According to mythologies, Bhagwan Brahma initiated the process of creation he created ‘Manu’ the first man on earth. Once he understood that creation was not possible without the presence of divine feminine energy, Brahma created ‘Brahmi’. Manu and Brahmi became the first pair of the earth. One of the descendants of Manu’s eldest son ‘Priyavrata’ was Bharat, a noble ruler who always considered the welfare of his subjects to be his prime Dharma. The kingdom he ruled came to be known as ‘ Bharata Varsha’ or ‘Bharat’ the land ruled by Bharata. How Bharat was transformed into India is a long historical story shaped by various rulers who have inhabited the land and a process of complex interactions between them.
History of India
River Sindhu was a river of primordial importance during the Vedic times. The Greeks started addressing the land beyond the Sindhu river as the ‘Indus’. ‘Naksh I Rustam’ written in 486 BC mentions Bharat as ‘Hindush’. King Alfred’s translation of ‘Oresius’ is believed to be the first use of the term India in English lands. ‘Indie’ appeared in the King James Bible and the works of William Shakespeare. The word was then carried on by colonizers from Portugal, French, Dutch, and the English East India Company and became anointed in official records as ‘India’. This coloniality subjugated and conquered the minds of the sons of Bharat who ultimately began to be identified as ‘Indians’.
Discussions on the naming of a newly formed republic led to intense debates in the constitutional assembly. H V Kamath during debates argued that the name ‘ India that is Bharat’ is a clumsy one and has stressed the adoption of the name ‘Bharat’. He cites the Irish constitution which after independence in 1937 named the State ‘Eire’, in English to be called Ireland. Seth Govind Das another prominent member of the assembly went on to say that Bharat which is known in foreign countries as India should be put forth as an explanation in the first article so that the members would have satisfaction that the name of the country would be Bharat. Sri Kallur Subba Rao from Madras presidency also supported the move to make the name Bharat and also went to the extent of suggesting the language spoken by the country as ‘Bharati’. Shri Kamalapathi Tripathi opined that “India that is Bharat’ should be replaced with ‘Bharat that is India’. Har Govind Pant, former Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha was also strongly in favour of accepting the name ‘Bharat’ or ‘Bharata Varsha’ in place of ‘India’. However in the end, ‘ India that is Bharat’ was adopted by the constitutional assembly.
The term India and Bharat has been interchangeably used since the formation of our Republic. While Bharat is commonly seen as the Hindi version of the constitution and records, India is viewed as a relic of coloniality and used in the English version. Multiple interventions were made in the past to rename the country as Bharat. A 2004 manifesto released by the Samajwadi party mentioned that the country shall be renamed Bharat if they were voted into power. A resolution was moved in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly to replace ‘India that is Bharat’ with the ‘Bharat that is India’ clause which was unanimously passed by the assembly. Private Member bills were also introduced in this direction by a Congress MP in 2012. In a plea filed by activist Niranjan Bhatwal in 2016, the Honourable Supreme Court of India said no authority, state, or court had the power to tell citizens what to call their country and dismissed the plea. Justice Bobde in 2020 has remarked that both names, ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’ were enshrined in the constitution of India, and ‘India’ was already called ‘Bharat’ in the constitution closing the scope for further debate on the topic. Article 343(1) mentions that Hindi in Devanagari script shall be the official language of the country while clause 3 of the Official Languages Act 1963 mentions the “Continuation of English Language for official purposes of the Union and for use in Parliament”. Hence “India” and “Bharat” can interchangeably be used for official purposes in the country. The Government is well within its right to use the term ‘Bharat’ or ‘India’ as and when required.
However, this multiplicity in the usage of these terms interchangeably may create confusion in the minds of the people. It is always better that an order stating how and where these terms shall be made available to the general public to avoid confusion or a unification of the term. The allegations of many that renaming is being done is merely a political tool to stir controversies. While ‘Bharat’ represents our cultural and heritage connection, in the modern comity of nations we are being identified as ‘India’. However considering the fact that many countries today have started embracing their old roots in the International arena by adopting their cultural and historical names, it will not be an arduous task for us to do so. The present controversies that have erupted are unnecessary and unwarranted as the issue has been carefully considered, debated, and discussed in the past. Let those with Reminiscences and cultural connections use the term ‘Bharat’ and those otherwise use the term ‘India’ interchangeably, clarification is only required in the official circles. The special session of the parliament may provide an answer to this.