India or Bharat? Why Controversy over the country’s new name

India or Bharat

Reports suggest that India, or “Bharat” as it may soon become known, might undergo an official name change under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership. These reports have gained momentum due to G20 summit invitations referring to the “President of Bharat.” While various Indian media outlets speculate about this potential name change during an upcoming parliamentary session, there has been no official confirmation yet.

An official document has surfaced, referring to Mr. Modi as the “prime minister of Bharat,” further fueling these rumors. This development coincides with Mr. Modi’s visit to Indonesia, just ahead of India’s hosting of the G20 summit in New Delhi. In recent years, the Modi administration has undertaken efforts to reshape India’s identity, including renaming official landmarks and buildings, as the country aims to distance itself from its colonial past.


What is India officially called?

The Indian Constitution, established in 1951, officially designates the country as “India, that is Bharat,” constituting a union of states. This naming convention had been a subject of extensive debate after India’s independence in 1947 and during the constitution-making process. 

Nehru, a historian, discussed the names of India in his book, “Discovery of India,” noting the significance of Hindustan, India, and Bharat, each with its historical and geographical relevance.

While the government commonly uses “India” for references, official documents in Hindi, one of India’s official languages, frequently replace “India” with “Bharat.” This duality reflects the country’s rich cultural and linguistic diversity.


Where do the names India and Bharat come from?

Early records identify the nation as “Bharat,” rooted in Sanskrit and Indian epics like the Mahabharata. It also means “India” in Hindi. “India” originates from the Indus River and has historical use dating back to Ancient Greek historians. The English form gained prominence during British rule and continued in official documents after India’s independence, coexisting with “Bharat” in the Constitution. 


Who is calling for Bharat to be used? 

  • The Modi administration is considering renaming India to “Bharat.”
  • Right-wing leaders argue that “India” is a colonial legacy and seek to reclaim India’s Hindu heritage.
  • Some government officials and ministers have adopted “Bharat” in their social media profiles.
  • We still need to address the practical challenges of renaming official documents, institutions, and landmarks.
  • Recent events, including a G20 summit invitation referring to the “President of Bharat,” have fueled speculation about an official renaming announcement during a special parliamentary session.


Why is it in the news now?

Calls for the name change have gained momentum recently, especially after a widely shared G20 summit invitation referred to the “President of Bharat” without mentioning India. Interestingly, this development follows opposition leaders’ formation of the “INDIA” alliance, aimed at challenging Prime Minister Modi’s BJP in upcoming elections. The alliance seeks to safeguard India’s democracy amid concerns about the government’s Hindu-majority agenda and its impact on religious minorities, including over 200 million Muslims.