By: Dr Ratan Bhattacharjee
Call by whatever name you like, India will remain Bharat and Bharat will remain India. The NDA or I.N.D.I.A cannot make a hill out of the mole. Namesake syndrome cannot change anything but the peaceful scenario. India that is Bharat is a country of plurality of culture. It is not the unity of states, it is the union of states and the present India comes down to us through a historical and still more anthropological evolution. Down the ages so many changes ad so many stages of transformation, so many ups and downs, so many invasions and so many extinction of races finally we have reached out to a stability. Sanskrit Jambudvīpa meaning ‘berry island’ had been used in ancient scriptures as a name of our country even before the term ‘Bhārata’ became widespread. The derivative Jambu Dwipa was the historical term for India in many Southeast Asian countries before the introduction of the Colonial English word “India” which is known by many other names – Al-Hind, Hindustan, Tenjiku, Aryavarta, Bharatkhand, Himvarsh, Ajnabhavarsh, Bharatvarsh, Aryavart, Hind, and Hindustan.
Many historians believe that Bharat dates back to early Hindu texts. In China India is still known as Yin-tu which is not a modern adaptation as it goes back at least to the T’ang period. The great Chinese pilgrim Hsüan-chuang was the first to baptize it. The Sanskrit word Bharata describes Agni. This term has Sanskrit root bhr means “to bear/ to carry” i.e. “to be maintained” (of fire). It also means “One who is engaged in search of Knowledge”. Tianzhu the ancient Chinese name for India that was used between the Later Han and the Song periods. The term is a very crude transliteration of the word “Hindoo” or of the name of the River Indus and it is said that Alexander could not pronounce ‘S’ and he called Shendu as Indu and the land on the bank of Indu is Indus or Industan or Hindustan. A somewhat older and less often-used, but phonetically more accurate term is Shendu. The Collins Dictionary gives the transliteration of the Hindi name for India. Bharat which is used by Ramcharitmanas to refer to the third son of King Dasharath Bharat, literally means ‘those who are striving for illumination’, i.e. ‘highest human perfection’, irrespective of any differences of race, nationality, religion, gender or caste, Some think that the name came from King Bharat who wanted the country to be the land of illumination. Rising from the Indus Valley civilization, India began to take its current shape in 1,500 BC at the start of the Vedic Civilization. So, the ancient Bharatbarsh or Bharat are not exactly the same geographical land called the present Bharat though the Constitution kept the name ‘Bharat’ along with ‘India’ .There is no need to criticise either one of the two words one as colonial and one as ancient . In fact legal experts say that both are inter exchangeable names until one is removed by Constitutional amendment.
The fierce controversy occurs simply because of the political motifs of the contenders. While the Opposition alliance of 28 or more parties renamed UPA as I.N.D.I.A, the NDA under the BJP leadership felt shy and hesitant to call the country by that name of the country which sounds nearly similar though not in pronunciation because of the typical spelling as in an acronym. If the colonial issue is so important and despicable, BJP or NDA might have raised the issue long ago even in their 2019 election agenda. If the ancient name is acceptable, then they might argue for constitutional amendment to change the name as Jambudeep or Hindustan. Pakistan always referred to India as Hindustan because they wanted to justify the demand of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan for Muslims and Bharat for the Hindus. But we Indians never nourish such fundamental thoughts and India or Bharat is not a country only of the Hindus. The BJP did not demand any constitutional amendment yet for changing Bharat to Hindustan in spite of the allegations against them that they wanted to sacrifice plurality of culture on the altar of Hindu hegemony.
The oldest recorded civilization in the world is the Mesopotamia civilization. Overall, the four oldest civilizations of the world are Mesopotamia Civilization, Egyptian Civilization, Indus Valley Civilization, and Chinese Civilization. The idea that the Dravidians were the original inhabitants of India has been considerably modified. Now the generally accepted belief is that the pre-Dravidian aborigines, the ancestors of the present tribals or Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes), were the original inhabitants. The Aryans like the immigrants of the North America are the outsiders to India. They are of the Indo-European origin. Another popular name for the country is Hindustan, which means “land of the Indus” in Persian. It became a popular way to refer to the country during the Mughal era and is frequently invoked by Hindu nationalists who believe that the name Bharat instills pride. Jai Bharat, Jai Kishan is a popular slogan and we cannot forget that even a cricketer Virendra Sehwag told that “We are Bhartiyas, India is a name given by the British”.
The retreat to the original name Bharat is long overdue. However the controversy is not come to an end so easily because the whole matter of naming and renaming goes to the politicians. The total controversy is like six blind men going to describe the elephant. Some says it is like a rope, some says it is like a pillar. But the elephant is not correctly described. Similarly the biased politicians cannot say which name is right for the country. Even Mahatma Gandhi the greatest nationalist and the great believer in ancient heritage of India described the country as India when he focused on our duty and dream about our motherland: “I dream of an India that is prosperous, strong and caring. An India, that regains a place of honour in the comity of great nations.” The same words can be said about Bharat. Which one came first and which one is more important, the chick or the egg – this is not the moot question. So let us see who can make the country better. What is in a name finally? Whatever name you give the country, our country will remain the same Bharat or the same India. Cheap political gimmicks cannot go a long way. Lily Leung says, “When in doubt, choose change.” Our politicians are all in a state of doubt and despair. The nation is really passing through a big crisis. (The author is currently in Virginia Commonwealth University as an Affiliate Faculty. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)