The official invite sent out for the G20 summit dinner has sparked speculations about the Central Government’s move to change the country’s name from ‘India’ to ‘Bharat’. The dinner, which will be hosted at Rashtrapati Bhawan, has mentioned “President of Bharat” instead of “President of India”. This speculation about India to be renamed Bharat has garnered praise, criticism, and confusion among people as this is the first time an official invitation had a change in India’s nomenclature.
What is the official name of the country?
In English, the country is called India, while in Indian languages, it is also called Bharat, Bharatham, Bharata, and Hindustan.
In the English version of the Constitution, the preamble starts with, “We, the people of India..,” and in Part 1 of the Constitution, it is mentioned as “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”.
Except in the part that defines the country’s name, which says, “Bharat, that is India, shall be Union of States”, India is replaced with Bharat everywhere in the official Hindi version of the Indian Constitution.
Origins of the names ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’
The name “India” dates back to thousands of years when the people living in the Indian subcontinent were known as people who lived near the Indus River. The Indus River, which was called Sindhu, led to people living in the region being called Hindu. Thousands of years ago, Ptolemy’s map referred to this region as India. The name India gained greater prominence when the British, from the late 18th century, predominantly used it in historical maps.
Bharat is a Sanskrit name from ancient Puranic literature and a major epic, Mahabharata. In Mahabharata, people living in India were believed to be the descendants of King Bharat and the kingdom called Bharat Varsha. In Ramayana, Bharat was the name of Rama’s brother, and Rig Veda refers to the Bharat clan, which won a battle in 1000 BC.
Constituent Assembly debates on ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’
The debates surrounding India to be named Bharat is not new. In 1949, when the Constituent Assembly was framing the Indian Constitution, there were divisive opinions on naming the country. Some members felt that the name ‘India’ was a reminder of colonial oppression and recommended prioritizing ‘Bharat’.
Seth Govind Das advocated for placing ‘Bharat’ above ‘India’ and said the latter was merely an English translation of the former word.
Hargovind Pant argued that people rejected the term “India” as it was considered a foreign imposition and wanted ‘Bharatvarsha.’
Some members have also suggested retaining the name “India”. Eventually, it was decided that the Constitution would recognize both names by referring to ‘India that is Bharat’.
Attempts to use exclusively ‘Bharat’ as the country’s name have been repeatedly rebuffed. In 2015, the government, headed by PM Narendra Modi, told the Supreme Court of India that there was “no change in circumstances as the issue has been extensively deliberated in the Constituent Assembly”.
The Supreme Court twice rejected pleas to change the country’s name from ‘India’ to ‘Bharat’ in 2016 and 2020, reaffirming that ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’ are both mentioned in the Constitution.
Regarding the recent speculation about India being renamed Bharat, the Central Government has clarified these as just “rumors”. PM Narendra Modi is reported to have sent a message to the Council of Ministers not to comment on the issue unless it is authorized.
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