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Name of the Nation – India or Bharat


The invitations for the upcoming G-20 Summit in New Delhi have included a significant change. Rather than using the traditional “President of India,” the invitations now feature the term “President of Bharat.” This alteration has sparked discussions about the country’s nomenclature and its historical significance.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Historical Perspectives on the Names “India” and “Bharat”
  2. Constitutional Assembly Deliberation Regarding India and Bharat
  3. Historical Significance of the Name “Hindustan”

Historical Perspectives on the Names “India” and “Bharat”

Constitutionality and Interchangeability:
  • Article 1 of the Indian Constitution employs both “India” and “Bharat” interchangeably, establishing that “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”
  • The preamble of the Indian Constitution, while beginning with “We the People of India,” uses “Bharat” in its Hindi version, demonstrating their interchangeability.
  • Certain government institutions, like the Indian Railways, have Hindi variants that include “Bharatiya.”
Origin of the Name Bharat:
  • The term “Bharat” has its origins in Puranic literature and the epic Mahabharata.
  • Vishnu Purana defines “Bharata” as the region between the southern sea and the northern Himalayan mountains.
  • It embodies a religious and socio-cultural identity more than a mere political or geographical one.
  • “Bharata” also serves as the name of a legendary ancient king, seen as the forefather of the Rig Vedic tribes of Bharatas, symbolizing the progenitor of all the subcontinent’s people.
Origin of the Name India:
  • The name “India” is derived from “Indus,” the name of a river flowing through the northwestern part of the subcontinent.
  • Ancient Greeks referred to the people beyond the Indus as “Indoi,” signifying “the people of Indus.”
  • Subsequently, Persians and Arabs adopted the terms “Hind” or “Hindustan” to denote the land of Indus.
  • Europeans adopted the name “India” from these sources, and it became the official appellation of the country during British colonial rule.

Constitutional Assembly Deliberation Regarding India and Bharat:

Debate in the Constituent Assembly (1949):
  • During the Constitution’s framing in 1949, there was a spirited debate regarding the country’s name.
  • Some members argued that “India” symbolized colonial oppression and advocated for giving precedence to “Bharat” in official documents.
  • Seth Govind Das from Jabalpur, for instance, proposed placing “Bharat” above “India,” emphasizing that the latter was merely an English translation.
  • Hari Vishnu Kamath cited the example of the Irish Constitution, which changed the country’s name upon gaining independence, as a precedent for adopting “Bharat.”
  • Hargovind Pant asserted that the people desired “Bharatvarsha” and rejected the term “India” imposed by foreign rulers.
Recent Developments:
  • In 2015, the Indian government opposed a name change, asserting that the issue had been extensively discussed during the Constitution’s drafting.
  • The Supreme Court has twice dismissed pleas to rename ‘India’ to ‘Bharat,’ first in 2016 and then again in 2020, reiterating that both “Bharat” and “India” are mentioned in the Constitution.

Historical Significance of the Name “Hindustan”:

  • In Sikhism: The term “Hindustan” holds historical importance within the Sikh community. Sikh founder Guru Nanak Dev mentioned “Hindustan” in Gurbani, the religious scriptures of Sikhism. Guru Teg Bahadur, one of the Sikh Gurus, is renowned as the protector of “Hind” and its religion, highlighting the spiritual connection to the region.
  • British-Sikh Conflicts: Shah Muhammad, a historian, documented the conflicts between the British and Sikhs as a battle between “Hind” and Punjab. This framing reflected the struggle for control and influence in the region during the colonial era.
  • Freedom Struggle: The Ghadar Party and other freedom struggle activists prominently used the term “Hindustan” in their movements. This usage rooted “Hindustan” in the history of Punjab, symbolizing the fight for independence and self-determination.

-Source: Indian Express

April 2024