Is India changing to Bharat? Exploring the Debate Over India's Official Name

9 Sep 2023  Read 4875 Views

In the world of nationhood, the names that countries adopt carry immense significance, and this is where India, also called "BHARAT", comes into the picture. The choice between 'India' and 'Bharat' as the official name for the newly independent nation in the 1940s stirred a passionate debate, and the echoes of that debate continue to resonate even today.

Recently, a document went viral which mentioned the 'President of Bharat' on an official dinner invitation from the President's office, thereby reigniting discussions about renaming India to Bharat. This controversy erupted against the backdrop of the G20 summit, sparking a political war of words on the shores of international diplomacy.

So, let's delve into this article to learn about the history and significance of the names 'India' and 'Bharat,' exploring the arguments surrounding their use as the official name of the country.

Historical Aspect

  • The roots of “Bharat", "Bharata", or "Bharatvarsha" are traced back to Puranic literature, and to the epic Mahabharata. The Puranas describe Bharata as the land between the “sea in the south and the abode of snow in the north”.

  • Bharata is also the name of the legendary ancient king, "King Bharat" and the ancestor of the Rig Vedic tribe of the Bharatas. This name is deeply intertwined with India's rich cultural heritage and spiritual traditions.

  • On the other hand, 'Hindustan' has its own historical origins. 'Hindustan' is believed to have derived from 'Hindu,' the Persian form of the Sanskrit 'Sindhu' (Indus). 

  • It later evolved into 'Hindustan,' referring to the entire Indo-Gangetic plain during the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal era.

  • The first mention of the word “INDIA" can be traced back to 470 BC by Herodotus, also known as the “Father of History".

“This is a great thing in India, that all are free, not a single Indian being a slave." - Herodotus.

  • The name 'India,' in contrast, became associated with the region beyond the Indus during the time of Alexander's invasion in the 3rd century BC. It gained prominence with British colonial rule and the use of the term 'India' on British maps. This shift in nomenclature signalled a change in perspectives, with 'India' representing a single, bounded, and British political territory.

Constitutional Aspect

  • On 18 September 1949, the Constituent Assembly debated various suggestions for the country's name, including Bharat, Hindustan, Hind, Bharatbhumi, and Bharatvarsh. 

  • When the question of naming India in the Constitution arose, 'Hindustan' was dropped from consideration. The Constituent Assembly debated whether to use 'Bharat,' 'India,' or a combination of both.

  • Some members believed that 'India' was a reminder of the colonial past and suggested alternatives like "Bharat known as India also in foreign countries."

  • Members, like Seth Govind Das and Hari Vishnu Kamath, preferred 'Bharat' to signify the nation's rich history and culture.

  • Hargovind Pant, who represented the hill districts of the United Provinces, made it clear that the people of Northern India "wanted Bharatvarsha and nothing else".

  • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said "India has been known as India throughout history and throughout all these past years," He argued that 'India' was internationally recognized and should be retained as the official name.

  • After much deliberation, the Assembly resolved with Article 1.1 of the Constitution, which states, "India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States."

  • The current debate over the official name of the country echoes the deep roots in history and highlights the enduring significance of 'Bharat' alongside 'India' in the nation's identity. 

Recent Updates

Amidst claims from the opposition that the Narendra Modi government intends to change the country's name from India to Bharat, reports from local media in Pakistan add an interesting twist to the picture.

  • A tweet from the South Asia Index's X handle raised the possibility that Pakistan might lay claim to the name 'India' if India officially derecognizes it at the United Nations level.

  • The tweet highlighted the viewpoint of nationalists in Pakistan who argue that Pakistan holds rights to the name 'India,' primarily because it refers to the Indus region.

  • However, it's important to note that the Indian government has not made any official statement regarding changing the country's name.

Fun Fact: The Founding Father of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had always opposed the use of 'India' as the name for the newly independent country. Instead, he suggested 'Hindustan' or 'Bharat' as alternatives.

  • Jinnah had reservations about independent India being called 'India.' He believed that neither India nor Pakistan should adopt the British title of 'India.'

  • His primary concern was that the name 'India' would imply that the new nation was a direct successor to British rule, with Pakistan seen as a seceding state.

  • Jinnah always advocated for the name 'Pakistan,' meaning the "land of the pure," for the new Muslim nation. He believed this name should have no connection with 'India.'

  • The term 'Pakistan' was coined by Choudhary Rehmat Ali in 1933, representing the five northern provinces of India: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir, Sindh, and Balochistan.

  • In 1947, just a month after India gained independence, Jinnah declined an invitation from Louis Mountbatten to serve as the honorary president of an art exhibition because the invitation used 'India' instead of 'Hindustan' to refer to the country. 

  • Jinnah's response at that time was, "It is a pity that for some mysterious reason, Hindustan has adopted the word ‘India’ which is certainly misleading and is intended to create confusion."

Conclusion

The ongoing debate between 'India' and 'Bharat' as the official name of our nation highlights the struggle for balance between tradition and modernity, colonial history, and cultural heritage. While 'India' remains the internationally recognized name, 'Bharat' carries profound cultural significance. This development has ignited a fresh row of controversy, with various speculations about the reasons behind this move.

Some see it as a bold step to sever colonial ties, others view it as a political step against the I.N.D.I.A. alliance, and some humorously suggest that the government simply enjoys renaming things (xD). Perhaps the right approach is to await the formalization of this decision through the proper channels. Till then, please share your thoughts in the comments section below – what's your take on this government initiative?

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Which article in the Constitution of India mentions the name 'India that is Bharat'?

The reference to the name 'India that is Bharat' can be found in Article 1 of the Constitution of India which says Article 1.1 of the Constitution: "India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States."

2. What is the historical significance of the name 'Bharat' for India?

The name 'Bharat' has deep historical roots, tracing back to Puranic literature and the epic Mahabharata. It refers to the land between the "sea in the south and the abode of snow in the north" and is associated with India's cultural heritage and ancient traditions.

3. How did 'India' and 'Hindustan' come into use as names for the country?

'Hindustan' evolved from 'Hindu,' the Persian form of the Sanskrit 'Sindhu' (Indus), and referred to the entire Indo-Gangetic plain. 'India' became associated with the region beyond the Indus during Alexander's invasion in the 3rd century BC and gained prominence during British colonial rule.

4. What recent developments have reignited the debate over India's official name?

A viral document mentioning the 'President of Bharat' instead of 'President of India' on an official invitation sparked controversy. Reports suggest that the Narendra Modi government may consider changing the country's name. Additionally, local media reports in Pakistan raise the possibility that Pakistan might lay claim to the name 'India' if India officially derecognizes it at the United Nations level.

5. Why did Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, oppose 'India' as the name for independent India?

Jinnah had concerns that the name 'India' would imply that the new nation was a successor to British rule, with Pakistan seen as a seceding state. He advocated for 'Pakistan,' meaning the "land of the pure," and suggested 'Hindustan' or 'Bharat' as alternatives.

About the Author: Devansh Dixit | 35 Post(s)

Devansh is a 4th-year law student from Amity Law School Noida (Uttar Pradesh), currently interning at Finology Legal. He is specialising in business and commercial laws. 

Liked What You Just Read? Share this Post:

Finology Blog / Legal / Is India changing to Bharat? Exploring the Debate Over India's Official Name

Wanna Share your Views on this? Comment here: