of Esther 1:1 and 8:9 as the eastern boundary of the Persian Empire under Ahasuerus (c. fifth century B.C.) and in 1 Maccabees 6:37 in a reference to the Indian mahouts of Antiochus’s war elephants (second century B.C.). This is the main explicit reference to India in the Old Testament of the Jewish Torah.
In c. 1328, Friar Jordanus Catalani called our nation India.
In 1404, Minor Ruy González de Clavijo called our nation India.
In the 16th century, Ignazio Danti called India Indostān.
In 982-983 Author Unknown Hudud al-‘Alam, called India Hindistān.
The British never named our nation “India.” The term ‘India’ has its origins in the word ‘Indus,’ referred to as ‘Sindhu’ in Sanskrit. The Greeks and Iranians used ‘Hindos’ or ‘Indos’ to describe the land east of the Indus River. The name ‘Bharat’ was initially used by inhabitants of the North-West region and eventually came to represent the entire country.
As mentioned earlier, “Bharat,” pronounced approximately as “buh-ruht,” is an ancient Sanskrit word that also signifies India in Hindi. This term is derived from the ancient Sanskrit name for the Indian subcontinent, known as “Bharata Varsha” or “Bharata Khanda,” which finds mention in ancient Indian texts like the Mahabharata and the Puranas.
In the Indian Constitution, the Republic of India boasts two primary short names, each with significant historical roots: India and Bhārat. Additionally, “Hindūstān” occasionally serves as an alternative term for the region encompassing the majority of modern Indian states within the Indian Subcontinent, particularly in informal Indian conversations. The choice between “Bhārat,” “Hindūstān,” or “India” depends on the specific context and language of the discussion at hand.
Supporters of the name alteration contend that ‘India’ was a label imposed during the colonial era by the British, which they perceive as a symbol of historical oppression. They aspire to adopt ‘Bharat’ as a name that better reflects the nation’s authenticity and deep cultural roots.
Does Bharat Limit the Nation to Regions?
The term ‘Bharat’ carries historical significance, tracing its roots to a legendary king named Bharata, revered as an ancestor of the Pandavas, the central characters in the epic Mahabharata.
The renowned Mahabharata war unfolded in the Kurukshetra region of Haryana around 900 BC, a fierce battle waged between the Kauravas and Pandavas in their quest for the Hastinapur throne. Notably, the Mahabharata stands as the world’s longest poem.
It is worth pondering whether the use of the name ‘Bharat’ in the Mahabharata confines the nation to a specific region within Haryana, unlike the inclusive connotation of ‘India.’ However, it is important to acknowledge that over time, ‘Bharat’ has transcended its geographical origins and become synonymous with the entire Indian subcontinent, serving as a common reference for the country in various Indian languages.
Prior to British colonial rule, the Indian subcontinent was a mosaic of diverse kingdoms, regions, and territories, each with its distinct names and identities. During this period, there was no single unified political entity corresponding to the modern nation of India, and the term ‘Bharat’ was not universally employed, given the existence of numerous princely kingdoms, rather than a singular nation.
It is accurate to assert that the diverse tapestry of India was unified under the name ‘India’ through the Indian Constitution. This move was not intended to establish India as a Hindu nation but as a pluralistic nation embracing people of various religions and ethnicities.
So what do you think changing the name from India to Bharat will do? It would cause nitty-gritty frictions of excluding that unity in diversity because as BJP goes into stronger steps of defining India as a Hindu nation, the diverse ethnicities, castes, and religions will start to feel like second-class citizens and this is undesirable in a country governed by a democratic constitution.
In a humorous vein, a cartoon shared by Satish Acharya depicts the Prime Minister’s aspiration to be recognized as the first leader of ‘Bharat.’
— Satish Acharya (@satishacharya) September 7, 2023