|India, that is Bharat: Exploring India's Dual Identity
In the heart of India's historical journey towards independence and nationhood, a crucial debate emerged within the Constituent Assembly in 1949: should the newly formed nation be officially named 'Bharat' or 'India'? This debate, which unfolded nearly a year after the initial draft of the Indian Constitution, remains relevant today as the nation grapples with its identity. In recent times, the renaming of the G-20 Summit invitations to "President of Bharat" has reignited discussions about the nation's nomenclature and its deep-rooted historical connotations.
Historical Perspectives on the Names "India" and "Bharat"
- Article 1 of the Indian Constitution already establishes the interchangeability of "India" and "Bharat" by stating, "India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States." This provision acknowledges the historical significance of both names.
- The preamble of the Indian Constitution begins with "We the People of India," but the Hindi version uses "Bharat" instead of India, indicating the interchangeable use of these names.
- Moreover, some government institutions, such as the Indian Railways, have long used Hindi variants that include "Bharatiya," reinforcing the nation's dual nomenclature.
Origin of the Name Bharat
- The term "Bharat" carries profound historical and cultural roots, tracing back to Puranic literature and the epic Mahabharata. Vishnu Purana describes "Bharata" as the land between the southern sea and the northern snowy Himalayan mountains, symbolizing a socio-cultural entity rather than just a political or geographical one.
- Furthermore, Bharata is the name of a legendary ancient king, considered the forefather of the Rig Vedic tribes of Bharatas, symbolizing the progenitor of all the subcontinent's people.
Origin of the Name India
- In contrast, the name "India" is derived from the word "Indus," which refers to the river flowing through the northwestern part of the subcontinent.
- The ancient Greeks referred to the people living beyond the Indus as "Indoi," signifying "the people of Indus." This term was later adopted by Persians and Arabs as "Hind" or "Hindustan" to refer to the land of the Indus.
- Ultimately, the Europeans embraced the name "India" from these sources, making it the official name of the country during British colonial rule.
Constitutional Assembly on India and Bharat
- During the drafting of the Indian Constitution in 1949, the question of naming the nation led to heated debates within the Constituent Assembly. Members of the assembly held diverse opinions on this matter.
- Some members argued that "India" reminded them of colonial oppression and advocated for prioritizing "Bharat" in official documents.
- Seth Govind Das and others emphasized that "India" was a relatively recent term, while "Bharat" had deep historical and cultural roots, mentioned in ancient texts like the Vedas, Upanishads, and Mahabharata.
- Kallur Subba Rao even proposed renaming the Hindi language as "Bharati" to align it with the spirit of "Bharat."
- Despite the historical debate, in 2015, the central government opposed a name change, citing extensive deliberations during the Constitution's drafting.
- The Supreme Court of India has twice rejected pleas to rename 'India' to 'Bharat,' confirming that both names are recognized in the Constitution.
The debate surrounding the official name of India, whether 'India' or 'Bharat,' has deep historical, cultural, and constitutional roots. While "India" has colonial origins, "Bharat" represents the nation's ancient heritage and rich cultural legacy. The continued use of both names in the Constitution reflects the nation's acknowledgment of its diverse historical perspectives. As India navigates its path in the 21st century, the dual nomenclature serves as a reminder of the country's complex and multifaceted identity, embracing its historical heritage while progressing towards a future that incorporates the best of both worlds.