countries that have changed names
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This article has been written by Ansh Mohan Jha, a student of BA LLB, First Year at Pune University.

Introduction

Can you imagine a world where places do not have names? Undoubtedly, It would stir up confusion among the people to identify the places and distinguish one place from another. Hence, places are named to create their unique identities, which makes it easier for people to locate them and differentiate them from other places as well.

The name of a place can be rooted in its historical significance, geographical location, cultural and religious beliefs, etc. In the United States of America, the places are either named after the people who found them or the political leaders who made significant contributions to the development of that place, but in the United Kingdoms, we observe that most of the places are named after the rivers upon which they are built. 

Unlike the USA and the UK, the name of the places in India, being a vast and diverse country, are rooted in either its historical importance, or its geographical location, or its mention in the holy scriptures. In our country, the places are named in different languages as well. That is why our country is known for its diverse culture and heritage.

Our country was invaded by the foreign rulers who not only looted the resources of our country but also tried to ravage our rich heritage. They demolished the sites depicting our vibrant culture and traditions, and also renamed those places to erase them from history.  Following the end of the British colonial era, the lawmakers of India initiated to restore the names of the cities and states which were either modified by the Britishers or the invaders who ruled us before them. The prime reason behind renaming the cities and towns was to preserve our rich history and heritage and also to get rid of the unpleasant memories of the colonial rule. Renaming of the cities and towns was done to pay tribute to our freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives to make India free, and to mark the end of colonial rule. 

Principles on which renaming is allowed

If the name of the city or state has a historical connection, then it is advisable not to rename it. It is our responsibility to preserve the historical significance of a place. 

There must be some specific reasons to change the name of a state or city otherwise, it’s better not to change the name of a place which people have got used to.

A city or state can not be renamed on the grounds of local patriotism or for linguistic reasons.  Renaming must not be done to mollify the sentiments of the local people.

It should be ensured that the new name of a city or state should not match with the existing names of the places, which are situated either in the same state or city or in neighbouring places as it may confuse the natives.

List of countries that have changed names

Swaziland

Swaziland, a minuscule country in Africa, was renamed as the Kingdom of eSwatini by its King on the eve of his 50th birthday. The term eSwatini means ‘The People of Swatini’. It was renamed because people outside of Africa often confused Swaziland with Switzerland, and the second reason was to get rid of the country’s colonial past.

Czech Republic 

In 1993, Czechoslovakia bifurcated into two different countries – Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The latter country wants to shorten its name as Czechia so that companies and sports teams can use it on their products, and at the same time, the country will also retain its full name. 

Republic of Macedonia 

The Republic of Macedonia was renamed as the Republic of North Macedonia to resolve the name dispute going on between Greece and Macedonia. Since there is a place in Greece called Macedonia, Greece refused to recognise the name of Macedonia. Greece, being a member of NATO and the European Union, blocked all the attempts of Macedonia to become a member of these two organisations. That’s why the top leadership of Macedonia renamed the country’s name to get an entry in these two organisations.

Ceylon

In 1505, Portuguese arrived in Srilanka and named it as Ceilao, which was later renamed as Ceylon by the Britishers so that they could easily pronounce it. In 1948, it got independence as the Dominion of Ceylon. In 1972, the original name of the country was changed to Srilanka, which, in Sanskrit, means resplendent island.

Procedure for changing the name of a state

Either the Central Government or the State Government can initiate to change the name of a state. If the State Government proposes to change the name, the resolution must be passed by the State legislature and the Parliament. When the process is initiated by the centre, a bill regarding the renaming of the state is sent to the respective state legislature to express its opinion within the stipulated  time. After the expiry of the allotted time, the bill is introduced in the parliament at the behest of the President. The detailed process of renaming a state with or without the proposal of the state government is mentioned below.

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With the proposal of the State Government

  1. The state assembly must pass the resolution regarding the renaming of the state.
  2. After getting approval from the state assembly, the resolution is sent to the Central Government. (Union Home Ministry)
  3. The Central Government then formulates a bill and sends it to the state legislature to express its opinion within a stipulated time.
  4. After the allotted time gets expired, the bill, on the recommendation of the president, is introduced in the parliament.
  5. The Members of the Parliament deliberated upon the bill before the voting takes place. If the bill gets passed by a majority, it is further sent to the President for his assent.
  6. Once, the President gives his assent to the bill, it becomes a law, which means the state has been renamed.

Without the proposal of the State Government

  1. Article 3 of our constitution empowers the Central Government to rename a state. A bill can be formulated by the Government to change the name of a state even if the state does not propose the same.
  2. After the formulation of the bill, the President sends it to the state legislature, seeking its opinion about the proposed bill within a stipulated time. However, the opinion of the state does not have any impact on the bill.
  3. The bill, on the recommendation of the President,  is introduced in the Parliament and deliberated upon. 
  4. If the bill gets the green signal of the Parliament, it is further sent to the President for his assent.
  5. As soon as the President gives his assent to the bill, it becomes a law.

List of renamed states in India

Madhya Bharat to Madhya Pradesh

Initially, Madhya Bharat consisted of 25 princely states, which were later merged with Vindhya Pradesh and Bhopal state. On November 1, 1956, it was renamed as Madhya Pradesh and Bhopal was declared as the capital city.

East Punjab to Punjab 

In 1947, under the supervision of the Radcliffe Commission, East Punjab was bifurcated. Muslim dominated areas of the province became the part of Pakistan, while the areas mostly inhabited by the Hindus and Sikhs continued to be a part of India. In 1950, our constitution came into force, the province was renamed as Punjab.

United Province to Uttar Pradesh 

After India got independence, the princely states of Rampur, Banaras and Tehri Garhwal were merged with the United Province, and on January 25, 1950, the whole unit was renamed as Uttar Pradesh.

Hyderabad to Andhra Pradesh 

Following the state reorganisation bill, Hyderabad merged with Andhra state, and it was renamed as Andhra Pradesh in the year 1956. From 1948 to 1956, Hyderabad existed as a state.

Travancore-Cochin to Kerala 

Travancore-Cochin, originally known as the United State of Travancore and Cochin, merged with the Malabar District of Madras State on November 1, 1956. Travancore-Cochin, along with Malabar District formed a new state and came to be known as Kerala. 

Madras to Tamil Nadu 

After India got independence, the Madras Presidency was known as Madras Province, consisting of present-day Tamil Nadu. In 1969, Annadurai’s Government renamed Madras Province as Tamil Nadu.

Uttaranchal to Uttarakhand 

Uttarakhand has been derived from Sanskrit, which means Northern Land. In the Puranas and the holy scriptures of Hindus, the region is named as Uttarakhand. However, the Government renamed the region as Uttaranchal after it got separated from Uttar Pradesh, which was later changed in 2006 following the demands of the people. 

Orissa to Odisha 

The name of Orissa modified to Odisha by the passage of the Odisha (Alteration of Name) Bill, 2010 and the 113th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2010. The name was modified because the people of Odisha used to pronounce Odisha, not Orissa. The term ‘Orissa’ was coined by the Britishers so that they could easily pronounce the term in English.

Procedure for changing the name of a city

Unlike the renaming of a state, the power of changing the name of city vests with the State Legislature. The procedure of doing the same varies from state to state, but each state has to obey the following guidelines.

  1. In the State Assembly, an MLA may introduce the resolution, requesting to change the name of a city or street.
  2. After the introduction of the bill, it is debated upon and all the consequences of renaming the city are discussed at length.
  3. After the discussions are made, the Assembly votes either in favour or against the bill. If the majority of the Assembly votes in favour of the bill, it shall be declared passed. The bill shall lapse if the majority of the Assembly votes against it.

Few examples of renamed cities in India

Baroda to Vadodara 

The early English travellers and merchants used to mention the city as “Brodera”, which resulted in naming the city as Baroda. In 1974, Baroda, the third-largest city in Gujarat after Ahmedabad and Surat, was renamed as Vadodara. The new name has been derived from the terms, ‘Vatpatrak’ or the leaf of a banyan tree and ‘Vatodar’ or the heart of a banyan tree. Due to the abundance of banyan trees on the banks of the Vishwamitri River, the name of the city had been changed  to preserve its geographical identity.

Calcutta to Kolkata 

Even before Calcutta was renamed as Kolkata, the Bengali people used to enunciate Kolkata instead of Calcutta while talking in their mother tongue. In 2001, the city got its new name as Kolkata, which is the shorter version of the term ‘Kolikata’, one of the three main villages that existed during the colonial rule of Britishers. Furthermore, Kolikata has been originated from Kilkila, which means flat land. 

Trivandrum to Thiruvananthapuram 

In 1991, the capital city of Kerala was renamed after the chief deity, Lord Anantha at Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple. In Malayalam, the term can be written as Thiru-Anantha-Puram, the city of Lord Anantha. Hence, we can say that the city was renamed to uphold the religious and cultural beliefs of the people.

Bangalore to Bengaluru 

On November 1, 2014, the Government of India green signalled to rename Bangalore as Bengaluru. The city was renamed on the basis of its historical significance. At Parvati Nageshwar temple in Begur, there is an epitaph mentioning about Bengaluru war that was fought in 890 AD, which further justifies the claim that the city was a part of Ganga Dynasty until 1024 C.E. At that time the city was called as ‘Bengaval-Ooru’, the city of old guards. 

Allahabad to Prayagraj 

In spite of saying that  Allahabad was renamed, it would be better to say that the original name of the city was restored on October 16, 2018. It was earlier named as Prayaga before Akbar renamed it as Illahabad, and his grandson started calling it Allahabad. In Hindu mythology, the term Prayaga means the land of confluence or the place where two or more rivers meet. The city is located at “Triveni Sangam”, where three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati meet. That’s why the city was renamed as Prayagaraj. 

Effects of renaming on culture or heritage of a city or state

Have you ever wondered why our initial names are always followed by the surnames of our forefathers? It symbolises the transfer of our personal culture and heritage from our ancestors. In the same manner, the name of a place not only helps us to identify it but also helps us to know about the people of that place, their cultures and heritages, and the geographical and historical importance of that area. In other words, it can be said that the name of a place reflects the cultures and heritages of the people living there. If a place is renamed, and the new name does not have any connection with that place, then it eventually erodes the culture and heritage  of that place. Hence, it is the high time when we need to preserve the name of the places so that our younger generations get to know about the culture and heritage of the place, where they are born. 

Conclusion

To date, no studies have been done to understand how renaming a place impacts the lives of people, and the most interesting fact is that we still say IIT Bombay and IIM Bangalore even after both the cities have been renamed as Mumbai and Bangalore respectively. We still use the term “Bollywood”  instead of “Mollywood” and the world transacts with “Bombay Stock Exchange” instead of “Mumbai Stock Exchange”. Even though Madras has been renamed as Chennai, Madras High Court has retained its name. There are myriad examples that can be cited, but the usage of colonial names raises a pertinent question – “Does renaming a place  help people to shed their memories of the colonial era?” There are several questions that are still unanswered such as “Does renaming of a place make people feel prouder of their localities than before? “Does it help people to uphold their cultural beliefs?” “and “Have the changes bettered their standard of living?”. Before renaming a place, these questions should be addressed to understand whether changing the name of a place is beneficial for the people. 

Unarguably, there are costs involved whenever the name of a place changes. Highway traffic signs, railway signage, systems and paperwork and address of every single institution have to be refurbished. The major drawback of renaming a place is the confusion it creates among the outsiders. In an era of globalisation, it is extremely risky to change the name of a place that has been globally recognised. 

The Government should avoid changing the names of places unless there is a specific reason to do so. Lastly, I would say renaming should only be done if it has a positive impact on the lives of people.

References

iPleaders blog

https://blog.ipleaders.in/renaming-state-city/

Scoopwhoop

https://www.scoopwhoop.com/news/whats-in-a-name/

The Economic Times

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/altered-atlas-macedonia-and-other-countries-that-changed-their-names/the-world-is-changing/slideshow/64658923.cms


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