This year, India will be the G20 summit’s host nation, and the choice of its name has already generated some debate. Instead of using the usual “President of India”, the official invites for a dinner hosted by President Droupadi Murmu on Saturday used the term “President of Bharat”. The significance of the two names and their respective histories, as well as whether India should formally change its name to Bharat, have all been raised in the discussion.
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What does Bharat mean?
Many historians think the ancient Sanskrit word “Bharat” first appeared in texts from the earliest Hindu scriptures. The word is also used as a Hindi option for India and is featured on Indian passports. The term “Bharat” refers to a legendary king who is thought to have been the ancestor of the Rig Vedic tribe known as the Bharatas and, consequently, the ancestor of all peoples inhabiting the subcontinent. The Puranas, ancient Hindu scriptures, describe Bharata as the land between the “sea in the south and the abode of snow in the north.”
Why do some people prefer this name over India?
Some people, especially those who belong to the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), argue that the name India was introduced by British colonials and is a “symbol of slavery.” They claim that India is a remnant of the colonial era and should be discarded during the country’s phase of renaissance. They also believe that this change reflects the country’s cultural and spiritual identity better than India, which is derived from the Sanskrit word for the Indus River – Sindhu – and was subsequently modified by the British Empire.
What does the Constitution say?
The constitution of India, which came into effect in 1950, uses both names interchangeably in its first article: “India, that is, Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” This means that both names are equally valid and official. However, there have been several attempts to change this provision and remove India from the Constitution. The most recent one was in June 2020, when a petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking to replace India with Bharat. The petition argued that this would “ensure the citizens of this country get over the colonial past.” However, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition, saying that “India is already called Bharat in the constitution itself”.
What effects would a name change have on the situation?
The renaming of a nation is not a straightforward process. It has a bearing on social problems, business, politics, and diplomacy. For instance, changing the name would require changing the constitution, which calls for the approval of at least half of the states and a majority vote in both houses of parliament. Additionally, all official documents would need to be updated, including passports, money, stamps, and maps. India’s relations with other countries would be impacted by the need to notify and obtain approval from all of its allies and partners regarding its new name. It would also need to contend with potential opposition from close allies like Pakistan and China who might not accept this name as an official name for India.
What prevailing opinion do people have regarding the suggested name change?
A survey conducted by YouGov in 2020 found that 41% of Indians favored changing India’s name to Bharat, while 33% were against it and 26% were undecided.
India’s name has been a subject of debate for decades. While some people prefer this name as a more authentic and indigenous name for their country, others stick to India as a more familiar and global name. The controversy has resurfaced recently with India hosting the G20 summit and using Bharat on its official invites. Even though it is unclear whether India will ever change its name to Bharat, it is evident that both names have different histories and meanings for various groups within Indian society.
What made India eligible to host the G20 summit this year?
India is hosting the G20 summit this year because it is its turn to be the president of the group of 20 major economies. India took charge of the presidency from Italy on December 1, 2022, and will organize several meetings and events throughout the year, ending with the leaders’ summit in New Delhi on October 28–29, 2023.
Why does India consider the name Bharat significant?
India’s historical and cultural roots are reflected in the name Bharat, which has special significance for the nation. Bharat comes from the name of a legendary king who was the forefather of the Rig Vedic tribe of the Bharatas and, by extension, the originator of all peoples of the subcontinent.