A number of debates and claims have been going around the ‘India vs Bharat’ debate ever since the invitation card from the President’s office for the G20 read ‘President of Bharat’ instead of ‘President of India’. Since the card is in circulation many political pundits have claimed that the central government is going to change the name of the country from ‘India to Bharat’ in order to eradicate the colonial history. The ministers have discarded such claims saying both India and Bharat are the same, however, the whole left and the Congress have jumped into the debate condemning the move.
Amidst all these discussions, India Today hosted a debate on September 6 over the ‘India vs Bharat’ issue, inviting mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik and economist and author Sanjeev Sanyal. The debate was hosted by journalist Rahul Kanwal.
Watch Sanjeev Sanyal completely demolish Devdutt Pattanaik’s credibility… India Today Group, for reasons best known to them, have taken down the video. That alone is a good enough reason to catch up on the original debate… Pattnaik got the walloping of a life time on live TV! pic.twitter.com/vGyhdbzcd5
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) September 6, 2023
Pattanaik asserted Bharat is a very Brahamanical idea
In his opening remarks, Pattanaik associated the name ‘Bharat’ with Brahmanism, caste and intolerance. He said, by picking one name for the country India is moving towards Middle Eastern ideology. India should welcome multiple names and should promote plurality.
Responding to the claims that picking one name means drifting towards the Middle East, Sanyal said, “I don’t even understand what the debate is about. Bharat is a well-established name for India. It is right there in the Constitution. So is India. The Indian languages use ‘Bharat’ and we are all habituated to say India when communicating in English. There is nothing anywhere that says Bharat cannot be used. Using the word Bharat is not an ‘intrusion’ into the English language as some people are trying to claim”.
— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) September 6, 2023
Later in the debate, Pattanaik said, that India has Indic origin, and it is not a foreign term as propagated by many supporting Bharat. Kanwal asked a question, “What is your understanding of the roots and origins of the name India?”
India is originated from Vedas, said Pattanaik
Pattanaik’s response to this question had references from Rig Veda and Epics where he claimed that the word India originated from these scriptures. He said, “The word India is not ‘foreign’ as some people are trying to claim. It comes from ‘Sindhu’, a river, that passes through India for several hundred kilometres. Arabs cannot pronounce ‘Sa’ so they started calling it ‘Hindhu’, Sapta Sindhu became Hapta Hindhu, Sindh Desha became Hindh, and 2500 years ago, a Persian king referred to India as ‘Hind’. When the Greeks came to India, they could not say ‘Ha’ so they used ‘EE’, so instead of Hindu, they say Indu. Thus Sindh became Hindh, and then Ind-Indus”.
When Kanwal asked the same question to Sanyal responded with facts to establish that the word India is foreign with an Indian origin, whereas the term Bharat has its roots to the Vedas, which can be justified with two stories.
Sanyal’s rebuttal to Pattanaik
He said, A tribe by the name of Bharata resided in what is currently roughly Haryana during the early bronze age. They used to refer to their territory as “Sapta Sindhu.” A coalition of 10 other tribes attacked the Bharatas from the west. On the banks of the Ravi, originally known as Parushni, there was a significant conflict. The Bharatas defeated the assaulting tribes and annihilated them entirely. Along the Yamuna River’s banks, they also vanquished the Bhedas, another tribe. Thus, the Bharatas founded the first “empire” during those times. As the first Chakravartin Samrat of India, their leader Sudas performed the first Ashwamedha Yagya. The wheel served as his emblem. The wheel on our flag, which is a later Mauryan sign, actually dates back to the early bronze age, to the Bharata tribe.
He further added, “The Sapta Sindhu was home to the Bharata tribe. The Bharatas assimilated the customs, knowledge, and belief systems of all the tribes in their area as they produced the Vedas, modifying their gods and rituals and incorporating them into their own. In the form of the first three Vedas, all of the gods and the identities of the tribes were given a place.”
Where @sanjeevsanyal goes back 5000 years to discover the origins of Bharat and then travels forward to explain the etymology of India.
Mesmeric exposition, stunning in its clarity and detail. This is how history should be taught – one hopes this is how history will be taught. pic.twitter.com/3e4FHtTpjV
— Anand Ranganathan (@ARanganathan72) September 7, 2023
Moving further he mentioned verses from Rigveda which are used in every Hindu ceremony and goes like, “gange cha Yamune, chaiv Godvari, Saraswati, Narmade, Sindhu, Cuavery, Jaleasmin sannidham kuru”.
He said, “The Sapta Sindhu was home to the Bharata tribe. The Bharatas assimilated the customs, knowledge, and belief systems of all the tribes in their area as they produced the Vedas, modifying their gods and rituals and incorporating them into their own. In the form of the first three Vedas, all of the gods and the identities of the tribes were given a place.”
It mentions the seven rivers and the tributaries of the ancient Saraswati. The southern rivers of Godavari and Kaveri, find a mention here too, Sanyal explained.
He added, “The Bharatiyas take control of Sapta Sindhu. In Persian writings, the phonetic shift is present. Sa is pronounced as Ha in contemporary Assamese. Sindhu refers to more than just the Indus River alone; it also refers to the seven ancient rivers known as Sapta Sindhu, upon which the Rigvedic civilization was developed. India gradually emerged from the Hindu, as Devdutt stated. But Indumati’s arbitrary extrapolation has nothing to do with the country of India.”
Bharat is all about caste and Brahmanism said Pattanaik
In the meantime, when Kanwal asked Pattanik if Bharat is a native name for the country, he attributed caste and Brahmanism to it with reference to the Rig Veda. He said, the word is referenced once more in the Mahabharata, which is set in northern India’s Kuru Panchala region, which includes modern-day Delhi, Mathura, etc. The name “Bharata Varsha” was first inscribed in stone in the Hati Gumpha (elephant caves) of Odisha, 2500 years ago, and it only referred to the Gangetic region of northern India, not all of India.
Do listen to @devduttmyth make a spectacular fool of himself on national TV by rambling incoherently, while @sanjeevsanyal factually counters him on the fake #BharatVsIndia debate. pic.twitter.com/unSM2KBYZf
— Shefali Vaidya. 🇮🇳 (@ShefVaidya) September 6, 2023
According to Pattnaik, the Brahmins used the term “Bharat” to describe several regions of Northern India. Even concepts like Bharat Varsha, Arya Desha, Bharat, etc., he continues, are essentially “North Indian, Brahminical words.” According to Jain tradition, there is another Bharat who is Rishabhdev’s son and a Jain Tirthankara. Then Pattnaik says, “We don’t value Jain traditions,” even though he genuinely thinks the word “Bharat” is derived from Jain traditions. Jainism once had a significant following but was eradicated. Bharata Chakravathi is well-known in states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but it’s not the same Bharat as in the north of India. Jain customs are the source of South Indian Bharat.
North Indian Bharat vs South Indian Bharat
Then Kanwal asked Sanyal’s remark on the ‘North Indian Bharat vs South Indian Bharat’ as claimed by Pattanaik. He said, some of Devdutt’s statements are true, however, his interpretation is utterly muddled and, in some cases, erroneous. Sanyal uses instances to show how Pattnaik’s assertion that the Battle of Ten Kings took place in Kurukshetra is completely false. It took place in Western Punjab along the Parushni, or Ravi, riverbanks. Even yet, Pauranik and Jain traditions are correct in their assertion that there was a Jain monarch Bharat, a Chakravartin Samrat and a direct descendant of Rishabhdeva, the Jain monarch who is credited with founding Jain traditions.
Sanyal then explains that Rishabhdeva’s son Nabhi also was a great conqueror and the land of Jambudweepa was also known as Nabhi Varsha. Sanyal added that it is meaningless to claim that there is a North India vs. South India or Brahminical vs. Jain idea behind this. By the time the Puranas were written, South India had been more than comfortably a part of the wider identity of Indic civilization, he adds.
Sanyal continues, “It is mentioned that the oldest Tamil literature, Tolkaippyam, the Tamil Grammar, the first enunciation of Tamil identity, is built firmly on the 4 Vedas. “The Tamils agree that their identity is based on the Vedas when they declare that they are the people living between the Venkata hills in the north and Kumari hills in the south,” he says.
Chanakya neeti of ‘Sam, Dam, Dand Bhed..’
Further Pattanaik says, the outsider Vs indic narrative comes from Chanakya Neeti of divide and rule, like Sam, Dam, Dand, and Bheda. He added, “It is the Brahmins who controlled the literature of our land. The word Aryan comes from Brahmins, but the Jains and Buddhists look at Aryans very differently”,
Then Pattanaik completely changes course and reverses his chronology, asserting that although it is debatable whether the Brahmins stole the name “Bharat” from the Jains or not, the word “Sindhu” is a Vedic term. Even the distinction between internal and external is a product of Brahminical thought, according to which what is internal is pure and what is external is “Mlechha,” or impure. He continued by saying that saying India is alien is very “Casteist, Brahminical” and analogous to saying Sita became “impure” when she crossed the Laksham Rekha.
After going on a very irrational rant about casteism and untouchability, Pattanaik went on to argue that since “we are all genetically African,” we should just “allow” plurality and do away with the concepts of inside and outside, local and foreign.
Those who live south of the Himalayas are Baharatiya, said Sanyal
Replying to this Sanyal said, the Sapta Sindhu and Bharata tribes’ ideologies have existed for longer than these traditions. When it comes to the Puranas, they are very explicit that “Bharatiya” refers to the people who live south of the Himalayas and north of the ocean.
Sanyal said, “I don’t understand why this should be a garbled argument about Jains vs. Brahmins. All the Indic religions clearly understand and celebrate the fact that there is a civilization living between the Himalayas and the ocean that calls themselves Bharatiya.”
“The word India has origins in India agreed, but it is not an Indian word. By the time Sindhu became Hindu and it is started to be called India, it became a foreign word. It is not a bad word, everyone uses it, and I use it myself. Nowhere the government has said it cannot or should not be used”, he further added.
We the people of ‘India that is Bharat’
Further Pattanaik said, “Changing names is a ‘conversion idea’. Politicians do it when they want to ‘convert’ from one identity to another”. Citing examples of China, Bhutan, Egypt, Germany etc., Pattanaik added that all great civilizations are called differently inside and outside and are comfortable with it. He said, by leaving India and adopting Bharart, the people of this country are becoming monoethists.
To this, Sanyal responded and said, “The Constitution of India begins by saying ‘India that is Bharat’, the Hindi version says ‘Bharat that is India’. So there is just no debate about one word being more important than the other. If everyone agrees that is alright to have multiple names, why is it that the usage of Bharat has rankled up the old elite? I think when the old elite was reading the constitution, they misread it as ‘India that WAS Bharat’. it is not so. The Constitution says ‘India that IS Bharat’,” added Sanyal.