The reasons why it’s okay to call India, Bharat | Mint

The reasons why it’s okay to call India, Bharat

The Indian Constitution.
The Indian Constitution.

Summary

With a special session of Parliament summoned without an agenda, there is speculation: Is India about to become Bharat? Mint examines the history and likely implications

An invite has gone out from “The President of Bharat" for a dinner during the G20 summit. With a special session of Parliament summoned without an agenda, there is speculation: Is India about to become Bharat? Mint examines the history and likely implications.

What are the ancient references to Bharat?

In Indian cosmology, the earth is flat and circular with a mythical Mount Meru at its centre. It is surrounded by dvipas (islands) separated by oceans. The southernmost is Jambudvipa. In it, to the south of the Himalayas lies Bharatvarsha, named after King Bharata. Jambudvipa is named in Emperor Ashoka’s inscriptions (268-231 BCE). An early record comes in inscriptions found in the Hathigumpha caves near Bhubaneswar in Odisha. In giving an account of the reign of King Kharavela of Kalinga (50 BCE), the inscriptions say, “In the 10th year he sent an expedition to conquer Bharatavarsha."

And how did the name India evolve?

India too has interlinked ancient references, with its etymology rooted in the area associated with the river Indus—a name derived from Sindhu in Sanskrit, which is mentioned in the Rig Veda. The association with the Indus Valley Civilization forms an emotional bond in the Indian imagination. The use of India is also linked to Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s demand for two constituent assemblies: for Pakistan and for Hindustan. The Congress party’s rejection was based on the premise that “the people of India were Indians; no matter what their religion, they were one nation," says political scientist Granville Austin.

Which other countries have changed their names?

No big ones in recent years except Turkey in 2022. Many African and Asian nations changed their names after being freed of colonial rule. Other examples are Burma turning into Myanmar, and Swaziland into Eswatini. Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “Türkiye is the best representation and expression of the Turkish people’s culture, civilization and values."

What is the process for changing the name?

B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, took care of everything. His compromise was to call it, “India, that is Bharat". Cleverly, the Hindi version takes the opposite route, with, “Bharat, arthaat India." Legal experts are divided. One view is a wholesale switch to Bharat may require an amendment, with a 2/3rd majority of not only the two houses of Parliament, but also of all the state assemblies. The other view is that Bharat could be used through simple notifications, perhaps on a case-by-case basis.

Finally, is it okay to call India Bharat?

Absolutely, as long as we don’t eject India. In the popular global imagination, we exist as Indians and there’s no getting away from it. But Bharat or Bharatvarsha forms an incredibly strong emotional attachment, rooted in the Puranas, that no one wants severed. The Indian national anthem is woven around Bharat. And as Jawaharlal Nehru noted in his Discovery of India, the Hindi term Bharat Mata or Mother India meant “essentially these millions of people, and victory to her meant victory to these people."

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